If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride

“Everyone carries around his own monsters.”

—Richard Pryor, American actor, born December 1, 1940

Muybridge horse walking animatedInteresting piece about the often-repeated story of the automobile saving late nineteenth-early twentieth century cities from drowning in a sea of horse manure. The story is not quite as simple as it’s usually told: cars didn’t become very common until much later, streetcars were an important element, and long-established patterns of street use had to be changed by elaborate propaganda campaigns dedicate to reshaping them. For example, “jaywalking” was invented in the 1910s: only rubes from the country (“jay” is a synonym for “rube”) would do something so naïve as to use the street, now devoted to the automobile, incorrectly.


The twentieth century saw an enormous surge in agricultural productivity, which led to the rapid decline of the rural work force. In 1870, 70–80 percent of Americans worked in agriculture; in 2008 2–3% do. Horses were the animal partners of those workers. Their numbers declined from a peak in 1915 of 26 million to a low of 3 million in 1960, at which point the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped counting. Might be a cautionary tale here for human workers who will be “put out to pasture” by the rapid shift to automation and robotic manufacturing over the next few decades.

By the way, the answer to the question posed below is “horsepower.”

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

12:00–1:00PM Northampton Greater Northampton Chamber New Member Meeeting
1:00–3:00PM Springfield Basics of Starting a Business
8:00AM Agawam MarketRight
9:00–10:00AM Easthampton G.R.I.S.T — Get Real Individual Support Today
12:00–1:00PM Northampton Pioneer Valley Wellness Alliance
6:00PM Northampton Northampton Webdive
6:30PM Indian Orchard The Geek Group of Western Mass
8:00PM Amherst UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative Social


What Is This Strange Power You Have Over Horses?
Chain Gang Street Sweepers 1909“In the annals of transportation history persists a tale of how automobiles in the early 20th century helped cities conquer their waste problems. It’s a tidy story, so to speak, about dirty horses and clean cars and technological innovation. As typically told, it’s a lesson we can learn from today, now that cars are their own environmental disaster, and one that technology can no doubt solve. The story makes perfect sense to modern ears and noses: After all, Americans love their cars! And who’d want to walk through ankle-deep horse manure to buy a newspaper? There’s just one problem with the story. It’s wrong.”

Did Cars Save Our Cities From Horses?

The Last Word

“I used to be a cool chick but I’m not anymore.”

—Britney Spears, American musician, born December 2, 1981

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