Horses Were Everywhere!
By Frank Cozzi Sr.
In the late 1890s if you tried to cross State Street in downtown Chicago you would have to dodge horses and their wagons or buggies. You would also have to be very careful where you stepped. In late 1908 the first mass produced car, the Model T, was introduced. It was powered by a 22 horse power engine, and in just a few years almost replaced the horse and buggy on State Street and across the nation.
In the mid 1950s, when I was just a kid, there were still a few people that employed work horses. My maternal grandfather was a farmer and years earlier cleared much of the land he farmed with horses. Others were still using horses for certain tasks like plowing fields, skidding fresh cut logs from the forest, and going where tractors could not go.
My paternal grandfather also employed work horses early in his career while he peddled the alleys of Chicago and the western suburbs looking for scrap metal. But by the time I came around working Saturday’s in the scrap yard as a pre-teen, there were only a few old-timers still delivering their scrap metal with a horse and buggy. I heard one of those old-timers allegedly got mad at his horse, punched it in the nose and knocked it out like Mongo in Blazing Saddles.
Though most of the work horses are gone today we still measure by horsepower. Some of the common cars we drive today have as much as 300 or 400 horsepower engines under their hood. The trucks we haul scrap metal with have 650 horsepower engines. A scrap metal shredder can have anywhere from a 1000 horsepower engine to a 7000 horsepower engine. Yes, that’s a lot of horses and I’m sure glad we don’t have to clean up after them. Uhm let me see, how many shovels would we need?