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Case Study: The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894


The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894 [Stephen Davies, The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894.  The Freeman, September, 2004] manifested the end of multi-millennia evolution of horse-driven transportation.

Nineteenth-century cities depended on thousands of horses for their daily functioning.  All transport, whether of goods or people, was drawn by horses.  London in 1900 had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered.  There were also several thousands buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses.  In addition, there were countless carts, drays, and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world.  Similar figures could be produced for any great city of the time.

The problem of course was that all these horses produced huge amounts of manure.  A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day.  Consequently, the streets of nineteenth-century cities were covered by horse manure.  This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere.  In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of.

The problem did indeed seem intractable.  The larger and richer that cities became, the more horses they needed to function.  The more horses, the more manure.


Fig. 18. The Great Horse Manure Crisis


This crisis was resolved by disruptive innovation. Let’s consider it.


The story of Link Animal-drawn transport accomplishes People and companies use transportation services could be described as follows:

Animals (usually, horses) pull the carts with people and cargo. People and cargo are loaded to cart at the starting point. Cart moves along the road from starting point to destination. At destination, cart stops and waits until people and cargo are unloaded. In this way, people and cargo are moved from starting point to destination. In this way, people and companies use transportation services.


In order to break this Link, one should find the alternative ways to perform each Event.

  1. Cart with horse stays at starting point

    • Cart stays at starting point without horse

  2. Horse pulls cart

    • Another source of energy pulls cart

  3. Horse moves cart along the road

    • Another source of energy moves cart along the road

  4. Cart with horse stays at destination

    • Cart stays at destination without horse


As you could see, ideas ## 2 and 3 hint to replace horse with alternative source of energy. By the end of XIX century, people already used multiple sources of energy: electrical motors, steam machines, gasoline engines and turbines. Wide variety of “horseless carts” were invented, all of them were promising solutions to the Great Horse-Manure Crisis.

When Ford brought pickup trucks to the market. Since then, the mass-use of cars began:

On July 27, 1917, Ford began selling the Model TT with a stretched wheelbase for the commercial market. The Model TT could carry 1 ton of payload and retailed for $600, about $11,500 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. Ford had a hit on its hands and sold 1.3 million of the trucks by 1928.

Others chased the pickup scent. Chevrolet debuted its 490 Light Delivery truck in 1918. And by the time Dodge launched a ¾-ton truck in 1924, the pickup war was on.

“In 1924 the market exploded,” Noble said. “I mean massive.”

This disruptive innovation heralded the end of Great Horse-Manure Crisis. The alternative Intent was accepted: instead of animal-drawn transport, the automotive transport was used to provide people and companies with transportation services.

Case Study: Power Station


The following issue affected development and exploitation of power stations in the USA:


Power station produces electrical energy. For this purpose, fuel is burned, water is boiled, steam flow rotates turbine, and turbine rotates electrical generator. Steam flow is created by drag that occurs in high pipe. Exhaust steam goes through rigorous purification system and then, through the pipe, to atmosphere. As soon as hot steam contacts with cold atmosphere, water starts condensing into aerosol. When sun highlights the cloud of steam and water aerosol, microscopic water droplets bend the light and create the rainbow effect. As a result, under some conditions (position of sun in the sky, direction of wind and direction of glance) the exhaust cloud becomes colored. The most visible color of this cloud is yellow. So, sometimes people in neighboring cities see this cloud becoming yellowish.

With people’s environmental awareness, this color is associated with “environmental unfriendliness” of this exhaust. People complain, and city government imposes additional requirements on purification of exhaust steam.

As a matter of fact, purity of exhaust steam is maximum achievable. Content of harmful chemicals such as sulfur oxides (usually associated with yellow color) is comparable to that in atmosphere. Introduction of additional purification stage increases cost of production of electrical energy (additional equipment, its operations and maintenance). Moreover, this additional purification stage increases aerodynamic drag (resistance) to the steam flow. As a result, production of electrical energy might reduce so that efficiency of power station becomes economically unreasonable.

What could be done in this situation?


Fig. 19. Environmental issues with power station


Solution to this “unsolvable” problem was found in Opportunity III. The story that describes the Link Sunlight renders exhaust steam colored hinders compliance with People assume exhaust steam is harmless is as follows:

Exhaust steam leaves the pipe and goes to atmosphere. Air is cold, and steam starts condensing. Small droplets of water are formed. Wind pushes this cloud of steam and water aerosol and spreads it.

Sunlight hits this cloud. Refraction of white light on the droplets of water causes its decomposition. Different colors are differently directed.

Under some conditions, yellow color is directed toward the nearest city. As a result, cloud of steam and aerosol looks “yellowish,” although its natural color is white. Yellowish color of cloud is associated with some dangerous chemicals, so people perceive this cloud as dangerous.

Let’s consider the ways to prevent the Events representing the seams in this Link:

  1. Air is cold

    • Heat the air near pipe

  2. Steam starts condensing

    • Prevent water condensation

  3. Small droplets of water are formed

    • Form big droplets of water

  4. Cloud is spread by wind

    • Provoke the rain

  5. Sunlight is refracted and decomposed in one direction

    • Prevent refraction of sunlight in one direction

  6. People see yellow component of sunlight

    • Render yellow component of sunlight invisible

  7. People associate yellow color with dangerous chemicals

    • Teach people not to associate yellow color with danger


Here, we could see three feasible solutions: transform the steam and aerosol cloud in the local rain; use big mirrors to multiply directions of sunlight refraction; and highlight the cloud by powerful spotlights.


Power station management decided that the third solution is the most suitable. Such spotlights consume less energy than the losses from additional (useless!) purification stage. Changing the color filters on these spotlights might create a beautiful, spectacular show, and “yellowish” color of cloud becomes invisible.


Opportunity IV | "Mission: Impossible": How to Successfully Accomplish It | Case Study

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