Fellow in Focus: Fresh Air, Foul Odors, and the Growth of American Cities

Fellow in Focus
Thursday, October 12, 2017
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Can a city be healthy? During the 19th century American cities grew in size and number. Booming cities powered economic growth but also suffered from epidemic diseases and high mortality rates. As a result many Americans associated city life with ill health. Believing that bad smells caused disease, city residents pinched their noses and picked bouquets. Their search for “fresh” air and health led to the establishment of boards of health, the founding of public parks, and the development of our first household disinfectants.

On this olfactory tour historian Melanie A. Kiechle will explain just what smells and stinks meant to 19th-century Americans and how their desires for healthful fresh air shaped the cities we live in—and the air we breathe—today.

Event Schedule

  • 6:00 p.m.
  • 7:00 p.m.

About the Speaker

Melanie Kiechle.jpg

Melanie A. Kiechle. 

Photo by Dennis P. Halpin.

Melanie A. Kiechle is an assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech, where she writes and teaches about American history, environmental history, and the history of science and medicine. She is the author of Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America, for which she received support from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Science History Institute, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for Humanities, and Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. 

About the Series

The Rohm and Haas Fellow in Focus lecture series gives the Institute’s scholars an opportunity to present their work to a broad audience interested in history, science, and culture. Fellow in Focus lectures are presented by the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.

More Information

For more information about this event please contact Carin Berkowitz at 215.873.8289 or cberkowitz@sciencehistory.org

Image credit: Lament of the Albany Brewers: After the Verdict in the Libel Case of Taylor vs. Delavan, broadside ca. 1840. American Antiquarian Society.