OLD NEWS: Flies Ruin 1921 For Cow Owners

Can you look your cow in the face?

This pitch in an advertisement for Cow Chow was so cute in May, when I found it in the Arkansas Gazette archives for 1921, I started looking for an excuse to write about cows. It didn’t take long to find one.

Just a century ago – 100 years and a few days – Little Rock mayor Ben Brickhouse signed a controversial cow ordinance.

On June 29, 1921, he approved the city council’s decision to limit residents to one cow per household. And there were also new regulations regarding this cow. July 1921 was not a good month for cow farmers. The Gazette reports:

“Enforcement of the ordinance, he said, would be suspended for 20 days to allow those who have more than one cow to dispose of the rest.”

The measure also categorically prohibited the keeping of goats and pigs in the city. People let Brickhouse know they weren’t happy. The June 30 Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat released a statement from Brickhouse, which read:

“While it saddens me to be forced to limit citizens’ rights in reference to this issue, I am prompted by the highest motive to do so. The ordinance was recommended by the Board of Health after careful consideration of the danger of typhoid fever outbreak in Little Rock.

“The council is made up of three aldermen, the city attorney, three doctors and the mayor. The board of health doctors are high-ranking men in the community, professionally and otherwise, and two of them serve the city without pay. The order was also recommended by Sergeant Frost, a typhoid fever expert with the United States Public Health Service.

“Another reason for the adoption of this ordinance is that the bad smell coming from the pens for cows and pigs [causes] a large number of people will suffer from it, and no citizen should want to keep or maintain in his home a state which tends to make life miserable for his neighbor. “

Gallery: The rule of a cow

If you’ve ever met a cash cow, you know these adorable creatures make great pets. And while families with a plot of land could save money by keeping a dairy cow to feed their own table, they could also earn the necessary income by selling her calves. Before the 1921 ordinance, the more land around your house, the more cows you could have. And you could sell your extra cows in town at one of the city’s conveniently located railcars.

Also known as “livery stables,” wagon courses were multi-purpose businesses combining places to sell your cows or park your car; pens in which your bull could provide a breeding service; haylofts in which the wells could never meet to carry out illicit transactions … as well as other public services, all surrounded by a crown of flies and the scent of cattle.

Coincidentally, another measure Brickhouse ruled on long ago, on June 29, was an even more controversial ordinance that banned the operation of railcars in a significant part of downtown. But the wagons are a story for another day.

■ ■ ■

Was the problem with the cows less related to public health than to bad odors? Later reports in the archives suggest otherwise. But the bans appear to have hit black farmers hard.

The July 12 Gazette reported that 75 very polite protesters, mostly blacks and cow and pig owners, showed up before the weekly council meeting began. The mayor told them that the ordinance was drafted by the Board of Health and that it would protect them and everyone.

“He assured those who protested that it was not meant to be discriminatory and that its operation would be for the general good of all. The audience seemed satisfied and all left in good spirits after thanking the council with a vote. rising.”

By “an up vote” I believe the reporter meant that people stood up and said thank you individually. Roberts Rules of Order defines increased voting in a way that doesn’t seem likely to have happened before a meeting (see arkansasonline.com/75rise).

The following day’s Gazette published a report by Dr John Thames, the city’s health officer. Fourteen cases of typhoid had been confirmed in June. Investigations in each case excluded city water supply or commercial dairies as sources.

The cases were spread over an area ranging from 1018 E. Ninth St. to 3114 W. 11th St., and from 121 Izard St. to 2423 S. Gaines St. In some cases, patients received their milk from a private facility. . cows handled by various people. In other cases, people had picnics or bathed in the countryside. Some visited towns where typhoid was free.

It wasn’t the city’s health department’s fault, Thames said:

“We therefore conclude after this thorough investigation and the search for the cause of the deduction method that the real cause is reckless indifference on the part of those who contracted the disease and not one on which the city or the health department of the city has some direct influence to control. “

While there is no reason to be alarmed, he said, all citizens between the ages of 2 and 50 should be vaccinated against typhus every three years. The Department of Health offered free injections every Tuesday and Friday morning.

Thames added: “Secondly, during these hot months the public should use all possible means to break up all feeding and breeding grounds for flies, and to destroy all old flies by trapping, hitting or beating them. poisoning them They should be especially careful not to use any of the water, milk or other foods unless they know its purity.

“By practicing these simple rules during the warmer months, they will be able to escape typhoid fever, as the public should remember that typhoid fever is not transmitted through the air, and anyone who comes with a case can be absolutely safe. that it has eaten or drunk something that has come from the intestine of a human being, and the common house fly is in almost all cases the culprit insect which transmits the germ from the infected person or place to the victim.”

Does anyone else mind how disgusting the truth can be?

The one cow rule came into effect on July 18. On July 22, the Gazette again cited the Thames, explaining the rules. To keep your cow, you had to go to the city’s health service. You had to declare where the cow was kept and provide a certificate – issued by a veterinarian in good standing and good standing – that the cow was in good health and had been tested for tuberculosis.

“The measure makes it illegal to keep or maintain a cow on a lawn or in a paddock or stable within 50 feet of any occupied dwelling or part thereof, or any place where food is stored. or kept for sale. “

Flies. This is why we cannot have beautiful things.


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