Cover: Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City, from Harvard University PressCover: Taming Manhattan in PAPERBACK

Taming Manhattan

Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

Tells an odd story in lively prose. This book implicitly alludes to the urban revival now stretching from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Me., but whatever your thoughts on brewpubs and bike lanes, you probably haven’t read a municipal history that has a mayor ‘ready to tackle the hog problem.’ …The city McNeur depicts in Taming Manhattan is the pestiferous obverse of the belle epoque city of Henry James and Edith Wharton that sits comfortably in many imaginations. McNeur’s town is a ‘veritable manure factory’ in which some 10,000 horses each deposit up to 40 pounds of manure a day, while the East River serves as a repository for human waste… [Taming Manhattan] is a smart book that engages in the old-fashioned business of trying to harvest lessons for the present from the past.—Alexander Nazaryan, The New York Times

[A] fine book which make[s] a real contribution to urban biography.—Joseph Rykwert, The Times Literary Supplement

Nearly two centuries before the Occupy Movement, New Yorkers rich and poor clashed over what shape their young city should take. In this superb history, McNeur recovers the bitter battles over feral hogs and untamed dogs, public parks, safe and pure food, effective sanitation, and the fate of the underclass. Making a safer and cleaner city for some, she concludes, also created a shadow city of poverty and filth for others. Taming Manhattan is a thrilling, vivid expedition into Gotham’s wild and often violent past.—Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle

In the decades before the Civil War, New York was rapidly becoming the largest and most important city in the western hemisphere. But mad dogs and wild pigs roamed its streets; garbage heaps, squatters, and shantytowns were commonplace; parks and public open spaces were practically non-existent; and epidemic disease was a constant threat. Catherine McNeur’s Taming Manhattan tells us how New York was literally cleaned up and transformed from a health hazard to an emerging world city. And she does it with beautiful prose, careful research, and persuasive argument. Altogether an excellent book.—Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City

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