How Snow Removal Has Changed Through History

by | Feb 6, 2015

The sounds the snow plow, the snow blower, and the snow shovel make are so familiar to residents of Michigan and the northern parts of North America that they probably cant imagine people living without these tools. But they did, for most of history. In fact, the way we tackle snow removal today is very different from the way they did it a hundred years ago because the how, where, and through what means is also very different today.
Prior to the widespread use of the automobile, cities and villages didnt worry about clearing snow or salting roads because most people either walked or traveled on horseback or by carriage. Clear pavement wasnt necessary to travel this way. Affluent families traded out their carriages for sleighs, and cities focused their efforts on packing down the snow, rather than getting rid of it. Instead of a plow, municipal workers called snow wardens navigated huge snow rollers through the streets.
Of course, snow rollers weren’t in universal use, and they were too large to be useful for clearing the alley ways and sidewalks most people traveled. Often, following a large storm, city dwellers collectively shoveled snow (or paid people) to clear the streets. As North American cities became more populated, an open thoroughfare became critical because urban dwellers needed constant access to supplies to survive the winter: the delivery of food, wood, and coal were critical. If these things ran out, people died. At the edge of civilization, the pioneers were often unprepared to face the sheer amount of snow and the bitter cold of the winters on this continent.
As motorized vehicles were introduced, so were new ways of clearing roads and tracks. The first patents for snow plows were issued in the 1840s, but their general use in cities came decades later. The rotary snow plow – more or less the snow blower design we know today – was invented as a way to clear train tracks in the Canadian wilderness. More commonly used snow plows of the time were ineffective in this environment.
When automobiles became the general mode of travel, snow removal changed again because, unlike skis or sleighs, cars need traction to safely operate them. This meant more efforts to clear roads down to the pavement, including the use of salt and salt spreaders. Plows were now mounted on tractors, cars, and trucks, and cities now needed to plow out side streets as well as the main traffic arteries. They also created parking and other ordinances to ensure that cars would not be abandoned after a blizzard and snowplowing could be carried out.
All in all, over roughly one hundred years people completely changed their strategies for surviving winter. Far more snow must be moved and melted today for cars to navigate because we depend so much on our vehicles to go to work, to school, to the store, or practically anywhere. Winter is still a big job, but in a very different way.
In addition to offering full landscaping and lawn care maintenance services, PROCARE provides a full line of snow and ice removal services. Winter in Michigan is challenging, so let our professionals make it easier by taking the work and worry of shoveling and salting off your shoulders.  Contact Dirk at PROCARE today.