Smell Ya Later

How 19th-century Americans used their noses to fight for urban change

(Courtesy American Antiquarian Society)
(Courtesy American Antiquarian Society)


Why does New York City smell? Is its smell distinguishable from that of other large cities? Does that smell tell us something about the world that our other senses cannot? Last year we spoke to historian Melanie Kiechle, who has devoted a considerable amount of brain- and nose-power to our long relationship with the scents around us. Her book, Smell Detectives, is an olfactory history of 19th-century urban America, from delightful scents to foul stenches, including those that everyday citizens used to bolster the budding environmental movement.

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Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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