New York City “Stench Map”

For those Steampunk writers who like to add gritty real-life details.

For Whom the Gear Turns

Stench MapAt the London Museum of Water and Steam I learned a lot about the misunderstandings that people during the steam era had when it came to disease transmission. It wasn’t until a study conducted by John Snow in1854 that people really began to grasp that a bacterial infection like cholera could come from contaminated water. Instead, many people prescribed to the “miasma theory”, which hypothesized that pollution (ie bad smells) were the cause of infection. The map above is from the 1870s, and shows an effort to chart the potential for illness based on the bad smells in different neighborhoods. I borrowed from an article on, and you can read the full text here.


But before they were busy charting stenches, this notice from the 1830s warned people away from fruit and booze.

Yet another reason that I love to learn about the steam era, but I am very…

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