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Flies and Livery Stables

The presence of horses in Nebraska towns and villages during the decades when they were necessary for transportation resulted in public health problems. One of the most disagreeable was the accumulation of large amounts of animal waste near barns and livery stables. The mounds of manure not only produced odor but provided a breeding ground for disease-carrying flies, which prompted many complaints to local government.

"By next summer, when the fly nuisance reappears in all its fervor," said the Lincoln Daily Star on October 13, 1907, "Lincoln may have laws regulating the breeding of domestic winged insects. Livery stables play the part of fatherland to billions and trillions of flies every week. On heaps of barn refuse, they pass their infancy. On the perspiring flanks of toilworn steeds they learn to take their first steps and then fly forth to forage in the milk pans of the restaurants and find last resting places in the soup of sedentary housekeepers. . . .

"It is proposed by the terms of the ordinance which is being drawn up in the office of an attorney that all livery stable owners in the sewer districts be compelled to connect the stalls with the drainage system. This is now done at the fire department stations and by means of daily flushing, the stalls are kept sweet and clean. Visitors to the various fire stations have commented frequently on the fewness of the flies. . . . With the livery stables kept clean by the flushing method, other measures could be taken to check the spread of the insects. . . . As it is now there is hardly a livery stable in which the floor around the stalls is not fairly saturated with filth. Out in the rear, great heaps of decaying matter rise higher every day, to be carted off only at irregular intervals."

The Star reported that Dr. H. H. Morrill of Lincoln "has made a number of nonchalant trips through the alleys of the down-town district lately, and has counted flies. Back of one livery barn he counted several million in a single community. In the doctor's office is a powerful microscope. He also has a number of other delicate instruments. During a recent series of professional visits upon a typhoid fever victim he caught some flies which were crawling on the sick room window panes. When he got back to the office with them, he permitted them to waltz over a preparation of gelatine. Then he took his microscope and after a sufficient time had elapsed put the gelatine under the lense [sic]. It was in the footprints of the flies on the gelatine that he found germs in abundance, each thriving, each growing and getting fat. They were typhoid germs. They were carried in the feet of the flies."

(August 2006)



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