Title"The air we breathe"
NameKiechle, Melanie A. (author), Fabian, Ann V (chair), Isenberg, Alison (internal member), Lewis, Jan Ellen (internal member), Wailoo, Keith (internal member), Melosi, Martin (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Air quality--United States--History--19th century,
Odor control--United States--History--19th century,
United States--Civilization--19th century
DescriptionThis dissertation studies how Americans came to value and protect "fresh air" in the rapidly changing industrial cities of the nineteenth century, and explains how and why old-fashioned sensory knowledge sparked environmental campaigns. Drawing from government documents, scientific reports, personal files, political cartoons, novels, and periodicals, this cultural history of fresh air recreates the common sense of the nineteenth century, when people believed that invisible miasmas governed their bodies. To eliminate odors, chemists recommended condensers and chemical neutralizers, lawyers and politicians created new nuisance regulations, and engineers designed complicated systems of ventilation and sewerage. While specialists claimed that they could control odors, lay people pursued their own time-tested solutions: the wealthy took summer vacations, the working classes spent their evenings on tenement roofs, and women planted fragrant plants in on the borders of their homes. With the introduction of public health boards and new industrial processes, urban odors changed dramatically, though people’s perception of and reaction to these odors remained largely the same. This study tracks the changing smellscapes of New York City and Chicago, focusing on the materiality of the physical city, and it uses complaints about "bad" odors and celebrations of "good" smells to assess the role of sensory experience in late nineteenth-century environmental movements. Because people associated bad odors with illness, the olfactory history of urban experience illustrates how Americans enlisted science, technology, law and common practices to mitigate health dangers and ultimately accept environmental risk. Through investigating the public ramifications of personal experiences of odor, this project contributes to the histories of the senses, urban environment, public health, science, urban governance, and cleanliness. The unusual melding between the individual, subjective experience of smelling and the emerging community of scientific experts in the late-nineteenth century formed a tenuous but persuasive foundation for articulating the necessity of change and resisting unchecked industrial development.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Melanie A. Kiechle
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.