OUT of the gray dawn, from smoky stations where grimy engines pant and heave, by lighted subways in swift, silent trains, or through the barren shuttered streets in clanging car, pour the great hosts who do the city’s work. That restless river springing from the morn bears in its flood the total of the city’s wealth. From its requirements rise the varied activities of the city, whose total economic power is built by massing the single units of the moving throng. The energy of this human river gathers the resources of sea and earth, and turns the wealth it gains to the use and the service of man. On the preservation of that energy, therefore, depends the effective work of the city. Higher and better living for all would come from its general increase.
To gain energy the individual has but one means at his command, his food. Just as surely as the red flame of any coalfed fire dies down, left unreplenished, so man dies, once his food-supply is stopped. That is so evident, so personal, that it is remembered. It is equally true, but less commonly remembered, that as a furnace with dead ashes about the walls yields little heat despite the fire within, so insufficient or wrong foods, poisoning or dulling the worker, give him little energy for his tasks, little strength to bear his part in the world’s struggle. Many a manufacturer thinks thousands a year well spent in buying good fuel instead of bad, in keeping his machines in a maximum degree of efficiency by repair and replacement. Many such a man has never thought that like care as regards his workmen’s food, the substance that furnishes them both fuel and repair, might bring an efficiency to his factory, an increase of power to his force, which would make his other saving seem trifling by comparison.
Stated in its simplest form, the problem of the city’s food-supply resolves itself to this: how can we provide the consumer with healthful food which shall be in a normal condition when it reaches the table ? If we can solve that problem, we can furnish the army who are attacking the work of the world with a proper commissary; and so supply it with a requirement second to no other. If Napoleon’s famous remark, that an army traveled on its stomach, applied a century ago to the invincible legions that so long dominated Europe, it is quite as true to-day that in our desperate struggle for commercial supremacy that nation which is best fed, that city which pays the most attention to the food of the workers within its walls, stands the greatest chance of ultimate victory.
Visualizing to our entire satisfaction the vegetable garden of the farm, or the white butcher’s-cart of the village, as the basis of our food-supply, we, as a nation, have long been inclined to neglect the widespread sources from which we draw our bodily energy. As in so many other civic conditions, the tradition of the immediate plenty of the American farm has overcome the actual reality. What the city-dweller should visualize are the thousands upon thousands of tons of perishable food-material which are brought yearly into the city; for these, on their way to our homes, must pass through a cordon of attacking foes. The armored trains which carried provisions from place to place in the Boer war, and the forts in which those provisions were received, have no distant parallel in the refrigerator cars and the cold-storage warehouses of the city. Like supplies hastened to beleaguered fortresses, our foods are exposed to destructive agencies from the time they leave their place of origin to the time they reach their final destination. The foes that the foods encounter are of two classes, the natural and the unnatural, the forces of nature and those of greedy or ignorant men. Both types of evil can be avoided by the community, if it will raise against them certain well-recognized guards. To raise those guards some definite knowledge of the dangers which surround the foodsupply is imperative.
In common parlance we say that an orange which has turned soft, or a piece of meat which becomes tainted, is spoiled. The housekeeper looking over the contents of the ice-chest says, “ This must be eaten to-day, for it wall not keep until to-morrow.” In such expressions we instinctively recognize the existence of destructive agencies. It is comparatively seldom that we fully realize that what we call the spoiling of food is one of the great movements of natural order in the world, that it is the attempt of nature to do one of two things: either to encourage new life at the expense of a substance which has lived its allotted time, or to destroy and clear away matter which has served its purpose and is ready for removal. Food-materials, left under conditions where plant life can exist, become fertile soil. Decomposition of food-materials is produced by micro-organic life growing in that soil, life which is attempting to clear away organic wastes from the face of the earth, and return the substances which have composed those wastes into such elemental form that they can serve once more as food for plant life.
All round us, in library and kitchen, in office and laboratory, on hill and valley, through winter cold and summer heat, flourishes the garden of the air, a garden filled with countless myriads of tiny plants. There may be found threadlike molds such as form on bread or cheese; wild yeasts, such as ferment fruit juices and change sweet cider to hard cider; and bacteria like the mother of vinegar, which turns hard cider into vinegar, or like those other types of the same group of tiny plants which, by decomposition, break down the organic structure of the foods in many fashions.
The molds, the yeasts, and the bacteria, all of which may be grouped as micro-organisms, share certain general peculiarities. All three belong to the great general group of fungi, a group of plants which take their nourishment from the soil on which they rest; and, like their relatives of this group, these organisms, as they grow and take in food, break down the organic matter which affords them lodging and nourishment. All three of these plant-types thrive best under conditions of darkness, warmth, and moisture. All three flourish in dirt, and dirt is laden heavily with these tiny bodies. Cleanliness and cold are two great guards by which we can protect food against the attack of decomposing micro-organic life. The clean, cool ice-chest preserves food in the home. The hot, moist kitchen destroys it. The first, by cleanliness and low temperature, tends to retard microorganic growth. The second, by the increased opportunity for dirt and dust and by a higher temperature,fosters the plant life of the air.
Micro-organic decomposition is a necessity of nature no less unchanging than the cycle of carbon, that circle of mystery by which the carbon of the organic world, eternally renewed by fire, springs into new life when it becomes carbon dioxide, the food for the living world of green. The normal tendency of leaf, of flower, and fruit is to turn at last to cellulose, the woody fibre of the tree-trunk. In the action of the fungus which attacks the fallen forest tree and, decomposing it, returns its elements to the ground from which they sprang, may be seen the agencies through which old life is constantly exchanged for new. Were it not for such action the fresh and living plants which give us food might, ere this, have become locked fast in harsh, unyielding, woody fibre, which offers nutrients to neither man nor beast. Nor does such action show the only value of micro-organic life. The modern sewage plant has already been referred to in this series of articles as a pile of rocks on which bacterial films gather. The bacteria of those films are fulfilling their action as earth’s scavengers when they break down the sewage flowing over them, and turn the harmful organic wastes to harmless inorganic forms.
A few short phrases sum up conditions. The natural enemies of food-preservation are micro-organic plants which flourish the world over, ever ready for their tasks of decomposition. With foods as a common habitat, these organisms in their process of growth break down the structure of the foods into forms unpalatable and often directly injurious to man. Yet the growth of such micro-organic life is a necessity of nature. Man can only oppose it in some part. He can, however, control it, in so far as necessity requires, by cleanliness and a cool temperature. The preservation of the city’s food by dryness, a third protection against the decomposing organisms, is impracticable for many of the foods because of their normal content of water.
The incoming of the city’s foods is of itself a splendid pageant. Wheat trains, rushing from the wide horizon of the West; fishing schooners, tacking up from off the Banks; refrigerator cars, hastening across the continent, laden with the spoils of a thousand herds; high-topped wagons hauled by sturdy Percherons, looming in over the country roads in the freshness of the earliest dawn; crates filled with golden oranges, with luscious peaches, with heavy hanging grapes, hastening upon their city way; huge motor-vans, piled high with dainties, speeding through the bustling streets; all such inrushing, converging evidence of natural plenty offers a wide breadth of thought, a feeling of greatness, a sense of pride in this rich and glorious country in which we live.
But there is a dark reverse to this splendid shifting curtain. Down on the East Side lives a Russian Jew, a vendor of fruit, who finds a hand-barrow quite large enough for all his meagre stock in trade. A weary day has gone, whose long rounds have been profitless. Back comes the wretched stock to the home in the hot tenement, to go out again, already well on in the process of putrefaction, to be offered for sale the next morning in the sweltering streets. The fruit-peddler’s action in selling his damaged goods may be deliberate or ignorant; whichever it is, matters little as regards results. Nature makes no allowances. Her laws are inexorable. Food such as this, uninspected and uncondemned, ravages the weakened frames of the city’s poor, and the exhausted doctors, those warriors of the high-walled streets, report after such a sale, “ Another epidemic caused by rotten food.” One great necessity for inspection is laid bare by such conditions.
While ignorance, while deep need (for the loss of one day’s stock may mean starvation to the seller), while greed, can control the actions of the small provider of food to the ranks of the poor, the city must guard its children. Go into the slums of your city, and enter the small grocery and the butcher-shop. Cleanliness and cool temperature I gave as the two great guards against the decomposing action of the micro-organisms. See how the shops of the tenement streets provide those guards, and then read the general death-rate from intestinal disease in the summer. Put milk in a separate category, for that is a still greater problem, and, even with that omission, you will have much to ponder over.
The men who use adulteratives, the sellers of “embalmed beef,” and the vendors of other substances which have been treated with injurious types of preservatives, can hardly plead ignorance as an excuse for the continuance of their methods. The discussion of pure foods which has gone on in recent years, the pure-food laws which have been passed by federal and state authorities, have been sufficient to enlighten any manufacturer as to the necessities of the situation. But so long as crime is committed for the sake of gain, the public must be guarded against the deliberate attempt of unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers in foodstuffs, who work injury in the pursuit of their own profit.
Indeed, it may hardly be too general to say that the evil done to the city’s food by its unnatural foes may be divided into three classes. These may be stated as follows. First, men may deliberately offer for sale food which has begun the process of decomposition. Second, they may treat food with preservatives which, while they destroy or prevent the action of micro-organisms, are injurious to the human frame. Third, they may adulterate, or substitute cheaper, poorer foods for better, more nutritious foods.
“ But,” the reader will very possibly cry in surprise at this point, “ I thought all that had been settled. How about the pure-food laws that have been passed ? How about the work of the Boards of Health ? How about the crusade of the last four years, mentioned a moment ago ? We may not be able to control the natural foes of food, but surely there are laws to control the unnatural ones.”
It is almost a national fallacy to believe that once a law has been placed upon the statute-books safety has been secured, even though such a law has been passed without sufficient enforcing power, or sufficient money to provide for proper enforcement. Much has been done; no inconsiderable beginning has been made; but large bodies move slowly, and the impetus necessary to arouse general feeling to the point where the American people will require proper inspection and control of all food-supplies is still far from attainment. Without attempting to enumerate the merits or defects of all the statutes which have been passed for our protection, suppose we consider for a moment certain difficulties which surround the most general law of them all.
Whatever the local condition around him, the citizen who thinks of the matter puts his trust chiefly in the Food and Drugs Act, passed by Congress on June 30, 1906. Three analogous pieces of work accomplished by the national government; the law just cited, with its regulations, alterations, and amendments; the work done on standards of purity; and the so-called “ Meat Inspection Amendment,” which regulated the meat control of the Department of Agriculture, contain much that is admirable. From the very nature of the relation between the federal and state authorities there are many things that the nation cannot do. Two brief quotations from the Food and Drugs Act may serve to make this clear.
This is “ An Act for preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein, and for other purposes.” Section 1 provides, “That it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture within any Territory or the District of Columbia any article of food or drug which is adulterated or misbranded, within the meaning of this Act.” Section 2 provides, “ That the introduction into any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, or from any foreign country, or shipment to any foreign country, of any article of food or drug which is adulterated or misbranded within the meaning of this Act, is hereby prohibited.”
Those brief quotations show the limitations of federal law. The Territories and the District of Columbia are under the direction of Congress. The shipments of foods from state to state, like export and import, can be controlled by officers of the national government; but the traffic in food-supplies which goes on within the borders of any state must be regulated by the government of the individual state. Each of these bodies politic presents a different solution of the question. Certain states have met the problem bravely, have endeavored to solve it by the aid of expert opinion and without reference to the clamors of special interests. Some few (a most essential point) have endeavored to back up their laws by boards of control, with inspectors to carry out their mandates. In other cases, the cry of selfish interests still dominates the assemblies. Laws, if passed at all, are passed without sufficient reference to expert advice, and by their verbiage are practically nullified. The thousand demands for money which the long-established departments of our commonwealths bring forward, leave little to spare for the newer sanitary inspection, necessary as such a department is for the health of the citizen.
Multiply the difficulties of the nation by fifty, more or less, and you have the difficulties which confront proper foodregulations in the states. Multiply the fifty of the states by hundreds reaching into thousands, and you have the difficulties which are before the municipalities when they desire properly to control the food of the individual citizen. Yet, as we get down to the intra-mural conditions of the municipality, some balancing conditions appear. These we shall consider in a moment.
That crowded concourse, the modern city, which has left behind the possibilities of individualistic control, has been forced, step by step, to a collective control of its prime necessities. The paving of the streets, the protection of the houses from fire and theft, the education of the children, have long been wisely placed under the municipal government. Defective administration of these departments calls for swift correction. Is the insurance of the healthfulness of food, that vital question which so intimately touches the welfare of each individual, of less importance than these? The body in which the control of food is vested is commonly the Board of Health. Have you seen headlines in your morning paper within the last year or two, referring to the holding up of an appointment to that body, or to the rejection of a candidate because of political beliefs ? How many cities have reached the point of making a man trained in scientific methods, especially a sanitarian, a member of such a board ? The medical men of such bodies are doing an invaluable service. How many of the problems which confront them could be solved by men with the training of the engineer ? The state can do little in regulating the affairs of all the municipalities within its lines. The adjustment of home conditions must depend upon the men whom you elect in your cities. Once more, bring the matter to the argumentum ad hominem, what do you personally know about the health-control of your own city?
Fortunately, our instinctive training of centuries past does much for us in the way of protection. The table of our earliest forbears was limited in the extreme, and its variety could be enlarged only by experiment. A tempting cluster of berries on some shrub in the neolithic forest might be a delicious dessert, or it might be a violent poison. Brave experiment alone could determine which. It was a hard predicament. If the early-research man guessed right, he had a valuable addition to his diet. If he guessed Wrong, he died. Blunted as our senses are by centuries of civilization, the instinctive training which primeval man received in the choice of good and bad food has persisted to this very day. The evidence of the senses is no mean aid to assist the buyer of the household’s food-supplies to ward off evil. But the senses are an insufficient guard at best. Two factors in the city are constantly arrayed against them. First, the resources of the man who deliberately doctors his damaged goods in such a way as to disguise their real condition — the seller who renders impure goods savory to the taste and pleasant to the eye; and second, the desperate need of the poor. And after all, defective conditions in the city always bear most heavily on that class, on the ones who can endure them least easily. The poor suffer most from bad air, bad water, and wretched food. In few respects are they more heavily handicapped than in their choice of food. The lesser cost of damaged goods is a fearful temptation to the slender purse of the ignorant woman of the tenements; the stores where she buys her food-supplies offer but little choice for well or ill. Few more immediate duties confront the municipality to-day than the guardianship of its poor.
We cannot better conditions by not recognizing them. While money rules the world, men will sell impure or damaged food-supplies ignorantly or wickedly; and since the national law cannot affect the sale of goods of this sort within the boundaries of the state, we must pass state and municipal laws for our own protection. To make them effective they must be entrusted for enforcement to competent men, backed by ample supplies of money. Obtaining a maximum of control with a minimum of money is a theme inseparably connected with the centres of sale of food-supplies, the markets, abattoirs, and bakeries. That brings us directly to those important considerations.
The old world shows the market in its first stage and in its last. The new world, save here and there in scattered foreign quarters or in the great marts of trade, shows stages in between. Rise early any morning in the little German town, and stroll along the cobbled streets to the square where the church so often forms the background of the market-place. There you will find the direct successor of the ἀγορά of the Greek, the forum of the Roman. The market-woman under her broad umbrella; the picturesque peasant with his rude country-cart filled with fresh produce; the frocked butcher weighing a piece of meat in his niche in the wall: each is selling his wares under practically the same conditions that prevailed two thousand years or more ago. Such markets offer an example of the most primitive type of trade, direct barter between the producer and the consumer; a barter, carried on, in some German towns at least, under strict surveillance of the health authorities. In more than one market of that type I have seen a cleanliness and an order foreign to far better theoretical conditions in American cities.
Paris offered to the world the first great example of the modern market, built and controlled by the government. Napoleon the First, warrior, statesman, jurist, and sanitary engineer, found time among his many labors to accomplish many salient municipal and governmental reforms. The great “ Halles Centrales ” of Paris, those iron-pillared, zinc-roofed pavilions through which run covered streets, were planned under his direction, and begun in 1811, in his reign. These markets are said to cover not far from twenty acres, and their pavilions are subdivided into numerous tiny stalls. The early example of the Halles Centrales has been carried on since by similar markets built in other parts of Paris, and the profits which the municipality has realized from these sources have been large.
London, Berlin, Vienna, and other European cities, soon followed Paris in the work of regulating the food-supply, and have raised markets on an almost monumental scale during the last half-century. The American markets cannot be compared with those found abroad, in size, completeness of equipment, and ease of control. To particularize, such markets as the Fulton or Washington in New York, or the Faneuil Hall Market in Boston, are not in the same class with the great modern markets of the European capitals.
While the single market in the town square sufficed temporarily for the small segregated town, the gradual spread of population soon carried with it separation of the centres of food-supply, so that grocery and butcher-shops sprang up in every little sub-centre of population. The opening of such scattered shops has greatly increased the difficulty of bringing food in its best condition to the consumer. Berlin, with its fifteen great markets, can control each one by an individual corps of attached inspectors, and do this at a minimum of expense. To secure thorough inspection of the widely-scattered food-shops of New York and Chicago is vastly more expensive and trying.
If we assume two premises, that a proper control and inspection of food-supplies makes for the good of the city, and that such control and inspection should be carried out at a minimum of expense, four questions confront the interested citizen with regard to the markets of the community. What are the advantages of centralized markets as opposed to our present separated ones ? What should be the general location of such markets ? what the general internal construction of the buildings ? Should the ownership of the markets be vested in the public, or should they be under private control ?
City reservoirs have long taken the place of the garden well; and city water, because of its distribution from a main source of supply, can be readily inspected for its purity. The furnishing of foodsupplies must always remain a problem strongly distinct from the furnishing of the first-named great necessity; yet city water, entering at a single point and radiating out through different streets to individual houses, may furnish us with a valuable analogy. By a system of centralization comparable to that already employed with water, the establishment of centralized markets will do away with a large part of the difficulty of control. Such movements have proved direct magnets to trade. Such markets have become the centre of the food-movement of the city. Centralization has shown other merits besides the primary one of control. In the smaller city a single market may be used for wholesale trade in the early morning hours, and for retail trade during the day. In the greater city a division into parts, with a great wholesale market as a main source of supply, and a radial series of retail markets placed at sub-centres of population and fed by the central market, would seem to be the ideal arrangement. Such a huband-spokes arrangement should prove particularly effective when we consider its possibilities with regard to building markets for the poor, a matter to be considered in some detail a moment later.
The general location of the markets should be determined chiefly by the conditions of transportation. With vegetables and fruits, as with milk, it is essential to their purity to transmit them to the consumer in the shortest possible space after their preparation. Those markets accomplish the swiftest transfer of goods to the receiver where cold-storage cars can deliver directly to the doors, where the laden wagons from the adjacent country-side can most readily bring their fresh gathered goods, or where inland waterways or ocean docks are close at hand. Every such central market should have its cold-storage warehouse, and its devices for supplying cold storage to the tenants who rent the stalls. Convergence of transportation to a single point is one of the best safeguards of food. Swiftness of delivery, and continuance of low temperature, oppose the decomposing action of the plants of the garden of the air. The location of the sub-markets in a radial svstern must, of course, be controlled by the position of the centres of population. In these days of motor-wagons and tube systems of delivery, the problem of transportation from a central point to the minor marts becomes a by no means difficult matter.
Not the least argument in favor of centralization may be found in the increased facilities afforded as regards garbage removal. The need for a satisfactory service of this kind may he readily recognized when two statements are placed side by side. The natural enemies of pure food flourish almost beyond belief in the organic wastes cleared from the foodshop. Some of our better ordered municipalities think it sufficient, even in midsummer, to collect garbage but once a day. Other less progressive cities believe their duty done when the accumulated wastes are removed twice a week.
The construction of markets is, in its detail, a matter for architect and engineer; but since laymen must use the finished work, the simple details laid down by William Paul Gerhard, in his excellent work on the Sanitation of Markets and Abattoirs, may be quoted: —
“ The chief constructional requirements [of markets] are the following: —
“ 1. The halls must have ample light.
“ 2. They must not be draughty, yet be well ventilated.
“3. They must afford plenty of floor space and storage-room.
“ 4. They must have plenty of exits and passage-ways, also driveways for the unloading and loading of wagons.
“5. They must be well and substantially constructed.”
Those five sentences sum up the requirements well.
Now for the answer to the last of the four questions, public versus private control. If our modern theory is correct, which assumes that it is a part of the duty of the municipality to care for the health of its citizens, it is surely a legitimate function of the municipal government to undertake the building and ownership of public markets. The tradesman who rents the stall from the municipality comes, by that act, directly under the rules which may be laid down for the control of the market. The inspector who condemns goods in accordance with such rules has no mean moral support behind him. In consequence, the customer who buys his household supplies from the centralized municipal market has a better chance of protection than in buildings where private companies, seeking the largest dividends possible, may be in conflict with the officers of health. Nor need such a venture be an altruistic one. The ownership of public markets has proved no losing venture for many cities. Yet the municipality, if the movement is to prove of its utmost value, should not look for too large dividends, for the ultimate purpose of such ownership is not the immediate pecuniary gain, but rather that more general gain that results from the better health and greater energy of a well-nourished people. Beyond all else, markets so built and so controlled should result in advantage to the class which needs them most, the city’s poor.
Few luxuries are more expensive than the five cents’ worth of the poor. The cost of lodging and food, the two absolute necessities of community life, is a tremendous problem to the great majority of the city dwellers. To the poor the margin by which these are secured at all is scant indeed. It is the more pitiful, therefore, that only in the luxurious shops of the rich do foods cost as much as among the tenements. The small quantities consumed, the meagre variety, the hand-to-mouth method of buying, all combine to make the nourishment obtained far less than it should be for the money expended.
Municipal markets placed less to accommodate the rich or well-to-do than to reach the buyers of the tenement district, markets whose stalls offer the variety desired by the many races who make up our cosmopolitan whole, are a most immediate necessity. The Italian emigrant woman, bewildered for years by a new land and by strange customs, will seek the dirty Italian shop in the back street if there are no stalls in the public building where she can chaffer in her own tongue. The extortion of the small shop cannot continue where the entering buyer passes a hundred stalls offering the same quality of goods. Once more let us reiterate a salient point. The cost of stalls in such markets, the necessary running expenses for keeping up the business, should be distinctively lower than those charged by the tenement landlord outside. The municipality cannot afford to have its markets too profitable an investment. Sickness from poor food, lack of energy from insufficient nourishment, are fearful drains on a city’s total resources. The proper control of markets is a step along the lines of preventive medicine.
The meat-stall of the market must buy its goods from the slaughter-house or abattoir. No other part of the providing of the city’s food has come to the attention of the public as has this single trade. Mr. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle; the report of the commission named by President Roosevelt to consider conditions in the abattoirs; the work of the illustrated weeklies and the daily newspapers, — all have combined to stir the public deeply. The past is a matter of history, and the former conditions of many of the slaughter-houses have proved to be wretched beyond belief. The reforms accomplished have already been considerable, a result due largely to the fact that most of the abattoirs are engaged in interstate commerce, which fact places them under the control of the national government. Numerous smaller abattoirs catering to local trade still exist, however, and the same general statements that apply to the public ownership and control of markets may well apply to these.
Certain characteristics of the work of the abattoirs differentiate their problems from those of the markets. The very nature of their business is of a more filthy and disagreeable sort, and demands especial precautions with regard to cleanliness and the preservation of the products. The wholesale nature of the trade allows the abattoir and the stockyards, which normally are adjacent to it, to stand in a location outside the centres of population. Not only the unpleasant features of the slaughtering business, but also the odors due to utilization of the by-products, such as the making of soap and the handling of hides, horns, and hoofs, make it extremely inadvisable to locate abattoirs in residential sections of any class.
One model abattoir erected recently in New York has commonly been referred to of late as presenting an excellent example of what a plant of this type should be. Abattoirs may be divided into two general classes: those but a single story high and extending over a considerable ground area, and those which are several stories high and extend over a comparatively limited area. The abattoir of the New York Butcher’s Dressed Meat Company is of the second type.
In this slaughter-house the cattle coming from the cars at the gates follow two white bell-wethers up long graded inclines, rising story after story, till the roof is reached, where the pens for the steers are located. Below the beef-pens are pens for calves, sheep, and lambs. All of these are open to the air. From the roof the operations of the abattoir go on in regular order downward from floor to floor. The floor below the roof holds the slaughtering-room, where all slaughtering is done in “ kosher ” fashion. Below are the refrigerating rooms, which are kept at a constant temperature of two degrees above freezing. Below these are rooms for the utilization of the various by-products of the slaughtering. Every part of the animal is used for one purpose or another, and cleanliness is the law of the establishment from start to finish.
The market stands before our eyes: the abattoir carries on its work beyond our vision. Yet the same need exists for both, — control brought into being and sustained by a firm public spirit, a reliant public opinion.
The bakery, a third general distributor of food-supplies, needs the same protection against the enemies of food as that claimed by the market and the abattoir; centralized municipal ownership is hardly practical in this case, but the need of civic regulation is a vital need which presses more urgently year by year.
The disappearance of the art and practice of cooking in the homes of the city is one of the noteworthy signs of the age. The girl in employment, whether she gains her wage by labor in the mill, the department-store, or the office, has had little chance or inclination to take up the household sciences before marriage. Her mother, though of the generation before, is likely to have had much the same experience as the daughter, can offer but slight knowledge, and has little skill as a teacher. As an inevitable result, thousands of families fall back on the baker to make up in some part the deficiency in home training. City after city uses baker’s loaves to the number of tens and hundreds of thousands. The enormous increase in the production of cooked food in the city is pregnant with matter for careful consideration.
Stand waiting for your car beside a corner bake-shop, when the mills are pouring out their living stream at night. Watch the long line entering the bakery, standing at the counter, receiving the evening loaf or leaving the doors laden with pastry and cake. Much of the bakeshop’s wares offer a soil as fertile for bacterial hosts as the goods of the market can afford. The market’s goods are commonly uncooked. They must pass through the antiseptic processes of cooking. The bake-shop’s viands are cooked and ready to be eaten. Note the cloying, sickish smell about the ordinary bake-shop on a summer’s day, and observe the herds of flies striving for entrance. Flies are notorious carriers of disease. The bakeshop, the source of most of the cooked food of the community, offers a problem distinct from, but no less important than, that of the market or the abattoir.
The salesroom of the bakery may or may not be attractive, but the real crux of the problem does not lie there. You will find that in the bake-room, commonly a close room situated behind the shop, or perhaps below it, in a dim cellar. Strange to say, the condition of the bakeries, with their possibilities of the direct transmission of disease, has been largely overlooked in the crusade that has gone on during the last few years. Grave possibilities of danger inhere in unclean bakehouses, heavy with fetid air, hot with the constant radiation of the ovens, and fouled by the burning of gas-jets that strive against the dusk at midday. Massachusetts has done good work in clearing up the wretched bakeries of the slums, and for this the commonwealth should be given credit. Here are two quotations from the state law on the subject which are aimed directly against certain of the chief evils which exist in this trade.
Chapter 75 of the Revised Laws of Massachusetts provides in Section 20: “All buildings which are occupied as biscuit, bread or cake-bakeries shall be provided with a proper wash-room and water-closets, having ventilation apart from the bake-room or rooms; and no water-closet, earth-closet, privy, or ashpit shall be in, or communicate directly with, the bake-room of any bakery.” Section 29 says: “Furniture and utensils in bake-rooms shall be so arranged that they and the floor may at all times be kept clean and in good sanitary condition.”
Space is precious in the tenements. Air and light are costly. The sale-room shows. The bake-room is hidden. Only through municipal or state control and proper inspection can we be sure that the evils of the bake-shops are avoided. Nor should this subject be dosed without reference to the individual public spirit of some of the men engaged in the bakery business on a large scale. Some of them have done excellent work in this regard, and their efforts should receive a greater support from the community. With the exception of the large biscuit or cracker bakeries, the national laws in general have nothing to do with these food-producers. Their trade is commonly carried on within the confines of the city which they serve.
The sinister threads which mark the pathway of the pathogenic organisms, of the germs of disease, run blackly through all the discussions of those common necessities of mankind — air, water, and food. Ever at the gates, they watch for the chance opening which shall give them entrance. Control of the diseased employee, the tuberculous patient, should not be confined to his relation to air, water, and milk; every man who handles food-supplies in market or abattoir, every worker in the bake-shops, should undergo constant and vigilant inspection. The danger of food injured by decomposition may be somewhat less in the bakery than in the market or abattoir, but the danger to the public from adulteration, substitution, or the transmission of disease, is quite as great.
Back through the hurrying, home-bound crowds, into the dusk where the lamps are gleaming, returns the city worker at the dose of day. Whether the weariness of the night gives place to rest and power in the morning depends largely upon the food that the home table provides; and the healthfulness of that food, gathered as it is from many different sources, must be controlled by the individual citizen, in the end. Only by the deterrence of the knowing criminal who furnishes impure food, and by the teaching of the ignorant, can general safety be secured. Nor is it enough to insure our own safety only. This complex latter-day organism, the city, when injured in one fibre, transmits the hurt throughout its frame. Whether we wish it or no, to keep ourselves we must be our brother’s keeper. Only when we strive to guard our neighbors as ourselves are our own walls secure.