RATS!

By Marissa Kompaniet

Do you know where your meat is coming from?

In the early 1900's the United States was in a time period known as the "Progressive Era". In this era, there were big issues with health and sanitation in the towns. Due to mass immigration, housing, factories, and buildings became unsanitary and the town had no clean areas. With people flourishing into the town, it gave factories plenty of employee's. Back then it was very typical to see an entire family working in the same factory for very low wages. There were tons of different kinds of factories, for example: printing, clothing and meat.
The meat industry conditions were brought to the public's attention in 1906 by Upton Sinclair, who wrote "The Jungle". Upton did not work in the meat packing industry himself, his wife did. She told him all about it. She described the meat to be moldy and white, and then treated with cleaners like bleach. Water from holes in the roof would drip down on the meat, rats would run across the meat while it was sitting in piles waiting to be packaged. Not all the meat got packaged everyday so at night the rats that were in the warehouse would urinate and leave their dung on the meat and it would be packaged like that. The warehouse could only afford to clean out the waste barrels once a year and the barrels usually had old, rusty nails in it and so that would sometimes get slipped into the meat before it was packaged and sent out to be sold.

After Upton Sinclair's book got published and the public started to read his book and realize how unsanitary this was and what they were putting into their bodies, they knew something needed to be done. This book brought attention not only to the general public, but also to health officials. Once the health officials saw that new health regulations need to be set-up, this was the start of improved health and food conditions. This lead to the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act which forbid impure food and drugs. This had an affect all over the world and from then on our meat industry has improved immensely.

Hundreds of Citizens dieased and Dying, Could you be Next?

During the early 1900's it was very common to see people moving from country to country (immigration) or from city to city. With towns and countries increasing and decreasing in population, cities had to accommodate to industrialization. In the 1900's people didn't make a lot of money, and wages were low for hard workers. There was typically more than one family living in a home or room, and there was a big issue with overcrowded cities. As one could imagine with cities being overpopulated and multiple families living in one room, living conditions were quite poor. Cities could not afford modern day plumbing or disposal systems, so when someone used the bathroom for example, they would all go in a bucket until the bucket had reached its maximum capacity they would throw it into the streets where the children played. Along with human waste, there was also horse urine and dung scattered through the streets as well as dead horse carcasses. Because of all the waste in the streets and the crowded living conditions, many diseases spread very easily. These included cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, influenza, yellow fever, diphtheria, enteritis, and malaria. These diseases were the leading causes of death. Since these diseases were spreading so fast, and so many people were dying, doctors had to figure out someway to fix things. The main question was how?

The town made improvements in sanitation and hygiene, the discovery of antibiotics, and vaccines were made, as well as the beginning of Viral Isolation. Around this time, technology started advancing so doctors were able to give better diagnoses and were able to find better cures for the diseased. Some of the improvements made by the towns were: they started cleaning the streets so children weren't playing in filth, clean drinking water was provided, public hygiene practices, food safety, and animal and pest control were put in place. Once vaccinations were being received by a majority of the townspeople, it was believed that it could be controlled and the town population became overall healthier from these changes.
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A street sweeper in New York City, 1900

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Trash piled up on Varick Street in 1893 New York City, before sanitation reform.

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Political Cartoon

In this Political Cartoon, it is showing Theordore Roosevelt after he read Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle". It is showing that T.R. has suspicion that the popular industries, much like the meat packing industry were all scandals. It is a good represenation of the gilded age, because everyong thought that they were getting meat from a good, clean place but they were actually being given old, rotten, and very unsanitary foods.

Chicago in 1912

In Chicago in 1912, there was a Presidential Election going between three candidates: Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Taft and Roosevelt divided the Republican party up in two, after T.R. realized that Taft was not doing such a great job in his presidency as expected, he decided to run again. Given that there was two candidates running for the republicans, it gave Wilson almost a guaranteed win because the votes were split in half for the two republicans.
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