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The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Creating the North American Landscape) Hardcover – November 24, 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: Creating the North American Landscape
  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (November 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801861527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801861529
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,847,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Martin Melosi's The Sanitary City is a substantial work of scholarship that provides a highly useful history of the development and consequences of urban water, sewer, and solid waste infrastructure in the United States. Extensively referenced, heavily illustrated, and well written, it should be a standard on the subject for many years." -- Darwin H. Stapleton, Technology and Culture

"Melosi offers a fascinating historical tour of the odiferous underground architecture of American cities from the eighteenth century to the present." -- Mark Tebeau, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Melosi's book is a great accomplishment, a rich source of factual and interpretive material, and a tribute to a life of productive scholarship." -- James B. McSwain, EH.Net

"Well-written and thoroughly documented, The Sanitary City tells a national story... an important read for anyone concerned with understanding American cities and how they got the way they are." -- Steven J. Hoffman, Journal of Social History

"The Sanitary City is a must-have for historians doing research on any aspect of the history of the development of water, sewerage, waste management, pollution control and other aspects of public health and sanitation in the American city. Melosi's prodigious research and extensive bibliography, his lucid descriptions and many illustrations of colonial era and more modern sanitation technologies, and his discussion of the truly myriad accomplishments of the public health and sanitation professions make this book an essential research tool." -- Christine Meisner Rosen, Urban History

"Nicely illustrated and well documented, The Sanitary City, just like the systems it describes, will be central to our understanding of the urban experience." -- Stephen H. Cutcliffe, Science, Technology and Society

"Over the next several years, environmental and civil engineers with an interest in the history of their professions as well as policymakers seeking context will join environmental and urban historians in praising The Sanitary City, a tour de force." -- Patricia Evridge Hill, History

"A comprehensive introduction to a very important topic." -- Richard Kastl, Vernacular Architecture Newsletter

"[The Sanitary City] is well written, in an engaging style that is both informative and leaves the reader with opportunities to critique historiographic debates and form his/her own conclusions... Given the comprehensive treatment Melosi provides, his monograph will likely be the standard reference for some years to come." -- Russell S. Kirby, Historical Geography


"Professor Melosi integrates the history of the urban infrastructure of sanitation and places this story of technology and engineering in larger contexts of environment and public health. The Sanitary City is a monumental study that sweeps across both time and space; it will become the standard text for many years to come." -- Harold Platt, Loyola University of Chicago

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
By describing the development of sanitary technology in the history of the American city, the author places the city within an environmental context. The city is no longer just an act of human imposition upon the landscape, but more of an organic structure that functions within its surrounding environment. A very worthwhile read, and an interesting look at American urban history.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A_Reviewer on January 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Winner of the George Perkins Marsh Prize from the American Society for Environmental History; Awarded the Best Book in North American Urban History for 2000 by the Urban History Association;

Winner of the Abel Wolman Award from the Public Works Historical Society; Winner of the Edelstein Prize from the Society for the History of Technology


An invisible infrastructure defines a significant portion of the American urban experience, affecting everything from the quality of the water we drink to the frequency of our trash collection to the pressure of the flush in our toilets. In The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present, Martin V. Melosi studies water supply, wastewater, and solid-waste-disposal systems in U.S. cities from the colonial era to the present day. Along the way, Melosi discusses not only changing technologies and the expanding population but also growing public health awareness and ecological theories. He shows how the social beliefs and scientific understandings that emerged over time influenced how Americans have viewed waste and sanitation in urban life and how they came to accept workable solutions to the problems of sanitation, water delivery, and waste removal.

Ambitious and comprehensive, The Sanitary City incorporates an exhaustive supply of sources, from popular accounts and journalism to scholarly histories in the fields of technology and urban growth to congressional reports and legislative studies. It will appeal to scholars, students, and professionals in environmental history, urban studies, the history of science and technology, public health, and American government.
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