Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by Akademie Verlag August 13, 2016

Business Leadership in the Movement to Regulate Industrial Air Pollution in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century America

Christine Meisner Rosen


This article concerns an important but currently still poorly understood aspect of the history of environmental reform: the leadership role played by reform minded businessmen in movements to regulate industrial air pollution in American cities between 1860 and 1920. For the most part, the task of writing the history of air pollution regulation in this period has fallen to historians who been predisposed to play up the leadership of public health and women reformers, while playing down the role of business reformers and casting anti-regulation businessmen and their organizations as the villains against which the public health and women reformers struggled. This article will use an examination of movements to regulate industrial smoke and the stenches of the meatpacking industry in Chicago, New York City, St. Louis, and several other cities to tell a different, much more complex story, one that recognizes the business community’s conflicted role in these movements. It will show that, while it is true that business interests actively opposed regulation, often bringing it to a standstill, they also played crucially important, positive leadership roles in movements whose success often hinged on the ability of environmental reformers to forge broad coalitions. It argues that only by investigating the ambiguities of business’s complex role, including its leadership role, will historians be able to explain the political strategies that led to progress in these early movements to regulate industrial air pollution.

Online erschienen: 2016-8-13
Erschienen im Druck: 2009-12-1

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