1890 - 1920 The Progressive Era
1890 -- End of the American Frontier -- Superintendent of the Census reports: "Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line." The significance of the frontier was that it influenced Americans as much as (or some argued, more than) European culture. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner, for example, said the frontier (not Europe) defined the American experience. He noted the significance of its closing in an 1893 speech to the American Historical Association.:
"Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West... [The frontier produced] a man of coarseness and strength...acuteness and inquisitiveness, [of] that practical and inventive turn of mind...[full of] restless and nervous energy... that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom.... The paths of the pioneers have widened into broad highways. The forest clearing has expanded into affluent commonwealths. Let us see to it that the ideals of the pioneer in his log cabin shall enlarge into the spiritual life of a democracy where civic power shall dominate and utilize individual achievement for the common good." -- Frederick Jackson Turner.
1890 -- General Federation of Women's Clubs founded in the US; conservation and "ecology" among top priorities. Over a million women participated directly in reform efforts during the Progressive era, and the federation developed national committees on forestry, waterways and rivers and harbors. For example, the waterways committee was formed in 1909 to promote water power, clean water and cheaper transportation, according to historian Carolyn Merchant.
"The rationale for women's involvement [in public health movements] lay in the effect of waterways on every American home: Pure water meant health; impure meant disease and death." -- Carolyn Merchant.
1890 -- Oct. 1 -- Yosemite National Park and General Grant national parks are authorized by Congress. Sequoia National Park also established Sept. 25.
1890, April 7 -- Marjorie Stoneman Douglas born in Minneapolis, Minn. As a writer for the Miami Herald, she will lead the crusade to save the Florida Everglades beginning in the 1920s. She wrote The Everglades: River of Grass, published in 1947, the same year President Harry F. Truman establishes Everglades National Park. She was also honored by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
1891 -- Forest Reserve Act passes Congress. Over 17.5 million acres set aside by 1893.
1891 -- Baltimore inventor Clarence Kemp ("the father of solar energy in the U.S.") patents first commercial Climax Solar Water Heater. By 1910, the Climax had competition, especially from the Night and Day solar hot water company, which used a secondary loop from the collector to a water tank. By 1920, over 5,000 Night and Day heaters had been sold in California At the same time, a boom in solar hot water heaters started in Florida, where electricity was a very expensive competitor. About 15,000 units were sold by 1937. (Butt & Perlin)
1891 -- Factory Act amendments (UK) Special Rules for medical examination of workers are applied to dangerous industries. The Act was amended many times by recommendation of medical commitees to deal with specific industrial dangers, especially in 1939, 1959 and 1961.
1892 -- Inventor Aubrey Eneas founds Solar Motor Company of Boston to build solar-powered motors to replace steam engines powered by coal or wood (Butt & Perlin)
1892 -- Europe's last great cholera outbreak. In one widely noted incident, the disease takes a heavy toll in Hamburg, Germany but spares neighboring Altona. The difference is that Altona has a water purification system.
1892 -- June 4 -- Sierra Club founded by John Muir, Robert Underwood Johnson and William Colby "to do something for the wilderness and make the mountains glad."
1892 -- 1,000 Londoners die in smog incident.
1893 -- Illinois is the first state to pass a law limiting the workday for women to 8 hours. The law is largely the work of Florence Kelly, the first Chief Inspector of Factories for Illinois, who vigorously and tenaciously enforces workday, child labor and sweatshop laws.
1893 --"Shadows from the Walls of Death, or Arsenical Wall-papers" is published in Michigan. Putting arsenic in wallpaper made a vivid green color, but it also was poisonous. The Michigan board of health, as part of its investigation, published a book of wallpaper samples and distributed it to libraries. Unfortunately, the book of samples itself caused poisoning when patrons simply thumbed through their copies. Although laws against dangerous colorants were common in Europe, industries in America claimed that the concept of public health regulation flew in the face of liberty. From the first proposals by public health advocates dating from 1872, states began passing laws limiting the amount of arsenic in wallpaper in 1900. (Shattuck, 1893, quoted in Whorton, 1974).
1894 -- A reform-oriented New York City administration appoints Col. George E. Waring Jr. to head the Dept. of Street Cleaning. Before Waring, the corrupt department had not coped with the accumulation of dirt, ashes, garbage, snow and the 2.5 million pounds of manure left by the city's 60,000 horses every day. Waring's concern for public health leads to enormous improvements in general sanitation around the city. Heaps of rubbish and manure on every street are swept up by a cleaning force that, itself, is cleaned up. The popular image of a man in the white coat pushing a broom and pulling a round wheeled dustbin is a reflection of Waring's new approach to street cleaning. Yet if streets were cleaner, other sources of pollution continue to plague New York:
"Waring did nothing to tackle the growing problem of industrial pollution. Hunter's Point chemical plants continued to pour toxic by-products into Dutch Kills and Newtown Creek. Oil leaks and spills created a constant danger of petroleum vapor conflagration therre, and in Newark Bay as well, but as one Queens newspaper noted: 'The petroleum industry is of such overwhelming magnitude and importance and is operated by such heavy combinations of capital that it is doubtful whether even by an appeal to the State Legislature' the oil pollution could be stopped." (Burrows & Wallace, Gotham, p. 1196).
1895 -- The Illinois State Supreme Court strikes down a law restricting women's workdays to 8 hours. Two years later, Florence Kelly will be removed from office with the election of a new governor. Similar decisions invalidating workers compensation and labor laws will be made by the courts through the 1930s. (See 1911).
1895 -- Oct. 19 -- Lewis Mumford born. Historian of technology, influenced by Patrick Geddes, Mumford's 1934 book Technics and Civilization contends that the industrial revolution was well under way by the late 18th century and would have occurred without any use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. He argued that the original organic unity between the city and the country had been disrupted by the mining camp culture of fossil fuels use. He saw 19th century Europe as having a "savagely deteriorated environment" but looked forward to a post-industrial phase of culture based on non polluting energy like solar and hyroelectric power.
1895 -- The American SPCA and American Humane Association abandon active lobbying to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat, in a still shadowy political division of roles associated with the ASPCA obtaining the New York City pound contract while the AHA obtained the New York state contract to operate orphanages. Legislative efforts to ban hunting--which had nearly succeeded at one point--were dropped, while the lead role on wildlife issues was ceded to the organization which had been the N.Y. State Association for the Preservation of Game, merged with the New York Sportsmen's Club at some point, and eventually metamorphized through further mergers and alliances into the New York Conservation Council, the original New York affiliate of NWF. Under the ASPCA, the former practice of drowning stray dogs in the Hudson River was replaced by gassing them. The number of homeless animals killed by the ASPCA soared over 100,000 per year in 1908, and averaged more than 250,000 per year from 1966 through 1968, when Lloyd Tait, DVM, started the first ASPCA discount dog and cat sterilization program. The ASPCA killed only 40,000 animals in 1994, then turned animal control duties over to the newly formed Center for Animal Care & Control. Under the CACC, the toll dropped to 35,000 in fiscal 2002. (M. Clifton, 2007)
1895 -- Sewage cleanup in London means the return of some fish species (grilse, whitebait, flounder, eel, smelt) to the Thames River. (Fitter).
1895 -- US Attorney General Judson harmon tells Mexico that the US will "do whatever it pleases" with water from the Rio Grande.
1895 -- American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society is founded.
1896 -- George Washington Carver joins Tuskegee Institute, begins research on industrial uses for farm crops. The idea would later expand into the concept of "farm Chemurgy" backed by Henry Ford and others as a way to improve American agriculture and introduce renewable energy systems into general commerce.
1896, April -- Swedish chemist Svante August Arrhenius sumarizes scientific opinion about the effect of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) in the atmosphere, predicting a global temperature increase of 8 or 9 degrees F for a doubling of C02 in the atmosphere. " On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground." Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Series 5. 41 (251): 239-276. Available for download at (http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/1/18/Arrhenius.pdf).
1896 -- Public Health in European Capitals written by Thomas Morison Legge (1863-1932).
1896 -- Samuel P. Langley writes The New Astronomy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p 115) in which he imagines a future in which coal has been depleted and people turn to solar energy: "The rivers are clean again, harbor shows only white sails, and England's 'black country' is green once more."
1897 -- Forest Management Act authorizes commercial use of public forrests in the United States.
1897 -- Bernard de Voto born -- Historian, journalist, and an outspoken conservationist, DeVoto wrote about threats of overgrazing, mining, and lumbering on public lands. He was a columnist for Harper's and the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning Across the Wide Missouri. In the mid-1950s he helped mobilize opposition to dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument, in Colorado and Utah.
1898 -- Oct. 16 -- William O. Douglas born. He was appointed to the US Supreme court in 1939 and retired in 1975. He was also author of A Wilderness Bill of Rights (published in 1965) and an activist for environmental causes while a justice. For example, in 1954, Douglas organized a 189 mile hike along the C & O canal towpath to protest a proposed highway into the park area along the river west of Washington DC. Thanks to his efforts the the highway plans were abandoned. In a 1951 interivew with Edward R. Murrow on the program "This I Believe," Douglas said:
These days I see America identified more and more with material things, less and less with spiritual standards. These days I see America acting abroad as an arrogant, selfish, greedy nation interested only in guns and dollars, not in people and their hopes and aspirations. We need a faith that dedicates us to something bigger and more important than ourselves or our possessions. Only if we have that faith will we able to guide the destiny of nations in this the most critical period of world history
1898 -- Steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie tells a Chamber of Commerce meeting in 1898, that smoke was driving people "to leave Pittsburgh and reside under skies less clouded than ours." Carnegie says: "The man who abolishes the Smoke Nuisance in Pittsburgh... [will earn] our deepest gratitude." A Committee on Smoke Abatement is appointed by the chamber, but the Engineer's Society of Allegheny County refused to cooperate. Legislation, not engineering, is needed. By 1906, Pittsburgh establishes ordinances and a smoke inspector's office. Gross emissions noticeably decreased. The city loses a legal challenge in 1911 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court says that only the state legislature, and not city governments, has the authority to create smoke abatement laws. Within months, the Pennsylvania legislature specifically gives city governments that authority.
1898 -- Coal Smoke Abatement Society formed to pressure government agencies to enforce pollution laws in England.
1899 -- March 3 -- Rivers and Harbors Act (also called the Refuse Act) passed by Congress. The act is primarily aimed at preservation of navigable waters, but under Section 13 it becomes unlawful to throw garbage and refuse into navigable waters except with a Corps of Engineers permit. One exception is for liquid sewage from streets and sewers. Violators would be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned up to one year. The new law consolidated four previous laws and had far-reaching implications. Dumping of oil, acids or other chemicals into streams was now prohibited insofar as navigation was obstructed, and in several cases the Supreme Court interpreted obstruction in a broad rather than narrow sense.
1900 -- The world's leading scientists gather in Paris to consider new elements with unusual powers discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie. Minerals like thorium, uranium and radium emitted a new kind of light, the Curies had found. A year later, Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy find that thorium was turning itself into radium -- evidence of long-sought transmutation of metals. Tapping the energy within atoms would mean that a future awaited that "would beare as little relationship to the past as a dragonfly does to that of its aquatic prototype." Indeed, he said, the power would allow mankind to "transform a desert continent, thaw the frozen poles, and make the whole world one smiling garden of Eden." (Spencer Weart, Nuclear Fear: A History of Images, Harvard University Press, 1988, p. 6).
1900 -- Henry Adams attends Paris exposition and, while observing giant Corliss steam engine, comes to believe that such machines were crushing an older and better culture. He came to see the division as that between the Virgin and the Dynamo. (See the Education of Henry Adams).
1900 -- May 25 -- Lacey Act signed by President William McKinley to regulate interstate traffic in wild birds in order to stop importation of birds where they have become endangered. The act is a reaction to lobbying by the womens clubs and Audubon society. Birds, particularly egrets, were being slaughtered on a mass scale to provide elegant plumes for ladies hats.
1900 -- Wild buffalo population drops to fewer than 40 animals from an estimated 30 million a century beforehand. Most are killed in the years just after the Civil War, when the US Army hopes to remove the buffalo in order to move Indians onto reservations. (See Smits, 1994 and Isenberg, 2000).
1900 -- Water pollution lawsuit begins in Supreme Court. The state of Missoui sues the state of Illinois and the City of Chicago's sewer system for polluting the Mississipi. Eventually, US Supreme Court allows the Chicago city sewer department to maintain a canal draining city sewage into the Des Plaines River and, eventually, the Mississippi River. In Missouri v. Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago, the court said:
"It is a question of the first magnitude whether the destiny of the great rivers is to be the sewers of the cities along their banks or to be protected against everything which threatens their purity. To decide the whole matter at one blow by an irrevocable fiat would be at least premature. If we are to judge by what the plaintiff itself permits, the discharge of sewage into the Mississippi by cities and towns is to be expected..." The court also said that a similar suit would have failed 50 years beforehand because an older common law nuisance standard would at least have required evidence of change obvioius to the senses such as new smells or a visible increase in filth. (Barros, 1974)
1901 -- Jan. 2 -- Robert Marshall born. A co-founder of the Wilderness Society (1935) Marshall helped finance conservation efforts during a crucial period. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana is named for him. "How many wilderness areas do we need?" Marshall was once asked. He replied, "How many Brahms symphonies do we need?" Also see a biography at Adirondack People.
1901 - Jan. 10 -- Spindletop oil gusher changes to center of US oil industry from Pennsylvania to Texas.
1901 --Anthricite coal strike closes thousands of factories and leaves millions without heat, rekindling interest in alternative energy. In the Smithsonian Annual Report of 1901, Robert Thurston compared wind, tidal and solar power as replacements for coal. Since wind was intermittant and tidal power remote, solar attracted the most interest, he said.
1901 -- German poet Rainer Maria Rilke blends nationalism and environmentalism:
Everything will again be great and mighty
The land simple and the water bountiful
The trees gigantic and the walls very small
And in the valleys strong and multiformed,
A nation of sheperds and peasant farmers.
1901 -- Our National Parks is written by John Muir. The book is reprinted a dozen times and helps establish Muir's reputation. (Library of Congress Chronology of the Conservation Movement)
1901 -- The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society is founded in New York, developing out of the state-level Trustees of Scenic and Historic Places and Objects which had been founded by Andrew H. Green, president of the Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara, in 1895, and modelled after Britain's National Trust; (LoC Chronology)
1901 --Dec. 3 -- President Teddy Roosevelt's first message to Congress includes strong recommendations for forest and water conservation and reclamation. (Roosevelt had been vice president until the assassination of William McKinley on September 14).
1902 --Feb. 20 -- Ansel Adams born in San Francisco. His photos with pinpoint detail of sweeping Western landscapes would become icons of the conservation movement.
1902, June 17 -- Congress establishes Bureau of Reclamation to administer money from sale of public lands to build dams and irrigation projects for Western states.
1902, Nov. 14 -- While on a hunting trip in Onward, Mississippi, President Theodore Roosevelt declines to shoot a young bear that had been tied to a tree to give him an easy shot. The incident was depicted in a cartoon two days later in the Washington Post ("Drawing the line in Mississippi") and when an enterprising New York shopkeeper created a "Teddy" bear, the idea caught on.
1902 -- George Washington Carver writes How to Build Up Worn Out Soils.
1902 -- Congress passes a bill establishing Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
1903-1910 -- The Brown Dog Riots break out annually in the vicinity of University College, London, at demonstrations held in memory of dogs vivisected at the College. British National Anti-Vivisection Society president Stephen Coleridge is convicted of libel for his description of the death of a small brown terrier at a 1903 public meeting. The verdict is perceived by the public as unjust, and escalates the protests.
1903, March 14 -- President Theodore Roosevelt creates first National Bird Preserve, (the begining of the Wildlife Refuge system), on Pelican Island, Florida. In all, by 1909 the Roosevelt administration creates 42 million acres of national forests, 53 national wildlife refuges and 18 areas of "special interest," including the Grand Canyon. The record will not bet equaled until Bill Clinton's last year in office.
1903 -- Preparations for the Louisiana Exposition spark the St. Louis smoke abatement movement. Civic boosters who wanted Chicago to stay ahead of St. Louis add fuel to the movement there. A New York City health commissioner comments that the idea is to keep one's city out of the "notorious circle" of cities with a smoky reputation that might decrease a city's appeal to business. Blue skies have become almost as important a matter of civic pride (and business climate) as the public's health. Regulating smoke proves difficult.
1903 -- Newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps meets U.Calif. biologist William Ritter, beginning a decades long collaboration that results in the founding of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Science News Service.
1903 -- John Burroughs publishes an essay in the Atlantic: "Real and Sham Natural History," attacking sentimental nature writers Ernest Thompson Seton and William J. Long. Burroughs calls them "nature fakers;" Roosevelt later joins the controversy in support of Burroughs. (LoC Chronology)
1903 -- Massachusetts is the first state to delegate responsibility for occupational health to its State Board of Health, which appoints inspectors to check factories and workshops.
1903 -- Formation of the Hong Kong SPCA, which began animal sheltering in 1921, eradicating of dog-eating and cat-eating in Hong Kong and the New Territories by the early 1980s, and since 2001 has worked to make Hong Kong a no-kill city, following the San Francisco model. The Hong Kong SPCA works closely with the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, begun in 1951 by electricity tycoons Horace and Lawrence Kadoorie to teach animal husbandry. Initially the Kadoories helped refugees to feed themselves. Later the Kadoories recognized that protecting the habitat that the farm occupied mattered more than producing meat. Abandoning animal agriculture except for beekeeping, they converted most of the former pig barns and hen houses into wildlife rehabilitation facilities for injured raptors, primates, turtles, snakes, and non-native wildlife confiscated by law enforcement. Kadoorie Farm also runs captive breeding programs for several endangered native species, and still propagates some rare varieties of native livestock. Since 1995, however, the main work of Kadoorie Farm has been teaching thousands of visitors per year, including official delegations from the mainland, about the importance of protecting animals and habitat. (M. Clifton, 2007)
1904 -- Child lead poisoning first linked to lead-based paints (Warren).
1904 -- Ida Tarbell's book The History of Standard Oil exposes John D. Rockefeller's business methods and adds to the argument for controlling monopolies through stronger anti-trust laws.
"Cleveland refinery [operator] John Teagle testified ... that one day in 1883 his bookkeeper came to him and told him that he had been approached by a brother of the secretary of the Standard oil Co. at Cleveland who had asked him if he did not wish to make some money... For $25 and a small sum per year he was to make a transcript of Mr. Teagle's daily shipments with net price... cost of manufacturing .. amount of gasoline made and net price ... Mr. Teagle, who at that moment was hot on the tracks of the Standard in the courts, got an affidavit from the bookkeeper... At first (Standard) denied having any knowledge of the matter, but finally confessed and even took back the money. Mr. Teagle then gave the whole story to the newspapers, where of course it made much noise."
1904 -- Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle describes the injustices faced by ordinary people at the hands of corporations, especially the meat packing industries. He also described the smoke from the great chimneys of Packingtown (Chicago)
The smoke "came as if self imperilled, driving all before it, a perpetual explosion. It was inexhaustible; one stared, waiting to see it stop, but still the great streams rolled out. They spread in vast clouds overhead, writhing, curling, then uniting in one giant river, they streamed away down the sky, stretching a black pall as far as the eye could reach."
1904 -- Two American engineers, H.E. Willsie and John Boyle, set up the Willsie Sun Co. in St. Louis in 1904. A solar power plant using amonia drove a six horsepower engine, but the inventors decided to move to the desert of California to continue tests. By 1908 they built a system that had overcome many of the traditional problems of solar energy. The engine heated water in two stages of flat plate hot boxes, then used the pool of hot water as a heat source for a sulphur dioxide pump. Since hot water could be stored throughout the night, and still run the pump, the intermittant nature of solar energy was not a problem. The sun plant cost $164 per hp, compared to $40 to $90 for a conventional plant. For a while, operating costs favored the solar plant in the Southwest, where coal was hard to get. Willsie claimed the plant would pay for itself in two years. But when motors that used coal gas (4 times more efficient) were introduced, the savings became more elusive, and the Willsie company went out of business. (Butti)
1905 -- Jan 7th -- Washington Post reports that Congress adopted several new policies to protect forestlands after calls for legislative action on the issue. New policies protected against logging and fire-burning. "Aim to Save Forests,"
1905, Jan. 24 -- Congress establishes first game preserve (later called wildlife refuges) in Wichita, Kansas.
1905 -- Massachusetts requires that all adults be vaccinated against smallpox. A man refuses (Jacobsen) and the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court rules against him, asserting that the state has the right to restrict an individual's freedom for the common good. (Christophsel, 1982).
1905 -- National Audubon Society organized by George Bird Grinell to promote wildlife conservation. It is a reorganization from an earlier attempt in 1886. The society is named in honor of wildlife painter John James Audubon (1785 - 1850). Merritt Clifton of Animal People writes of this event: \\
Fifty-four years after bird painter and hunter John James Audubon died, 18 years after cofounding the Boone & Crocket Club with Theodore Roosevelt to regulate competitive trophy hunting, George Bird Grinnell in 1905 started the National Audubon Society to do the same for competitive birding. Birding, until Roger Tory Peterson popularized nonlethal verification of sightings with a camera during the 1930s, was done mainly with shotguns. Audubon was honored in the title of the organization as the shotgunner with the longest and best-verified "life list" of birds killed. The evolution of the National Audubon Society into an group with an authentic interest in bird conservation was a slow and apparently still incomplete process, owing to a continuing close alliance with other pro-hunting groups.
1905 -- Feb. 1 -- Bureau of Forestry becomes the U.S. Forest Service by order of President Theodore Roosevelt.
1905 -- Scientific American (Dec. 2 p. 436) reports that a 350 foot smokestack in Newark, N.J. was remarkable because it was built in a civic spirit without "legal interference or threats from the local board of health." The implication that "interference and threats" were typical is correct; in many cases, nuisance laws enforced by local boards of health were the only arena for environmental protection. This would begin changing with the Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co. case of 1907.
1905, Dec. 5 -- President Roosevelt, in his annual message to Congress, says "provision should be made for preservation of the bison." Two years later, he writes the American Bison Society that "it would be a real misfortune to permit the [bison] to become extinct ... [because they] most deeply impressed the imagination of all the old hunters and early settlers."
1905 -- J. Horace McFarland, President of the American Civic Association, writes a series of articles in Ladies' Home Journal advocating preservation of Niagara Falls from the threat posed by water power demands. The response leads Congress to preserve the falls in 1906. (LoC Chronology)
1905 -- Florence Kelly, social crusader, writes Some Ethical Gains Through Legislation, crusading for the creation of a children's commission. Kelly was a proponent of the "municipal housekeeping" movement which accepted women's roles in the home but also had an expansive idea of these same roles in the community. For many decades, the idea of environmental cleanup would be seen as a women's concern.
1905 -- Jack London publishes White Fang, attacking pet theft and dogfighting, and uses the popularity of the book to support George Angell in a successful effort to drive dogfighting off the sports pages of respectable newspapers.
1906, June 11 -- Congress takes Yosemite Park back from California (which it had given to the state in 1864) and converts it to a national park.
1906 -- The Federal Food and Drug Act creates FDA to regulate the adulteration and misrepresenting of foods and drugs. The initial concern involves price, not health, but the act provides the constitutional basis for modern day regulation of testing, marketing and promotion of drugs.
1906, June 8 -- National monuments Act protects Muir Woods, Pinnacles National Monument (CA), Mount Olmpus National Monument, and others.
1906 -- June 11 -- Yosemite Valley becomes Yosemite National Park after 42 years as a state park.
1906 -- June 29 -- Grand Canon Game Preserve established by Congress.
1906 -- July 1 -- Crystal Eastman begins Pittsburgh Survey, funded by Russell Sage Foundation, the first systematic investigation of occupational accidents in the US. She finds that 326 men are killed in one year in Allegheny County industrial accidents, most of whom were not over 30 and nearly all of whom could not have prevented their deaths. Survivors received little or no compensation. The survey leads to calls for workers compensation laws.
1906 -- 100,000 acres of Alaskan coal land withdrawn from public use; sold by USGS to private interests, creating a scandal in 1910.
1906 -- Tax lifted on industrial alcohol fuel to allow farm produced fuel to compete with petroleum. Standard Oil opposes the bill but fails to kill it in committee. The Detroit Chamber of Commerce supports the tax exception, noting that alcohol is preferable to gasoline because it is "absolutely clean and sanitary," and because artificial shortages would not raise the price in the future. The biggest problem for auto makers, Capen says, is not so much cost as the question of long term supply. Meanwhile in Europe, where oil is scarce, alcohol fuels are widely adopted through strong government incentives. The New York Times says: "The Kaiser was enraged at the Oil Trust of his country, and offered prizes to his subjects and cash assistance ... to adapt [alcohol] to use in the industries." (Kovarik, 1998).
1906 -- Antiquities Act of 1906 gives a president the power to designate national monuments on his own accord, giving them nearly the same protection as if Congress had declared them national parks or wilderness areas.
1906 -- New York city newspapers begin crusade against contaminated milk, ice and oysters by using new laboratory tests to check bacteria counts.
1906 -- Secretary of State Elihu Root negotiates a US - Canada border pollution agreement with British ambassador. The initial idea is to establish a scientific committee to guide efforts to end pollution and conserve fishing resources. Renowned scientist David Starr Jordan is to lead the committee. Little opposition is expected because the tide of Progressive Conservation is seen to be rising. But US fishermen, fearing international regulation, raise opposition and manage to get Congress to gut the treaty. A greatly weakened version of the treaty passes in 1913.
1906 -- Alkali Act of 1863 extended in UK to include a wide range of chemical processes.
1906 -- Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming, becomes the nation's first National Monument followed by Petrified Forest National Monument, Arizona, the next year.
1906, June 29 -- US Congress passes the Burton Act, making diversion of water for power supplies subordinate to preservation of Niagara falls.
1907 --May 25 -- Rachel Carson born. Biologist and author of Silent Spring, The Sea Wind and other non-fiction work intended to improve the public understanding of science, Carson became a leading figure in the environmental movement before her death in 1964.
1907 -- Congress appropriates $150,000 for the study of the conditions of women and children engaged in industry This exhaustive 19 volume report aroused public horror at its findings. The Children's Bureau is created in 1912.
1907 -- USDA Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service founded.
1907 -- Smoke Prevention Association of America founded in Chicago.
1907 -- Air pollution lawsuit begins in Supreme Court. In various decisions through 1915, the Court will decide to limit the amount of sulfur and other noxious fumes that can emerge from the Tennessee Copper Co. following a suit by the State of Georgia. The suit involved sulfur dioxide fumes from Copper Basin smelters in Tennessee that were killing forests and orchards and making people sick over the Georgia border. The state of Tennessee refused to move against the copper companies and disputed Georgiašs right to interfere. Georgia sued in 1907 and won in 1915 after investigation and attempts to reduce the pollution , including a court-mandated reduction and mandatory inspections by a Vanderbilt university professor. The majority opinion was delivered by the clearly indignant Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"It is a fair and reasonable demand on the part of a sovereign that the air over its territory should not be polluted on a great scale by sulphurous acid gas, that the forests on its mountains should not be further destroyed or threatened by the act of persons beyond its control, that the crops and orchards on its hills should not be endangered." -- Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co. and Ducktown Sulphur, Copper & Iron Co, 206 U.S. 230 (1907)
(Note: In the 1900 Missouri v. Illinois suit, the court noted that Missouri could not hold the Chicago sewer district up to a standard that Missouri was not willing to impose on itself, since Missouri also allowed cities to dump sewage in the river. Also, Chicago's pollution did not noticeably change the river. In contrast, the Tennessee Copper case involved obvious pollution that would have fallen under the old common law definition of nuisance).
1907 -- John Muir writes "The Tuolumne Yosemite in Danger" in Outlook magazine describing his opposition to the Hetch Hetchy dam. The dam would bring water from Yosemite national park to San Francisco.
1907 -- Edward Howe Forbush publishes Useful Birds and Their Protection, the first major work by an American to analyze the economic importance of birds and the strategies necessary for their protection.
1907 -- Patent application for the first electrostatic precipitator as an air pollution control device by Frederick G. Cottrell.
1907 -- Mine disaster in Monongah, West Virginia kills 362 coal miners. Subsequent public concern leads to creation of the US Bureau of Mines in 1910.
1908, May 13 - 15 -- Teddy Roosevelt holds governors conference on conservation policy; forrester Gifford Pinchot chairs technical committee with follow-up report on national resource inventory. This became the National Conservation Commission, and its report, delivered Jan. 22, 1909, was called by Roosevelt "one of the most fundamentally important documents ever laid before the American people."
1908, May 23 -- National Bison Range established on Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.
1908 --The U.S. Supreme Court upholds an Oregon law of 1903 that prohibits the hiring of women in industry for over 10 hours a day
1908 -- Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius argues that the greenhouse effect from coal and petroleum use is warming the globe. According to his calculations, doubling C02 would lead to average temperature increase of 5 to 6 degrees C. Rather than being alarmed, Arrhenius is pleased that people in the future would "live under a warmer sky and a less harsh environment than we were granted." In his book World in the Making, he says that with increased CO2 "we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the Earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind."
1908 -- President Roosevelt sets aside Muir Woods in California as a national park.
1909 -- Glasgow, Scotland, winter inversions and smoke accumulations kill over 1,000.
1909 -- National Conservation Commission suggests "broad plans... be adopted providing for a system of waterway improvement."
1909 -- Charles Van Hise writes The Conservation of Natural Resources.
1909 -- Louis Glavis blows the whistle on the Alaskan coal scandal involving low-cost leases on federal land to companies that made huge profits selling coal for the shipping trade.
1909 -- Bureau of Mines founded to promote safety and welfare of miners. Bureau and the Public Health Service begin studies of lung diseases.
1909 -- France, Belgium and Austria ban white-lead interior paint.
1910 -- Japan presents 2,000 ornamental cherry trees to the city of Washington DC., but they are burned on the Washington monument grounds due to pests and diseases. On February 14, 1912, another 3,020 cherry trees of 12 varieties were shipped from Yokohama on board the S.S. Awa Maru, bound for Seattle. Upon arrival, they were transferred to insulated freight cars for the shipment to Washington where they now surround the tidal basin.
1910, June 11 -- Jacques Cousteau born. The French oceanographer, inventor, explorer and environmental activist helped people around the world understand that a threat to the oceans was a threat to all life on earth.
1910 -- First National Conference on Industrial Diseases held in Chicago.
1910 -- Bureau of Labor's study of "phossy jaw" (a disease of workers in the white phosphorous match industry) is a topic of concern. By 1912, a federal tax will price white phosphorous out of the market and the Diamond Match Co. will release its patent on a safer substitute for white phosphorous (Corn, 1992).
1910 -- May 16 -- The U.S. Bureau of Mines is created to deal with mine safety. The bureau would be disbanded by Congress in 1995.
1910 -- Alice Hamilton begins investigation of dangerous trades for Illinois sgovernor's commission. By 1912 the investigation will be expanded at the request of the Department of Labor.
1910 -- US Bureau of Labor issues a list of industrial poisons.
1910 -- Insecticide Act mandates that pesticides be effective if they are to be sold. Administstered by USDA, become FIFRA in 1947, EPA given oversight in 1972.
1911 -- March 25 -- Triangle Shirtwaist Fire breaks out in New York's garment district killing 146 young immigrant workers. The incident is long remembered "because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected," according to a Cornell University memorial web site.
1911 -- Wisconsin becomes first state to establish a workers compensation program. (Corn, 1992). Others, including New York, quickly follow.
1911 -- New York workers compensation act struck down by New York courts in Ives v. South Buffalo Railway Co. The judges argued that imposing strict liability on the railroad would deprive it of property without due process. Taking the workers side against conservative judges, Teddy Roosevelt says:
"It is not that the judges are corrupt, but that they are absolutely reactionary, and their decisions ... have been such as almost to bar the path to industrial, economic and social reform. By such decisions they add immensely to the strength of the Socialist Party, they perpetuate misery, they increase unrest and discontent." (quoted by Gersuny, 1981).
1911 -- Preparing a report about the 1909 Glascow incidents, Dr. Harold Antoine Des Voeux coins term "smog" as a contraction for smoke-fog which he proposes at the Smoke Coal Abatement Society meeting in Manchester, England.
1912 -- July 1 -- David Brower born in Berkeley, California. President of the Sierra Club and founded of Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute, Bower is remembers as an uncompromising environmental activist in the John Muir tradition.
1912 -- Bureau of Mines begins first smoke control study.
1912 -- Frank Shuman's Sun Power Co. builds a massive solar irrigation pump in the Egyptian desert for the British government in 1912. The 55 horsepower plant cost $8,200, or about $150 per hp, but was economically viable in a remote location like Egypt. Shuman was hailed as a success in Europe and signed a $200,000 contract with the Germans to build a plant in S.W. Africa. But WWI intervened and the plant was never built. (Butti)
1912 -- Federal Water and Sanitation Investigation Station established in Cincinnati.
1912 -- National Waterways Commission report recommends waterway improvements.
1912 -- National Audubon Society begins campaign to boycott hat makers using endangered tropical bird feathers. One magazine article about the campaign is entitled "Millinery Murder." (Millinery is an old word for the hat-making business).
1913 -- U.S.-Canada boundary pollution commission established. Following an initial report, Congress considered a bill to prevent dumping of sewage into the Great Lakes and its tributaries, but the Public Health Service objects on the basis that the bill would be enforced by localities with questionable jurisdiction. Fishermen have already gutted key provisions of a the treaty in 1906. The greatly weakened boundary commission can do little more than observe as conditions deteriorate.
1913 --March 3 -- U.S. Department of Labor established to promote the welfare of wage earners and to improve working conditions. The idea for a department had been building since the 1860s.
1913 -- National council for Industrial Safety (now called the National Safety Council) is established.
1913 -- Migratory Bird Act to regulate hunting runs into controversy; spring hunting and marketing of hunted birds prohibited; treaty with Canada in 1918 solidifies regulations. Act also prohibits importation of wild bird feathers for women's fashion into the U.S., ending "millinery murder."
1913 -- William T. Hornaday, head of New York Zoological Society, writes Our Vanishing Wildlife, Its Extermination and Preservation. By 1914, he helps establish the Permanent Wildlife Protection Fund with grants from Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and George Eastman.
1913 -- Hetch Hetchy dam construction in Yosemite National Park approved by Congress -- a major defeat for John Muir, who dies on Christmas Eve the next year. The debate over Hetch-Hetchy continues a centeury later. See the SF Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee articles from the spring of 2012.
1913 -- Weeks-McLean Act gives Secretary of Agriculture power to regulate waterfowl seasons.
1914 -- Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Mines, Public Health Service begin pollution surveys of streams and harbors. Reports filed over the next eight years show an accumulation of heavy damage from oil dumping, mine runoff, untreated sewage and industrial waste.
1914 -- Corps of Engineers begins an extensive investigation of acid mine run-off in the Ohio River basin at the request of West Virginia Congressman Benjamin Rosenbloom. Some 250 public officials and industry executives are consulted about their use of water and the remedies for acid deposition from working or abandoned mines. One of the problems with increasing stream acidity was the great additional expense in filtering drinking water and corrosion and scaling of city water pipes, which tended to be expensive for cities and industry. An editorial in the Pittsburgh Dispatch said that the state government should consider financial losses from pollution:
"The mistake made by most of those who have tried to obtain relief from stream pollution was that instead of emphasizing these losses they harped on the killing of the fish and the interference with recreation. The Legislature has never been much impressed with these pleas. Owners of the mines and mills which have polluted the streams urged with good reason that it was more important that they be unhampered in their business than that the fishing should be good in Pennsylvania Rivers. This industrial loss, however... is a different matter."
1914 -- Sept. 1 -- "Martha," the last capitve passenger pigeon, dies in the Cincinatti zoo.
They were called passenger pigeons because they flew in a mass like passengers from one spot to another. They did not migrate as other birds do from one locale to another as the seasons change, but moved north to south and back across the continent from roost to roost, feasting on the "mast," or seeds, acorns, hackberries, hempseed, huckleberries, beech nuts, hemlock seeds, pine seeds, worms, caterpillars, Indian corn, rye, and wheat in the trees, bushes, forest floor and — hastening their demise — farmers' fields. They could strip a field of wheat within a few hours.
They moved across the Great Lakes and Midwest north as far as Hudson's Bay and south to Texas and northern Mexico in staggering numbers, millions upon millions of birds in deafening and defecating flocks roaring over the forests, farms and Great Lakes. It has been estimated that at one time, one out of three wild birds in America was a passenger pigeon; between three to five billion of them flew in endless undulating flocks in the skies. Chief Pokagon wrote in 1895 for another outdoors magazine, Chautuaguan: "When a young man I have stood for hours admiring the movements of these birds ... ever varying in hue; and as the mighty stream, sweeping on at sixty miles an hour, reached some deep valley, it would pour its living mass headlong down hundreds of feet, sounding as though a whirlwind was abroad in the land. "The sound of the birds was a mingling of sleigh bells, mixed with the rumbling of an approaching storm. While I gazed in wonder and astonishment, I beheld moving toward me in an unbroken front, millions of pigeons … they passed like a cloud through the branches of the high trees, through the underbrush and over the ground apparently overturning every leaf. Statue-like I stood half concealed by cedar boughs. They fluttered all about me, lighting on my head and shoulders; gently I caught two in my hands and carefully concealed them under my blanket." -- Bill Loomis, Slaughtered to extinction: Passenger pigeons in Michigan, Detroit News, March 18, 2012. =========
"There was never a sight in all the world we humans have known to match the splendor of the passenger pigeon in its flights. Vivid in their red, gold, and purple plumage, with long tails and streamlined bodies, they were grace incarnate as they sped by overhead in veritable torrents of birds, wheeling and turing, rising and diving with a thunderous flapping of their wings, as if the whole were an avian embodiment of the aurora borealis. Perhaps the great herds of wildlife moving over the Serengeti may inspire a similar feeling of awe. Numbering, like the chestnut, about four billion individuals in the early 19th century, the passenger pigeon may have been the most successful social bird ever to have lived. Completely dominating the skies within its range, it may have been as much as 40% of the bird population of the continent, the most numerous higher animal species on earth at the time. 6 Intensely gregarious, it massed in numbers beyond comprehension. J.J. Audubon describes a flock that passed him over Kentucky. He began tallying groups as they passed overhead but soon gave up as the sky was darkened with their vast number for more than three days. Hundreds of millions of birds in each mass may have flown together. The largest roosting of passenger pigeons ever recorded was seen in Wisconsin in 1871: it spread over 850 square miles, and was estimate at 136 million, over 250 birds per acre. This, however, was after their numbers had already begun to decline significantlyPeter Bane, "Keystones and Cops: An Eco-Mystery Thriller," The Permaculture Activist May 2003, #50
1914, Dec. 24 -- John Muir dies.
1915 -- California legislature authorizes $10,000 to start planning and construction of the John Muir Trail.
1915 -- Dinosaur National Monument established in Utah.
1915 -- Garrett Hardin born.
1916 -- National Park Service created. President Woodrow Wilson created the national park system with the Organic Act of 1916 designed to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects [and] leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." According to the Environmental News Network, there are now 77.5 million acres of land preserved in the Park system. One inspiration that helped the Organic Act pass Congress was a motion picture of proposed park areas by photographer Herford Cowling.
(Note: Teddy Roosevelt is often wrongly cited as the father of the park system, but his contribution was the National Wildlife Refuge System, begun in 1903. During his presidencey, over 230 million acres were placed under federal protection.)
1916 -- Margaret Sanger opens first birth control clinic.
1916 -- GM and United Motors buy Charles Kettering's DELCO, leaving him free to begin experiments with preventing engine knock that lead to leaded gasoline. By 1919, Kettering's research group will become the nucleus of the General Motors research division, and the engine knock experiments will lead to leaded gasoline by 1921.
1917 -- Corps of Engineers removed lock gates in old canal in Virginia's Dismal Swamp, allowing salt water into North Carolina's Currituck Sound, a major waterfowl estuary. After a fight with the Corps of Engineers, environmental activists finally persuade Congress in 1930 to restore the gates and preserve the sound.
1917 -- Mount McKinley National Park established in Alaska.
1918 -- Save the Redwoods League founded.
1918 -- Migratory Bird Treaty with Canada restricts hunting of geese and other migratory birds.
1918 -- Scientific American reports alcohol-gasoline anti-knock blend is "universally" expected to be the fuel of the future. Seven years later, in Public Health Service hearings, General Motors and Standard Oil spokesmen will claim that there are no alternatives to leaded gasoline as an anti-knock additive.
1918 -- Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky says: "The proper goal of communism is the domination of nature by technology and the domination of technology by planning, so that raw materials of nature will yield to mankind all that it needs and more besides." This philosophy will lead to environmental disasters in decades ahead.
1919 -- London General Omnibus Co. experiments prove effectiveness of ethanol as antiknock (octane booster).
1919 -- International Labour Organisation (ILO) is founded. Protection of workers against sickness, disease and injury from their jobs one of its major goals.
1919 -- Jan. 15 -- Twenty one people die in Boston following the rupture of a 2.5 million gallon tank of molasses.