I’m setting my second Roaring Twenties mystery series in Chicago in 1924. I’ve finished the first manuscript and have started on the second, where the action takes place in the winter. That got me thinking . . . how did people remove snow from city streets before the era of snowplows?
A little research taught me a lot. First of all, in most cities, snow removal was done by men with shovels, gangs who were hired to shovel snow into horse-drawn carts. Those were driven to the nearest river where they could dump the snow. Salt was widely used, but pedestrians complained that it ruined their shoes and clothes. Cities also used sand and cinders.
Motorized plows began to appear in 1913, lessening the reliance on horses. Trucks and tractors with snow blades came shortly afterwards, but still, gangs of men with shovels predominated.
Chicago and other big cities had an edge. They could afford a new invention, the 1920 Barber-Green snow loader, pictured above. This scooped up the snow, dropped it on a conveyor belt that led to a dump truck, where it was deposited. When the truck was full, it drove off (to the river) and another truck slipped into its place.
So in my story, I’ll have a brief scene outdoors where my main characters walk past one of Chicago’s new snow loaders. I only wish I could include a picture!