During these wintry times, when the majesty of falling snow has given way to the dread of dealing with mounds of it, let us pause and recall that our aching backs and calloused hands are nothing new, that our forefathers and mothers had to shovel out their wagons, de-ice their single-pane windows, and plow, or rather roll, the streets with snow rollers.
Until 1862, when Milwaukee adopted the first snow plows, snow rollers would be used to compact the snow, making streets passable. These rollers actually made the streets more passable, as the compacted snow served as a perfect surface for ski and sled-mounted vehicles.
Besides the rollers, cities heavily relied on their citizenry (and occasionally their police forces) to remove the snow. Snow was a major physical obstacle, something that appeared somewhat regularly and had to be regulated as such.
In the Baltimore of 1858, this regulation came in the form of Ordinance No. 33, Sec. 31. The broad ordinance was designed to “restrain evil practices…and to remove nuisances.” Sec. 31 dealt with snow removal from footpaths, and mirrors modern regulations: essentially, folks were required to clear the footpaths that fronted their property within three hours of snow falling.
What’s odd is the placement of this Section: it comes directly after Sec. 30 (not the odd part) which deals with brick kiln regulations! One can imagine the drafters of the city ordinances creating their list of nuisances, and saying, “Heavens yes, we must certainly regulate the foul odours and displeasing smoke coming from those brick kilns. Hmmm, you know what else is equally as problematic? Snow!”