Tales from the Morgue: The problem with dusty streets

2012-08-24T10:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: The problem with dusty streetsJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 24, 2012 10:15 am  • 

A recent "Tales from the Morgue" article about women's fashions in 1902 (see a link at the end of this article under "Related stories") made the Morgue Lady wonder how women handled the problem of dusty or muddy streets in Tucson when their gowns often trailed behind them.

She suspects a dedicated laundress was required and that those women who could not afford to have someone else do their laundry didn't wear such fashionable clothing.

It appears dusty streets were indeed a problem, one that the Star felt required commentary.

From the Arizona Daily Star, May 27, 1902:



Now that the summer and dusty streets are with us, the Star rises to suggest that the mayor and city council, while showing a spirit of progress along many lines should solve the street sprinkling problem by using crude petroleum on our streets. This will solve the problem of both the dust and the making of most excellent streets. The plan has been tried and accepted in many cities with well merited success, none having discarded it after giving it a trial. It is said that next to paving, this makes the best streets attainable, almost equal to asphalt. The cost will be less than water sprinkling, taking the entire years as the measure, as but one crude oil sprinkling is necessary for the first year. The second year less than half the quantity is required and less each succeeding year.

Then the crude oil is a complete germicide, certain death to all kinds of disease germs. This is an important consideration. It will be observed that many railroads are using this means of conquering the dust along their railway track and with complete success.

The cost may be the objection raised, but upon trial it will be found it is not so great as believed. It will certainly not exceed that of street sprinkling. The cost, however, can be greatly reduced by securing a special arrangement with the Southern Pacific Co. to deliver the same for this special purpose, say from Beaumont oil fields, where it can be purchased for a mere trifle, and this oil is peculiarly adapted for this kind of service.

The city can well afford to give this crude oil plan a trial on Congress street. This in the interest of our merchants. If this is a success it can be extended to other streets. 


The depletion of the Earth's supply of oil was clearly not an issue in 1902. Such a plan would certainly reduce the dust in the air; however, the Morgue Lady is happy that she doesn't have to smell those streets. She also suspects those fashionable ladies would have to be rather careful when walking on or near streets sprayed with petroleum.

Such a plan, if it was ever put into effect, was not immediate in any case. A few days later, it was announced that the city would be in charge of spraying the streets with water to keep the dust down. One might imagine that the effects of the spraying lasted only a few minutes in Tucson's dry air.

From the Star, May 30, 1902:



It is now settled that all matters respecting the disposition of garbage and the wetting down of the Tucson streets will hereafter be conducted wholly by the city. Last night the two sprinkling carts went on duty, according to a schedule and it is planned to confine this work to hours when the sprinkling will not disturb a soul. That is as it should be. Let the good work keep going.

Beginning June second the garbage wagons will be on duty as a city connection and if you have anything to say why this or that is not right all you have to do is go to the city hall and name your grievance. The city will be districted and notices given when you are to deposit any old tin can on the edge of the sidewalk for the garbage man to take away and take it quickly.

There is one thing about the garbage business, have the fellow who disturbs your output arrested on site. This will put a stop to the distribution of paper all over the streets and anything else intended to stay where it is placed.

The city has fourteen horses and three garbage wagons, two sprinkling cars and the necessary force to conduct the business legitimately. Councilman Anderson is connected with the garbage and sprinkling department and anything more you want to know of it consult him. 


Is it possible to have little furry critters who disturb your garbage arrested?

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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