The Great Manure Crisis

Horse manure under a bell jar (photo by Jikke de Gruijter)
The tram transition (1894)

"Late 18th century cities like London and New York seemed to be ‘drowning in horse manure’. In London, where the horse-carried Hansom Cab occupied the streets, 50.000 horses produced 570.000 kilograms of horse manure and 57.000 litres of urine daily. Together with the corpses of death horses, the urine and manure started to poison the city’s inhabitants. In 1894 the Times predicted that “in 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.” The situation came to be known as the ‘Great Manure Crisis of 1894’. Despite fierce debates among urban planners and various studies into the matter, no solution was found for years. This changed when Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and others introduced motorised vehicles at a massive scale. By 1912 the crisis had been resolved. Electric trams and motorbuses had replaced horse-carried vehicles in the major cities. Ever since, the ‘Great Manure Crisis of 1894’ has served as a metaphor for overcoming insurmountable problems with unexpected solutions.

Source: horse.

Curated by: Jesse Hoffman, Astrid Mangnus & Peter Pelzer."

Text from the Mobility Museum 2050