Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

It may be objected that this would be to enhance the tyrannical power of party, when what we most need is to break it down. But wise government consists in doing the best possible with existing political forces. Party government is an established and, at present, an unchangeable fact. We cannot undo it, but we may make use of it. If party can be made clearly and avowedly responsible for what the voters vaguely and angrily hold it responsible for in any case; if, through its single chosen leader, the Speaker, or through its recognized organ of united action, the caucus, it can make good the impaired power of the purse, from which the American Congress is so plainly and so seriously suffering, it cannot be denied that to do so would be to put party government to the best possible use. One thing is certain, that, either in the way here hastily and- roughly outlined, or in some other, the American people must speedily devise a check on a spendthrift Congress.

ROLLO OGDEN.

New York.

PUBLIC BATHS, OR THE GOSPEL OF CLEAN-
NESS.

THE

HE philosophy of European history during the last century has been that of national consciousness; it is believed that the characteristic of coming years for our country will be that of civic or municipal consciousness. The cities of America have now reached a point where mere commercial supremacy or territorial pre-eminence is not satisfying, but their citizenship is beginning to ask, how far the city in question is supplying those needs and comforts which are characteristic of the individual home. The modern city is, or should be, a civic home, where the city authorities are merely the paid servants of the citizens; that is now the fiction previous to an election.

New York may be regarded as a type of the American city, because it contains the extreme of wealth and poverty, is cosmopolitan, and is as well governed as it deserves to be. Viewed in the light of the civic home of its citizenship, what are its claims to veneration or regard? Its highways area splendid illustration of the application of common sense plus ability, in making the outside of the city clean; its barracks and shelters-one cannot call them homes-are a disgrace to even America, which is the most tolerant country in the world; but where are the technical institutes in which its children can learn the rudiments and the technique of a trade, that will make them self-supporting and not dependent on charity? where are the art galleries for the gratification of the æsthetic taste which all the people possess? where is the commercial museum inviting the youth to a comparative study of the business pursuits of other lands?

A prominent official remarked the other day to a member of a committee, pleading for one public comfort station, "Well, I suppose you want one as it is in London." Quick as a flash came the reply, "No, not because it is English, but because it is good." There is no reason why New York, and in fact every other American city, should not avail them

[ocr errors]

selves of the very best experience of the world, adapting it, of course, to local conditions. In our municipal experience a point seems to have been reached where a halt may be called, for the purpose of noting what other capital cities are doing with a view to the improvement of civic life. This state of affairs is most encouraging, because there is an optimism, which through its self-complacency is one of the leading obstacles to progress. New York is one of those cities which is seriously considering her municipal duties, and planning additions to her civic home, and there is now no doubt but that baths will be provided in that extension.

By a public bath is meant an establishment where a hot or cold water bath may be obtained the year round. One must refer to the experience of baths in England or Europe, because there is practically no guide in this country, at least on a large scale. It has never occurred to our cities that it is civic economy to give a person an opportunity to wash; that it is also morally better to give a man an opportunity to wash the outside of his body with water, rather than the inside of his body with whiskey. Every person who bathes lessens the demands on a health department. If people could be clean in their persons, they would insist on cleanliness in their homes; hence the tenements, with their dirt and disease, would go. A bath large enough for a swim is a splendid form of recreation, and the chances are that young men who can swim will prefer their liberty for indulgence in a sport that is healthy, to freedom for all kinds of questionable deeds that may bring them under the strong arm of the law. Clean bodies in cities represent the early stages of an emergence from urban barbarism to civic civilization.

In spite of the above facts, the student of the modern city is confronted with the stupendous apathy and indifference on the part of public officials and a thousand times more apathetic indifference on the part of the people, who might have improved sanitation for the demanding of public baths. If the public baths in London should be arbitrarily closed by the municipal authorities, a revolution would result unless they should be opened at once.

New York has the honor to have had the first public bath

in the United States open all the year round for a hot or a cold water bath, but to the dishonor of New York, the city allowed this provision to be made by a private philanthropy. The city might have thought the success of a public bath too problematic, hence was very willing that someone else should make the venture, but now that the object lesson that was begun in 1891 by the private philanthropy has become such a colossal success, the city is blamable if it does not duplicate these baths in every congested district. What makes the situation more significant, is the existence of a law on the statute books authorizing $200,000 for baths and public comfort stations in New York city.

From a careful examination of the statutes of American cities, no legislation authorizing public baths, open the year round, has been found previous to 1892. It must not be supposed that nothing had been done by private agencies, because, in 1849, the Public Bathing and Washing Association was incorporated in New York, for the purpose of supplying bathing facilities to the people of the city of New York, in regard to bathing and washing. It is interesting to note that this legislation was only three years later than the English Bath and Wash House Act. The New York movement was started as an experiment by the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, which was the pioneer in public baths in this country. This washing association continued for about two years, and then nothing more was done till 1891, when the People's Baths were opened by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor in an industrial quarter of the city.

In the history of a movement for public betterment, there are always a few who are the pioneers, who work early and late, because they are mastered by an idea, which they know must some day be realized in mortar and brick, as the instrument for accomplishing the desired result. There is one man who should be prominently mentioned in the history of public baths in New York, because it was due to the efforts of Mr. Goodwin Brown that the first legislation in the United States was secured in 1892.

When Mr. Brown was appointed a State Commissioner in

Lunacy, he made a particular study of the poor-houses in the various counties in New York State, which cared for more than 2,000 of the insane. The bathing facilities in these institutions were more than primitive, five or six patients being bathed in the same tub of water. In one instance, a keeper did state that they always took pains to bathe those. with skin diseases last. The insane, in many cases, are able to exercise very little control over their bodily functions, and frequent bathing is a matter of the utmost necessity.

Bathing in the State hospitals was managed on the tub system, but care was taken to change the water for each person. Commissioner Brown was persuaded that the spray or rain water bath was the practical system, and under his personal supervision, the first experiments with this system of bathing were conducted at the Willard State Hospital for the Insane. The experiments were so successful, that this system has been adopted throughout the State hospitals for the insane. His efforts in this direction were so successful, that his thoughts tended to the advisability of maintaining public baths for the general public in the principal cities of the State. In 1892, he drafted a mandatory act on the subject of public baths, but it was changed in order to make it permissive, so that any city, village, or town had the power to establish free public baths and loan its credit or make appropriations from its funds for that purpose. In 1895, through Mr. Brown's instigation, a mandatory act was prepared and introduced by the Hon. George W. Hamilton, to whose tact and discretion the passage of the bill was largely due. That law read as follows:

"All cities of the first and second class shall establish and maintain such number of free public baths as the local board of health may deem to be necessary."

It is true that this legislation was permissive, but the law gave the needed authority for the cities of the State, if they had realized the necessity of action. From the brief summary of legislation, it will be noted that the laws are either permissive, or else so framed that their provisions cannot be carried out. While the State and the city authorities have been negligent of their duty regarding public baths, private

« AnteriorContinuar »