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A Very Old Problem


It’s no secret that DC has struggled to keep the Anacostia River clean. Major policy changes and clean-up efforts have proved quite successful in recent years, and local residents are finally starting to feel like “D.C.’s forgotten river” has been welcomed back into the fold.

So today when we were perusing the February 25, 1863 edition of the Evening Star (because who doesn’t want to know what was happening 149 years ago today?), we weren’t exactly shocked to come across this order:


UNTIL FURTHER ORDERS ALL DEAD HORSES will be buried near the Anacostia river, north of the Poor House.

The police and others will confer a favor by giving me the names of parties who carry carcasses in their respective districts or neighborhood outside of the designated place, so that I can bring them before a magistrate to have them punished according to law for creating a nuisance.

This has reference to Georgetown as well as Washington.

Any notices or information may be sent to the Superintendent of Metropolitan Police, or my office, corner of 6th street and Penn avenue, Capitol Hill, and will be promptly attended to.

Captain and A. A. Q. M.

N.P. If parties will support me in this measure, no more complaints will be necessary, as I can employ my force to more advantage instead of scattering them all over the District.


We suddenly feel very grateful that nowadays the problem is plastic bags and not horse carcasses. And the reason we weren’t at all surprised that the Anacostia was being used as a dumping ground in the 1860’s has to do with the nature of the city during that period. The Civil War was in full swing, and the resulting influx of animals in the city was just a small part of the reason DC earned the nickname, “City of a Thousand Smells.”

In our trademark tour introduction, The Abridged History of DC™ (over 220 years of DC history in 15 minutes!), we’ll tell you all about DC’s sights and smells during one of it’s most interesting, and definitely most disgusting, historical periods. Just give us a ring at (202) 744-4809 or email us at!