“The Animal City: Remaking Human and Animal Lives in America, 1820-1910” examines the important role of animals in nineteenth century American cities and traces the transformation of urban animal populations and human relationships with animals into the twentieth century. In so doing, it also examines larger social, cultural, political, legal, and economic change. American cities were once full of a variety of domesticated, semi-domesticated, and undomesticated species of animals. By the early twentieth century, however, the range of human-animal relationships and the geography of certain animal populations in cities were utterly transformed. This project seeks to understand what happened in those intervening decades and to recover the lost worlds of urban animal life and human-animal relations. Animal policy became a major form of governmental regulation in the lives of urban Americans in the nineteenth century, effected through new laws and new means of enforcement. Ideas of sanitation, refinement, and morality shaped animal policy profoundly, bolstered by the development of public health agencies, law enforcement, and the spread of early forms of urban zoning. Understanding nineteenth century urban animal policy also helps explain certain aspects of urban development and environmental inequalities into the twentieth century and up to the present. Many cities continue to show the invisible scars of this environmental history of animal regulation and exclusion. In some ways this is also the story of an emerging chasm between consumers and the animals they consume. Urban residents in nineteenth century America experienced the disappearance of livestock alongside the growth of pet ownership and pet culture. Together, the layers of change in urban animal populations in nineteenth century America marked notable remaking of human and animal life.
Andrew Robichaud is Assistant Professor of History at Boston University. He studies American history, environmental history, urban history, animal history, and the history of Boston.