Litter Baskets in the Bronx
Demonstrations on how to use litter baskets continued into the 1960s. These litter baskets, newly installed in the Bronx, were among the thousands of new litter baskets on the streets of New York.
4 Ways to Throw Away $25
The 1960s brought advertising campaigns that emphasized punishment for litterbugs, the threat of $25 hanging over anyone who threw anything not in a basket (a dozen eggs at this time cost around 50 cents). The increase of policing and punishing litterers became the main strategy in managing city cleanliness.
Source: SWEEP, Summer 1966. The Department of Sanitation, City of New York. (New York City), 16.
Side-walk Sweeping Card
This card was distributed throughout New York City, and placed in newspapers and magazine ads.
It translated easily to radio and TV, encouraging efforts to clean up the city together.
Phil D. Basket, the brainchild of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO) debuted in 1964.
Phil D. Basket
Meet Phil D. Basket (say it out loud!)
Phil replaced Charlie Dooley, the former bumbling representative who demonstrated how to use litter baskets.
The average man who was "the SanMan's best friend" was replaced by the cute and active cartoon Phil D. Basket, the brainchild of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO) who debuted in 1964.
Source: Clean City, USA: A Record of the Activities of Young & Rubicam as Volunteer Advertising Agency for Citizens Committee to Keep New York City Clean, Inc. May 1955-July 1959.
Bags and Men
A new material, plastic changed the way sanitation was handled in the city. An Interagency Task Force on Disposable Refuse Containers was created in 1968, concluding that disposable containers would be "cleaner, quieter, quicker, and more convenient collections."1
The next steps were to determine what kind of bags would be optimal for the "total quality of the urban environment," whether it would be an addition to the metal cans, which company to use (most likely a member of the Society of the Plastic Industry), and where to implement these new materials.
Source: SWEEP, Summer 1969. The Department of Sanitation, City of New York. (New York City), 19.
SWEEP served as the representative publication from the New York City Department of Sanitation. Distributed to not only DSNY members, but also to other cities, the tone of the magazine is optimistic. Along with crossword puzzles, a classifieds section, and useful vehicular diagrams, many articles featured tips for both physical and mental health.
Source: SWEEP, Spring 1959. The Department of Sanitation, City of New York.
Keep NY in Front
Pins were often used for campaigns and activist movements, and often fell off in the streets.
This particular pin supported Senator Jacob Koppel "Jack" Javits, and Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1962.
It was sponsored by the "Citizens Committee," the same citizens committee that collected salvage materials during World War II.
Clearly, these citizen groups held remarkable power over how the city was run through sponsoring political parties.
In 1963 alone, 10,000 new litter baskets found their way onto street corners. 2The effort to pick up these fill baskets was enormous: on a daily collection route, a sanitation worker "expends energy equivalent to that used by a person climbing the empire state building with a 35lb pack on his back."3
The litter baskets were painted dark green, opposite from their original white. Chartreuse were suggested, the color was deemed too bright. 4
In fact, most of DSNY's machinery on the streets changed to fade into the background. "Noisy" yellow paint was replaced by white on sanitation trucks and signs, the signs of sanitation taking a backseat to other visible aspects of the street.5
Source: "Sixth Avenue (West 53rd Street - West 54th Street)." 1960s.
Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Litter basket design never merited enough appeal to be featured in design or urban planning magazines, but the various industrial manufacturers knew how to sell through the qualities of a good litter basket, focusing on durable material, size, and weight.
New York City litter baskets during the 1960s resembled the Norwich Wire Works baskets, with metal sign plates and the metal ring at the bottom of the basket.
Scroll down the page to see more advertisements for litter baskets.
Source: Advertisement. The American City, April 1960.
1964 New York City World's Fair
Source: "Sani-Facts" SWEEP, Spring, 1964. Department of Sanitation, City of New York.
"1962-1963 Annual Report of The Citizens Committee to Keep New York City Clean, Inc."
"New York World's Fair" Photograph from Private Collection of jaime ding.
Keep America Beautiful: 1964
The Keep America Beautiful increased its advertising efforts during the 1960s, sending out stickers and pamphlets to not litter (while potentially creating more litter). KAB also used a reward system: New York City received an award from the Keep America Beautiful Campaign in 1964 for its anti-litter efforts.
Source: Box 8, Outdoor Cleanliness Association records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.
Made by the Metro Bottle Co., Rose-X was a Sodium Hypochlorite Solution that was used in liquid laundry starch at the Roselux Chemical Company in Brooklyn. Patented in the 1950s, the bottles were frequently used in the 1960s and can now be collector's items, or "mungo."
See the definition of mungo below:
Source: Rose-X bottle, from Dead Horse Bay, Private Collection of jaime ding.
"Sanitalk." SWEEP, Summer 1959. The Department of Sanitation, City of New York. (New York City), 19.
"Knee-Deep in Trouble"
Mayor John Lindsay clashed with the Sanitation Men Association, accusing the workers to be unlawful and too demanding, and went as far as asking Governor Rockefeller to call in the national guard to control the sanitation workers. Governor John D. Rockefeller simply took control of negotiations, coming to terms with DSNY (without the Mayor’s consent), and meeting the demands for fair pay, pensions and contracts.
Listen to the statement here.
Source: A.H. Raskin, "Garbage: Mayor and Governor: Knee-Deep in Trouble" Feb 11, 1968. New York Times (New York City) ProQuest Historical Newspapers, E3.
Dirty and Destroyed
Richard J. Whalen, a journalist and historian of New York City politics, wrote a devastating article in FORTUNE magazine in 1964.
He claimed a perspective of watching the "failure" of New York from an "angry view from the streets," as the city continued to be "without grace," "humorless," the people within "dehumanized," because of how dirty the city appeared to be.
The despair that seeped throughout the article caught the notice of municipal officials, and the article was collected with other articles about the aesthetic
conditions of the city.
Though clearly the ugliness of the city was a concern, the causes behind these surfaces never rose in Whalen's article.
Source: "A City Destroying Itself." FORTUNE, Sept 1964. 117. NYC Municipal Archives.
Photograph, circa 1960.Outdoor Cleanliness Association records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.
Clean City Digest
This "Clean City Digest" was passed out to New Yorkers to further clarify New York Sanitary Codes.
It and litter baskets began to tell users to not put any household or commercial litter inside.
Click on the page to read the whole digest.
Source: "1965-1966 Annual Report of the Citizens Committee to Keep New York City Clean, Inc." New York City, 1966.
Posters such as this one were vital in protests for spreading the word. Dr. Martin Luther King's last sermon at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee was in support of the Memphis Sanitation Men, on strike because of the death of two African-American Sanitation workers. Several members of the New York City Department of Sanitation also went down to Memphis to support their fellow sanitation workers.6
Source: The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C.
A Voice of Cleanliness
SanMen sometimes acted as a "Voice of Cleanliness," using speaker systems to vocally remind New Yorkers to stay clean.
Source: "Voice of Cleanliness" SWEEP, Summer 1960. The Department of Sanitation, City of New York. (New York City), 11.
How to Handle Litterbugs
Amsterdam News, the oldest Black newspaper in the country, reported on the litterbug campaigns with a note of skepticism, rightly cautious of a system that depends on subjective ideals of cleanliness.
Source: "How to Handle Litter Bugs." New York Amsterdam News (New York City), ProQuest Historical Newspapers, 16.
New disposable items for individual aimed cleanliness, added to the dirtiness of the city by creating more waste.
Some sanitary wipes specifically targeted an emerging female, secretarial workforce, such as the Finger Pinkies Secretary's Hand Cleaner citing to be for hands "soiled by: typewriter ribbon inks, carbon paper, handling money or paper, newsprint."
On February 2, 1968, the Department of Sanitation stopped collecting trash from the streets of New York after Mayor
Lindsay would not negotiate fair labor rights. The strike went on for 9 days.
“We may pick up garbage, but we are not garbage.”
The term “Sanitation Man” (SanMan) began to be used internally in the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in 1939, the result of efforts by John DeLury, the founder of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association. DeLury, known for the quote above, pushed for Sanitation Men rights during his whole 40-year career in sanitation.7Sanitation Men endured constant injuries with no sick pay, small pensions, no overtime, and terrible hours.8SanMen were seen without as much respect as policemen or firemen. Sanmen often had to work in conjunction with police, though in the 1960s, SanMen did incrementally gain authority to do their jobs properly, like the ability to issue summons for parking violations and blatant littering in the 1960s.9
While occasionally a private organization awarded Sanitation Men with medals or a certificate for a job well done, the laborers who removed tons of waste from the streets every day were largely ignored. In 1961, the last 80 White Wings, street sweepers with their white uniforms, were phased out; the specifically “not white” dark green uniforms allowed passersby to ignore the men cleaning up the streets.10Sanitation efforts became more and more invisible.
The tough, physical, invisible labor of Sanitation Men contrasted with the happy cartoon character Phil D. Basket, the abstract star of another advertising campaign for people to use litter baskets. With such much focus on placing trash in shiny containers, less attention was given to those the people who had to empty the containers. One advertisement literally cut off the face of the SanMen, deeming him anonymous.
Then, the Strike of 1968 on February 2 left New York City in a flood of trash for nine days (see the newsclip below that you’re listening to right now). 10,000 Sanitation Men reminded residents for nine days that cleaning up the city required enormous effort that often dealt with smelly, and unsightly unknowns. Mayor John Lindsay threatened the union, the Local 831 with the National Guard to end the strike, calling the Sanitation Men unlawful. Instead of using force, however, Governor Rockefeller simply took control of negotiations, coming to terms with DSNY without the Mayor’s consent, and meeting the demands for fair pay, pensions and contracts. 110,670 tons of trash were collected by SanMen on February 11, when the strike ended.11
Across the country, sanitation workers went on strike, most famously the African-American Memphis sanitation workers. Though the 1968 strike was certainly not the first (even the White Wings had a strike in 1911) and would not be the last, it became the most notorious: the length and government scandal that came because of it at least made Sanitation Men temporarily visible as labor workers.
♬ News clip, 1968.
Sanitation Men’s association with trash often led to them being blamed for how dirty New York City streets were. Litter, the starkly visible “public enemies” on the streets, multiplied as the 1960s saw the advent of new, easily disposable materials. New materials also changed the technology of collecting: in 1968, the Department of Sanitation began test plastic and paper disposable containers to gather trash from public streets and private residential homes.12. While the municipal government consulted the Society of the Plastics Industry and the National Refuse Sack Council, Sanitation Men themselves rarely were recorded in giving their own opinion on what system would work best. In fact, Sanitation Men, who use equipment and the Department of Purchase, who bought the equipment, were in different municipal departments. Though SanMen were the people who physically interacted with the baskets daily, many other people took it upon themselves to try to design the baskets.
Sanitation workers had to be strong in both mind and body. Workers needed to take vigorous tests about machinery and collection practices, while also maintaining a physically healthy body that could pick up hundreds of sixty- or seventy- pound full litter baskets.13 The very first issue of SWEEP, a publication devoted to New York City Sanitation Men, dedicated a whole article on tips “for your aching back” – constant pain simply was a part of the job. 14The Department of Sanitation, City of New York. (New York City), 22.
By 1965, the number of litter baskets had doubled from 1959 to a total of 40,000 baskets.15 Though DSNY did at first try out a variety of trash cans, the wire netted baskets were cheap to produce and replace. These litter baskets, so helpful to pedestrians, seemed more foe than friend to Sanitation Men.
As campaigns to stop litter continued in New York City and around the country, the wicked ‘litterbug’ was targeted as the reason for the dirty, tumultuous times in urban areas. Phil D. Basket disappeared from New York City, replaced with the “crack-down” on litterbugs that hoped to make the a “destroyed” city attractive and beautiful. Moreover, the dirty, unattractive citizens continued to refer to marginalized groups. Letters to the Department of Sanitation describing “people who live like hogs,” a “nice unpretentious neighborhood has changed and now is what amounts to a slum,” or have “no pride,” or “all nationalities [have] very poor unsanitary habits” urged them to clean up its citizens as well as the streets. When responding to a complaint, the Department often reported internally that the streets were, in fact, in clean condition.16Externally, a SanMen was dispatched to talk to the writer, working to convince her the effort that lay underneath the “dirty” streets.