Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Returning to St. Louis City - 1908


Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day. "Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion." The theme for 2008 is Poverty.

I thought I would return to a post I wrote back in July. St. Louis City Housing Conditions in 1908. I wrote about the disturbing conditions I had discovered that my ancestors had lived in from a report given by the Civic League of St. Louis. It was an 88-page report, though, and I only quoted a few paragraphs. I will try to give a fuller picture of what life was like for those who lived in this area bordered by 7th and 14th streets, and Lucas Avenue and OFallon Street. (1908 and 2008 maps provided in July post.)

I am going to "copy and paste" several clippings from the report straight into this post as it is certainly easier than transcribing or rephrasing, and the images should be readable.

Let's start with a chart of the number of bathtubs found in the neighborhood



As the report states, "It is useless to try to add anything to the force of such figures as these." As one might expect, the majority of tubs were in the apartments of the building owners.

A lot of space is given in the report to the conditions of the Yard Vaults, since toilets were a new innovation and rare.





Another factor the report considered was the overcrowding situation. They compared the neighborhood to a similar report Chicago had conducted.





Housing conditions in St. Louis City have improved greatly in the past 100 years. However, I have heard people over the years, when comparing the situation in today's inner cities to the situation in the tenements, to focus a lot on crime. There is a sense that things are different today.



The differences that exist, I suspect are due mostly to technology, and greater access to a different class of weapons, and less to do with the individuals involved. The authors of the report back in 1908 knew that there was a connection between crime and poverty that was unrelated to race, nationality or ethnicity. As Victor Hugo wrote, "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness." (Les Miserables, p. 14)

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Understandably, many of the posts for Blog Action Day will focus on what it means to be poor today. Author, John Scalzi, had an excellent blog post three years ago on that topic: Being Poor. The Blog Action Day site had a list of resources for those interested in fact sheets, statistics, and suggestions on what can be done to alleviate poverty around the world.

1 comment:

T.K. said...

This and your related July post leave me at a loss for words, John, and now I'm wondering what daily life might have been like for my Detroit ancestors. Very interesting report! Thanks!