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By Russell Banks

With the USA ever less than worldwide scrutiny, Russell Banks contemplates the questions of our origins, values, heroes, conflicts, and contradictions. He writes with conversational ease and emotional perception, drawing on modern politics, literature, movie, and his wisdom of yankee heritage.

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The annual income of the works was $12,163, while the expenditures The River, the Aqueduct, and the Lake 21 were $29,702. All of the 28-plus miles of wooden pipe that had been laid would have to be replaced, and there were only 2,127 paying customers in this city of well over 50,000 people.  The best thing one could say about the system was that it did seem to improve the health and fire safety of Philadelphians. Although yellow fever returned several times in the early years of the nineteenth century, the city appeared to be less prone than it had been to severe attacks by this and other diseases.

Quincy saw the city’s needs for water as going well beyond fighting fire. ” This meant that the water must be “capable of being introduced into every house in the city” and acceptably “soft,” that is, low enough in mineral content to dissolve soap and to cook vegetables satisfactorily. ” Quincy here cited a letter from the eminent physician and Harvard Medical School professor John Collins Warren, who was one of the founders of Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery (which in 1828 became the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal and, a century after that, the New England Journal of Medicine).

The paper hoped that the state legislature would soon approve a plan to empower Chicago to build a public system, one worthy of its ambitions, which were as limitless as the lake. ” This view enjoyed much influential support. In April 1850 a group of citizens, similar to those who had campaigned for a public water supply in Philadelphia and Boston, determined to do likewise in Chicago.  As in Philadelphia, if not in Boston, results followed rapidly. The state incorporated the public Chicago City Hydraulic Company on February 15, 1851.

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