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July 1852 NYC

Generally a weather report wouldn’t merit a mention on Kottke but this epic 1,500 word New York Times article published in July of 1852 titled “The Streets in Midsummer” uses the heatwave as a way to frame a far reaching denouncement of the city’s terrible conditions at the time. In an artful turn, the article served more as a barometer for public sentiment than temperature.

You pass by six-storied houses, in which sixty or seventy families harbor, and swelter in the boundless contiguity of life, and ardor, and filth, defying the hygienic law that would seem to demand their immediate surrender to death. Brawling, scolding, half-clad women, breathing out threatenings and spurious Hollands, bar your way with themselves and their infants. You are obliged to tread carefully among the legs of broiling negroes, stretched at full length on cellar-doors and doorsteps, dozing off the effect of the gin, which they paid for with the proceeds of larceny or beggary.

You turn away from the place and the people with a sad heart. You inwardly curse the owners of the soil on which the houses stand for the harbors they erect, and the multitudes they crowd into them, regardless of anything but the heaped-up rent-in-advance. You reflect on the terrible responsibility of those, who so far lose sight of natural benevolence, as to build and pack these dreadful receptacles of living victims. You endeavor to estimate the probable heat, as compared with that you are enjoying at present, of the corner of Hades, to which the owners and lessors of gin-shops will be consigned. You are struck with the fearful amount of guilt resting upon the rich men, the capitalists of the City, the owners of real estate, who, with demoniacal contempt for the life or happiness of their unfortunate fellows, herd them together in their poly-roomed tenements.

(thx @ckolderup)