The History of Snow Removal

Early settlers that came to America were not accustomed to the harsh winters that they would experience in the new world. As the country grew, so did the need for roads and communication. Early in the 1700’s there were storm events that would set the thinking for the need of snow removal. One was the great snow of 1717 this would be the storm that would be used as the example of how bad winter storms could get here in the country. Shopkeepers and citizens would have to shovel their own way in and out. Commerce would suffer. Travel would stop, except for sleighs, carriages did not move nor did boats on icy waters. People had to find a way of preparing for the snow. This was similar to how they do it today. They would stock pile food and firewood, necessary things to keep them going for the time that they are trapped in their immediate surroundings.

As we moved into the 1800’s, cities got larger, bridges and buildings were built and the need for transportation and communication became more of a necessity. The first snow plows used in cities were in 1862 for the city of Milwaukee. They were teams of horses dragging a plow through the streets in the city. This was done later in other cities in the east were snow was a problem. The combination of workers that were hired to shovel and the horse drawn plows were the only methods used to clear the main routes to keep travel moving until the onslaught of the steam engine that had the capability to plow snow from railroad tracks and electricity where trolleys were used with plows to clear main streets. Newer ideas came from growing cities. By the turn of the century subways were put into place in the northeast in several cities to improve transportation, throughout the winter months.

In the early 1900’s, cities started doing away with the horse drawn plows by using the technology of the motor. They developed dump trucks to haul snow that was plowed by steam shovels down to the rivers for removal. In 1920 the Barber-Green snowloader was invented. This motorized tractor worked in tangent with the dump truck and was used all over the country with great success. As the population of the automobiles increased so did the need for all streets to be cleared. Cities needed to take charge and they did with ordinances, creating snow routes and buying fleets of dump trucks and tractor plows. Salt and sand were being spread by motorized spreaders as early as 1925 to ensure the safety of hazardous road conditions all at the cost of the city. In some conditions the federal government would come into the city and provide money or manpower (National Guard) to help shovel the snow just as the men hired by the settlers did in the 1700’s. The technology is better, of course. The snow removal equipment is smaller and specialized. The modern scientific measuring equipment can foretell of a storm coming days ahead of time. Communication is no longer the main problem. Information that was not realized then is state of the art now Still Mother Nature always has the upper hand. The salt use for clearing roadways has always had pollution concerns and basically people still have the same opinion as they did centuries before. Some things remain the same like the rush for food and supplies and the city no matter how big, stops for awhile then digs itself out almost the same way it did 300 years ago.