Services and Utilities

New York City


Electric Lights, Fifth Avenue, New York

Scientific American, April 21, 1894

Thomas Edison demonstrated the use of electricity in 1882. Electric lights were introduced in New York City almost immediately. Edison founded an electric company which initially contained 508 subscribers. There were a lot of problems with the early electric companies, including fires. People liked the quality of electric light compared to gas light but electric light was slow to be adopted on a large scale.

"In the early part of the 1880s New York streets flickered under the glow of gaslights more picturesque than efficient"

The Epic of New York City by Edward Robb Ellis

The gas light era reached its peak in 1914.
Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Disorderly Wires On Lower Broadway About To Be Cut Down

Harper's Weekly July 27, 1889

Telephones were first introduced in New York City in 1877. There were 271 telephone subscribers in New York City in 1878.

Electic and telephone wires were run above ground. There were no cables that allowed the wires to be consolidated.

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Street Scene in New York

Harper's Weekly April 9, 1881

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

In the winter of 1874-75 ice storms felled telegraph poles and lines. Firemen on horseback patrolled the city to warn people of the danger of the fallen wires which still carried current.

The telephone was introduced in New York City in 1879. The first telephone directory in the fall of 1879 was a listed 252 names.

By the 1800s poles in the city carried telegraph, telephone and electric wires. Some poles carried as many as 300 wires.

Many lines fell in the blizzard of 1888.

Garbage Collection

In 1900 street cleaners and rubbish cart drivers earned $2.00 per day for an eight hour day, more than any other unskilled laborer.

Newly 2 million tons of waste (not counting garbage) was disposed of in 1899 at a cost of $540,000.

Garbage scows dumped off Long Island and New Jersey according to the season. It was unsafe to go far out in the ocean in the winter.

"garbage was formerly dumped along with the other waste, but it showed a disagreeable tendency to float and drift, especially the partially decomposed vegetable matter, and complaints were heard from the seaside resorts and bathing places".
Waste was sent to the Newark meadows and the lowlands behind Long Island City. Previous to 1900 a great deal of waste had been used as fill on Rikers Island.

Munsey's 1900, collection of Maggie Land Blanck
The Cart Used in New York for the Removal of Garbage

Munsey's 1900, collection of Maggie Land Blanck
Scows Unloading Rubbish At Sea.

Notice that there are men actually shoveling the garbage off the scow.


If you wish to use any of the images or information on this page please feel free to do so provided that you give proper acknowledgement to this web site and include the same acknowledgments that I have made to the provenience of the image or information. Thanks, Maggie

This page was created in 2010 from a preexisting page that was greated in 2005: Latest update, May 2010