THE URBAN HORSE FACED NEW COMPETITION WITH THE COMING OF THE 20TH CENTURY
By the turn of the century, at least half of the 13,500,000 horses in the United States carried between 10% and 50% draft horse blood. More than 3 million of these were in use in non-farm capacities by 1910. With the continued growth of heavy industry, and increased European immigration, American cities were experiencing unprecedented growth. New interest in public health, rising real estate values, and improvements in electric and gasoline powered alternatives to horse power combined to mark the rapid decline of the horse’s significance in the city.
Within a decade, the horse was replaced in public transportation by motorized taxies, electric streetcars, and subways. Large new gasoline powered trucks had a similar impact on transportation of goods. The new trucks were three times faster (ten miles an hour) than the horse powered drays, took less room to store, and eliminated the problem of manure disposal. One of the last urban uses of the horse to succumb to mechanization was the horse-drawn hearse, which continued to be utilized into the 1930’s.