Among large numbers of persons, in city as well as country, washing the body is still a matter of instinct, a bath not being taken until the body is offensive, the hands not being washed until their condition interferes with the enjoyment of food or with one's treatment by others. There is a point of neglect beyond which instinct will not permit even a tramp to go. If cleanliness is next to godliness, the average child is most ungodly by nature, for it loathes the means of cleanliness and otherwise observes instinct's health warnings only after experience has punished or after other motives from the outside have prompted action. The chief form of legislation of the instinct age is provision of penalties for those who poison food, water, or fellow-man. There are districts in America where hygiene is supposed to be taught to children that are conscious of no other sanitary legislation but that which punishes the poisoner.

Display has always been an active health crusader. Professor Patten says the best thing that could happen to the slums of every city would be for every girl and woman to be given white slippers, white stockings, a white dress, and white hat. Why? Because they would at once notice and resent the dirt on the street, in their hallways, and in their own homes. People that have nothing to "spoil" really do not see dirt, for it interferes in no way with their comfort so far as they can see. Their windows are crusted with dust, their babies' milk bottles are yellow with germs. Who cares? Similar conditions exist among well-to-do women who live on isolated farms with no one to notice their personal appearance except others of the family who prefer rest to cleanliness. But let the tenement mother or the isolated farmer's wife entertain the minister or the school-teacher, the candidate for sheriff or the ward boss, let her go to Coney Island or to the county fair, and at once an outside standard is set up that requires greater regard for personal appearance and leads to "cleaning up."

Elbow sleeves and light summer waists have led many a girl to daily bathing of at least those parts of the body that other people see. Entertainments and sociables, Saturday choir practice and church have led many a young man to bathe for others' sake when quite satisfied to forego the ordeal so far as his own comfort and health were concerned. Streets on which the well-to-do live are kept clean. Why? Not because Madam Well-to-do cares so much for health, but because she associates cleanliness with social prestige. It is necessary for the display of her carriages and dresses, just as paved streets and a plentiful supply of water for public baths and private homes were essential to the display of Rome's luxury. Generally speaking, residence streets are cleaned in small towns just as waterworks are introduced, to gratify the display motive of those who have lawns to water and clothes to show.

Instinct strengthens the display motive. As every one can be interested in instinct hygiene, so every one is capable of this display motive to the extent that his position is affected by other people's opinion. It was love of display quite as much as love of beauty that gave Greece the goddess Hygeia, the worship of whom expressed secondarily a desire for universal health, and primarily a love of the beautiful among those who had leisure to enjoy it.

Commerce brooks no preventable interference with profits, whether by disease, death, impassable streets, or disabled men. The age of chivalry was also the age of indescribable filth, plague, Black Death, and spotted fever that cost the lives of millions. It would be impossible in the civilized world to duplicate the combination of luxury and filthy, disease-breeding conditions in the midst of which Queen Bess and her courtiers held their revels. The first protest was made, not by the church, not by sanitarians, but by the great merchants who were unable to insure against loss and ruin from the plagues that thrived on filth and overcrowding. By an interesting coincidence the first systematic street cleaning and the first systematic ship cleaning—maritime quarantine—date from the same year, 1348 A.D.; the former in the foremost German trading town, Cologne, and the latter in Venice, the foremost trading town of Italy. The merchants of Philadelphia and New York started the first boards of health in the United States. For what purpose? To prevent business losses from yellow fever. Desire for passable streets, drains, waterworks, and strong boards of health has generally started with merchants. For commercial reasons many of our states vote more money for the protection of cattle than for the protection of human life, and the United States votes millions for the study of hog cholera, chicken pip, and animal tuberculosis, while neglecting communicable diseases of men. No class in a community will respond more quickly to an appeal for the rigid enforcement of health laws than the merchant class; none will oppose so bitterly as that which makes profits out of the violation of health laws.

Table II

Cost in Life Capital of Preventable Diseases[2]

AgeEstimated Value of Human LifeMultiply by the number of deaths for each age group to learn the cost in life capital to your community in loss of life from one or all preventable diseases.
  0-  5 years$1,500 
  5-10 years  2,300 
10-15 years  2,500 
15-20 years  3,000 
20-25 years  5,000 
25-30 years  7,500 
30-35 years  7,000 
35-40 years  6,000 
40-45 years  5,500 
45-50 years  5,000 
50-55 years  4,500 
55-60 years  4,500 
60-65 years  2,000 
65-70 years  1,000 
70-     years  1,000 

[2] Marshall O. Leighton, quoted in Whipple's Typhoid Fever.

Anti-nuisance motives do not affect health laws until people with different incomes and different tastes try to live together. In a small town where everybody keeps a cow and a pig, piggeries and stables offend no one; but when the doctor, the preacher, the dressmaker, the lawyer, and the leading merchant stop keeping pigs and cows, they begin to find other people's stables and piggeries offensive. The early laws against throwing garbage, fish heads, household refuse, offal, etc., on the main street were made by kings and princes offended by such practices. The word "nuisance" was coined in days when neighbors lived the same kind of life and were not sensitive to things like house slops, ash piles, etc. The first nuisances were things that neighbors stumbled over or ran into while using the public highway. Next, goats and other animals interfering with safety were described as nuisances, and legal protection against them was worked out. It has never been necessary to change the maxim which originally defined a nuisance: "So use your own property that you will not injure another in the use of his property." The thing that has changed and grown has been society's knowledge of acts and objects that prevent a man from enjoying his own property. To-day the number of things that the law calls nuisances is so great that it takes hundreds of pages to describe them. Stables and outhouses must be set back from the street. Every man must dispose of garbage and drainage on his own property. Stables and privies must be at least a hundred feet from water reservoirs. Factories may not pollute streams that furnish drinking water. Merchants may be punished if they put banana skins in milk cans, or if they fail to scald and cleanse all milk receptacles before returning them to wholesalers. Automobile drivers may be punished for disturbing sleep. Anything that injures my health will be declared a nuisance and abolished, if I can prove that my health is being injured and that I am doing all I can to avoid that injury. No educational work will accomplish more for any community than to make rich and poor alike conscious of nuisances that are being committed against themselves and their neighbors. The rich are able to run away from nuisances that they cannot have abated. If proper publicity is given to living conditions among those who do not resist nuisances, the presence of such conditions will itself become offensive to the well-to-do, who will take steps to remove the nuisance. Jacob Riis in this way made the slums a nuisance to rich residents in New York City and stimulated tenement reform, building of parks, etc.