Snow Removal Throughout History

Like many other types of technology, snow removal methods are advancing at a rapid pace. When used correctly, current snow removal techniques are effective and efficient. But things were not always so advanced. Especially for cities in the Snow Belt, weather technologies have come a long way.

Whether with handles and horses or giant machines, clearing snow has been a large task to tackle. Here’s a brief look at snow removal history in the U.S.

The Old-Fashioned Way: Shovels

Before cars or even trains became common forms of transportation, snow removal on roadways was of little concern. Rather than removing snow, 18th and 19th-century travelers actually preferred to keep snow on the roads, simply replacing their carriage wheels with runners, designed to glide over snow like skis. To make travel easier for these carriages, cities employed snow rollers, which packed down uneven snow and created smooth paths for carriages and sleighs.

In areas where snow rollers weren’t used, shovels were the only way to tackle large amounts of snow. In some areas, men were paid to shovel snow into horse-drawn carts, which took the snow to bodies of water for dumping. Of course, most people were still responsible for shoveling their own property. As you probably know, shoveling was tedious and grueling work, which led enterprising individuals to develop an alternative.

Horse-Drawn Snowplows

Horse-drawn snowplows began popping up around the mid-1800s, as cities grew and became busier. While these plows cleared alleyways relatively quickly, they didn’t eliminate the need for shovels entirely. Early plows deposited huge piles of snow on sidewalks, which were still cleared by shovel, and some cities were slow to adopt plows at all. New York City, for example, still required its police department to manually shovel snow until the late 1800s.

After the blizzard of 1888, cities began adopting horse-drawn plows and creating organized snow removal systems. The blizzard was devastating to many northeastern cities, prompting them to take snow removal more seriously. The effects of the blizzard also led New York and Boston to begin building their subway systems, which were not as easily halted by winter weather.

Early Snow Blowers

Modern snow blowers are mostly used for small-scale snow removal, especially in residential settings. The earliest snow blowers were created for much larger snow removal tasks: particularly, clearing snow along the Canadian railroad. Created by a Canadian dentist, the rotary snowplow worked by cutting through snow on the tracks and using a large type of fan to blow the snow to the side. This type of snow removal gradually gained popularity, with similar models being developed, eventually leading to the development of the small, human-powered snow blowers you’ve probably used today.

Automobile-Driven Plows

With the advent of the automobile came the forerunner to the snowplows used today. Unlike horse-drawn vehicles, cars require clear, dry roads for safe driving. As cars became more common, so did plows that attached to cars. Since the 1920s, these have been the go-to solution for clearing snow from streets, and they’ve gotten more effective as time goes on.

Snow Removal Consulting

If you’re a business owner in the Snow Belt, you might find today’s snow removal technologies daunting, especially compared to the shovels and snow rollers of the past. The solution? Snow removal consulting. Swenson Consulting can help you assess your snow removal needs, recommend the proper tools, and create a detailed snow removal plan for your business.

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