Toxic Legacy: The Environmental Impact of the Manufactured Gas Industry in the United States

  title={Toxic Legacy: The Environmental Impact of the Manufactured Gas Industry in the United States},
  author={Joel A. Tarr},
  journal={Technology and Culture},
  pages={107 - 147}
  • J. Tarr
  • Published 7 March 2014
  • History
  • Technology and Culture
The manufactured gas industry provided cities in the United States with energy for light and power during much of the period from approximately 1850 to 1950. This article explores the history of the effects of this industry on air, land, and water environments; it also examines attempts by the courts and municipal and state governments to regulate gas-waste pollution and the industry’s response. The article concludes by exploring the heritage of badly contaminated sites that the manufactured… 

Figures from this paper

Water Qualities and Usage in the Zanjas of Los Angeles, 1781–1904

From the colonial era until the beginning of the twentieth century, most water used in Los Angeles was distributed through channels called zanjas, conduits supplying water for irrigation, power, and

Illuminating the streets, alleys, parks and suburbs of the American City: non-networked technologies, 1870-1920

  • J. Tarr
  • History
    History and Technology
  • 2020
ABSTRACT During the nineteenth century American cities transitioned from offering minimal services to providing services through networked infrastructures. Among these were street lights fueled

Energy/Culture: a reading guide for historical literature

ground in the geographic and thematic coverage of energy studies. What connects the increasingly multidisciplinary research of energy is the general departure from technological and economic

Feature extraction and machine learning techniques for identifying historic urban environmental hazards: New methods to locate lost fossil fuel infrastructure in US cities

A new method is proposed to identify manufactured gas production, storage, and distribution infrastructure in bulk by applying feature extraction and machine learning techniques to digitized historic Sanborn fire insurance maps, which increases the rate of site identification 20-fold compared to unaided visual coding.

Experts and Peripheries: Ongoing Research and Future Challenges

Following the experts in these settings, it is claimed that a comparative study of these movements will be refine the historical understanding of experts and expertise.

When Environmental Inequality Racialized: Historical Evidence from Providence, Rhode Island

The authors use multiple logistic regression techniques to investigate whether individuals’ occupation, nativity, race, and ethnicity predict residential proximity to large-scale energy

Smelling Machine History: Olfactory Experiences of Information Technology

This project develops new paths and possibilities for studying the cultural history of technology and the collection of research material, as well as the exhibition of the history of computing by examining the historical, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of sensations and senses.

Shifting Definitions of Hazardous Wastes

This paper addresses the emergence of concern with hazardous wastes and the legal liabilities attached to them long before the first federal legislation in the U.S. explicitly using the term; a



Manufactured Gas in California, 1852–1940: Basis for Remedial Action

California was a relatively late entry (1852) in the manufactured gas industry. However, its gas entrepreneurs showed considerable invention and enterprise in establishing more than 250 separate gas

The Natural Gas Industry: Evolution, Structure, and Economics

The US surpasses all other countries in natural gas production and consumption, partly because reserves in the Soviet Union and Middle East are not yet marketable commodities. Following a historical


Reconstructing the progression of geographical understanding has an important role in current environmental litigation. Determining damages for past contamination of groundwater by surface discharges

The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Pollution in Historical Perspective

Whether it comes by air, by land, or by water, pollution has long plagued the American city. And for just as long, the question of how to deal with urban wastes has taxed the minds of scientists,

The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment

1. The Sorcerer's Apprentices PART I - SUMMONING THE SPIRITS 2. Pollution Goes to Washington 3. The Rise of the Chemical Industry 4. Royd Sayers' Service Bureau PART II - FETCHING A FLOOD 5. The

Searching for a “Sink” for an Industrial Waste: Iron-Making Fuels and the Environment

  • J. Tarr
  • Economics
    Environmental History Review
  • 1994
The creation of wastes from any process, be it a natural, consumer, or production process, requires location of a place of deposit or a "sink" for disposal. Much of the history of industrial waste

Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800

Britain's supremacy in the nineteenth century depended in large part on its vast deposits of coal. This coal not only powered steam engines in factories, ships, and railway locomotives but also

Invisible Fuel: Manufactured and Natural Gas in America, 1800-2000 (review)

Invisible Fuel is a fine addition to a growing list of histories of the gas industry. Even though some of the topics addressed here have been discussed by other authors, Christopher J. Castaneda’s

Devastation and renewal : an environmental history of Pittsburgh and its region

Every city has an environmental story, perhaps none so dramatic as Pittsburgh's. Founded in a river valley blessed with enormous resources - three strong waterways, abundant forests, rich seams of

The Technical Transformation of the Late Nineteenth-Century Gas Industry

  • D. Matthews
  • Economics
    The Journal of Economic History
  • 1987
This article analyzes, with particular reference to Britain, the technological transformation in coal gas manufacture around 1900. The timing of the innovation seems to be explained by the nature of