In early 19th century Albany, there were no garbage cans – household garbage, food waste, chamberpots, and animal dung were tossed out into the nearest street or alley. Albany’s Laws and Ordinances of 1800 prescribed a law for cleaning the streets of the city, and regulated the cartmen who carried such waste and everything else too.
Under the ordinance, anyone who should “throw or lay” in any streets or alleys any filth or dirt was subject to a penalty of 37 cents and five mills. Failure to pay would have you thrown in jail until you could pay. Anyone who should deposit “any casks, stone, boards, plank, staves, timber, or any other kind of lumber or merchandize, and permit the same to remain in such street or alley for any time exceeding twelve hours (materials for building or repairing houses or other buildings excepted)” was subject to a fine of six shillings, and four shillings for every additional 24 hours. Materials for building or repairing buildings could be placed in streets or alleys only with permission from two of the aldermen and assistants of the ward in which they were to be placed. Even then, “such permission shall be only given to place such materials between the house or lot of the person applying for such permission and the middle of the street or alley opposite thereto, if there be sufficient room for that purpose between the same.”
It was further ordained “that no person or persons shall, between the fifteenth day of December and the first day of April, place or keep any firewood in any of the streets, lanes or alleys of this city, fronting the house or lot of such person or persons, for a longer time than ten days successively, to be computed from the day that the owner or owners of such firewood shall receive notice for removal of the same from the Mayor, Recorder or any one of the Aldermen, and that no person or persons be allowed within the time aforesaid, so to lay, pile, or place any greater quantity of firewood at one time, than ten loads, in any of the streets, lanes, or alleys as aforesaid, and only in such manner as the Mayor, Recorder or any one of the Aldermen of the ward may permit or direct.”
Anyone was allowed to carry away “and apply to such purpose as he shall think proper” any soil, dirt, dung or rubbish left in the streets or alleys for 48 hours. If such a person was a licensed “carman,” he was entitled to one shilling and sixpence for every load. Sounds like the carman had the right to just pick up anything a resident left lying in the street and charge for its disposal, and the city would enforce the charge. But if any carman neglected or refused to cart away any soil, dirt, dung or rubbish, “or any materials with which any box herein after mentioned may have been constructed,” he would forfeit 75 cents. The boxes were constructed in the streets, along with holes “for depositing manure or any kind of dirt or filth,” which each spring were to be broken down “and filled up and paved wherever such holes shall adjoin a pavement,” the person who owned the house or lot adjoining the box or hole was responsible. Failure to remove a box or fill up a hole was subject to a penalty of 62 cents and five mills, plus expenses. So the streets of Albany weren’t exactly paved with garbage – it was just the base layer.
The carmen, which the law also referred to as cartmen (and which more modernly might have been called carters), were regulated by the city. Any cart to be used to convey loads within the city or to “the colonie” was required to have fellies (the outer rim of a wheel) of a breadth of at least four inches on the exterior circumference, and every cartman or carriage for hire had to pay $1.25 for the annual license. Carts were prescribed to be two feet eight inches wide, and the rungs thereof three feet high.
“No person under age or a slave, shall drive any cart for hire or wages within the said city; and that every carman shall drive his cart personally” unless he had special permission from the Chamberlain. Apparently cartmen could be required to carry anything that was asked of them; refusal when he was not otherwise employed, carried a fine of 75 cents. Showing the importance of river commerce and the ferries, cartmen were essentially required to drop everything in order to carry any grain, hay, provisions, or merchandise from any open boat, canoe, batteau or other open vessel in which it was exposed. The cartman was required to “leave every other employment for the purpose aforesaid.” They were required to carry as much as could conveniently be put in their carts, “and as much as an able bodied horse can conveniently draw.
Anywhere within the city east of Hawk Street, the charges for loading, carting and unloading carried the following rates:
- For every hogshead of rum, or other spirituous liquors, or molasses exceeding ninety gallons: two shillings and six pence.
- For every pipe of wine, or other spirituous liquors, two shillings and six pence.
- For every tierce of molasses, rum, or other spirituous liquors, exceeding sixty gallons and less than ninety gallons: two shillings.
- For every cask of molasses, rum, or other spirituous liquors exceeding forty, and less than sixty gallons, one shilling and four pence.
- For every cask of molasses, rum, or other spirituous liquors exceeding thirty, and less than forty gallons, nine-pence.
- For every hogshead of sugar, two shillings and six pence.
- For every tierce of do. [ditto, meaning sugar], one shilling and three-pence.
- For every barrel of sugar, beef, pork, pot or pearl ashes, six-pence.
- For every barrel of flour, four-pence.
- For every load of flax-seed, in casks, one shilling and six-pence.
- For removing of every load of dirt or filth out of any of the streets, east of Hawk-Street, one shilling.
- For every load of gun-powder, to or from the powder-house, three shillings.
- For every load to or from any place, to the eastward of Hawk-Street, from or to any place to the eastward thereof, if the distance between each place exceeds half a mile, and is less than a mile, double the rates herein before established.
(For pipes, hogsheads, and tierces, see this Wikipedia entry.)