Noise Pollution Clearhouse

Sound Bites from the Past

This page is dedicated to articles and other material from the past that have significance related to noise. We are always looking for more interesting tidbits about noise. Please send us any items you may have found to add here. Call us at 1-888-200-8332 (toll free), or write to us at The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 1137, Montpelier VT 05601-1137, or contact us using our web form.


Growing Cities Growing Quiet (1901)

Speed Has Become the National Disease (1920)


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Growing Cities Growing Quiet

The following excerpt is from The Improvement of Towns and Cities, by Charles Mulford Robinson, copyright 1901, pages 72-73.

A word should perhaps be said here of the efforts to suppress unnecessary noise in cities. The right of the community to curb the individual in this respect may be assumed, because it is asserted in so many ordinances and so widely. The excuse is usually, and very properly, hygienic. To forbid the carrying of iron beams through city streets unless they be so wrapped that they make no noise when jolted, is unquestionably to safeguard the public nerves. But incidentally it makes for peace in the city beautiful. The ordinances are often extend to apply to itinerant brass bands; in Chicago and Detroit, among other places, there have been successful crusades against steam whistles; in Paris the little boats on the Seine can carry no whistles, and ring their bells only under exceptional circumstances; a few societies for the suppression of street noises have been started; and in Boston the city Music Commission is charged, among other things, with seeing that the hurdy-gurdies and hand-organs are in tune. Every year there is a solemn examination of all these instruments, when each applicant for a license plays his best. If his instrument is not in tune the license is withheld until the performer has made an attempt to remedy the trouble. Then he has a chance at another examination. As the popular ear is not oversensitive in matters of music, it may reasonably be held that the effort here is less hygienic than aesthetic. Of course city noise has inevitably increased with the growth and congestion of traffic, but smooth pavements and rubber tires are mechanical helps to greater quiet; and public sentiment is powerful. When the evil is very bad, the enforcement of ordinances will be more strictly insisted upon. The City Improvement Society of New York reports that in 1899 a large majority of the whole number of complaints that were filed with it referred to on subject--noise; and this tendency, it says is becoming constantly more marked. In parts of London the shouting of newsboys has been stilled.

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Speed Has Become the National Disease

The following is from the Montpelier Evening Argus, August 23, 1920.

Seldom can one find a chaffeur who will glide through the green country at the proper gait. Always he must overtake the car just ahead of him - and there is always a car just ahead of him. The clamor of the country on a weekend is hideous, and we think the silent hills must smile as they watch us pitiful humans rushing through the valleys, this way and that, mad to beat someone else to a goal that means nothing when we arrive.

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