The Snow Shovelers of Yore
These 1920s street clearers had their work cut out for them. Using only rudimentary tools like shovels and horse drawn wagons, they toiled to clear several inches of snow off the Washington, D.C. streets. News articles from the early 1900s mention the city had trouble convincing people to sign up for the difficult work.
A Dec. 27, 1909, Washington Evening Star article observes that to remedy the problem the superintendent of the street cleaning department “got the snow wagon drivers’ pay advanced from $1.75 a day to $2 a day this morning,” hoping “a rush of men looking for the jobs” would result. The article’s skeptical author noted that “other cities pay snow wagon drivers even higher prices than $2 a day.”
The city also hoped to increase the ranks with advanced technology, incorporating mechanical snowplows and other machinery into its snow clearing practices. According to a Feb. 17, 1922, Evening Star article, “at the present time the street cleaning department has only four of these motor plows and twelve horse-drawn plows. This latter antiquated equipment will be done away with when eight additional plows are acquired.” Must have seemed like a luxury to these fellows when the snowplow retired their shovels for good.
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