Artifacts from a Filthier Age

Navigating the city’s streets in the 1800s was treacherous business. Apart from dodging carriages and horse-drawn trolleys, Philadelphians had to deal with a daily onslaught of mud and manure. To get rid of the muck before treading on finely finished floors, men and women used cast- or wrought- iron boot scrapers. Placed at the doorstep of nearly every house, boot scrapers were often finely crafted by expert artisans. Here’s a selection of the hundreds that survive in Center City.

About the author

Kevin McMahon recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an M.S. in Historic Preservation and now works as an associate at Powers & Company, historic preservation consultants. He’s interested in architecture, development and the infinite layers, physical and historical, that Philadelphia contains.



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