ELMIRA, N.Y. ( WETM) – There is a very famous pig in Elmira.
At the corner of North Main Street and West 7th Street, right behind Elmira College, you’ll find the Paddy’s Pig monument.
Above is a photo from the mid-1800s, in the City of Elmira on Lake Street. At this time, pigs were commonly allowed to roam the city like dogs and they typically consumed anything digestible that just happened to be laying around. This very “hands-off” approach to waste disposal was very popular in American cities at the time.
Even Charles Dickens made much of their presence when he was touring Broadway in American Notes, a book about his travels in 1842.
As American cities marched towards the 20th century, free-roaming pigs as the solution to a cities garbage problems fell out a favor.
Towards the dawn of the 1900s, pigs were still seen as an essential part of Elmira’s waste disposal system.
Elmira had a serious garbage problem up until the early 20th century.
Up to 1900, the solution was to let pigs roam freely in the street.
However, the great garbage-minds of the period knew how to deal with all of the non-digestible refuse as well. The rag and gone pickers would sort through what the pigs couldn’t eat.
They would collect bits of this and that, and sell to various merchants in the city such as bones, knives, toys, rags which were used to make paper and various bits of metal found other uses.
At the turn of the century, free-roaming pigs were no longer welcomed.
As a solution, the town fathers considered burning the trash. So, they made the Bennett Incinerating Firm – also known as Bennett Garbage Crematory.
The Bennett firm was seen as too expensive, 15 cents a can, and did not collect trash everywhere in the city.
The city had a full-blown waste issue and by 1916 the waste problem was being blamed for disease outbreaks throughout the city.
Elmira decided that once again, the pigs would be the answer.
A municipal waste piggery was made and would in turn be a large complex of pig stys that would contain hundreds of pigs, and they would be brought as much of the cities edible garbage as they could eat.
The advantages were great: Free waste disposal and fats and oils for the WW1 effort.
On June 1st, 1922, things took shape. Daniel Livens was the piggery owner and collector.
Livens owned a piggery on Mount Zoar Road that had 40 and 300 pigs.
But, it did not go well.
In the 1920s, the city just started burying it. Later in the 1930’s, the city finally built its own incinerator.
For more on J.D. Iles’ Hidden Landmarks of Elmira, Corning and the Finger Lakes content click here.