marshall trimble ask the marshall true west magazine

What did Old West towns do about disposal of animal and human waste?

Frank Fantozzi
San Jose, California

They would haul it to the outskirts of town and dump it. As towns grew, and as there was greater knowledge about diseases and germs, disposal got more complicated.

In the latter half of the 1800s, a cholera epidemic in the Mississippi Valley killed 3,000, a direct result of poor sanitation. That led to the construction of sanitary landfills. But little else was done until the post-World War II years, when Americans began to demand better ways of sanitation and waste disposal.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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