Date of Thesis

5-9-2017

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

First Advisor

Claire Campbell

Abstract

This thesis will focus on the perceptions of the environment and environmental engineering in Progressive Era New Orleans (defined for the purposes of this thesis as 1885-1930). In short, environmental engineering is the very reason for the existence of New Orleans. However, it is critical to understand that the modern-age drainage and water system, which was first constructed during the Progressive Era, precipitated the transition of environmental engineering into a force of danger and catastrophe for the people of New Orleans. Furthermore, this era has additional significance in that national conceptions of how to control the environment were changing. Together with the eradication of yellow fever in 1905, engineering's effect on New Orleans during this era was transformative in granting the city the capability to expand its urban footprint beyond what it could reach before, placing the city in its modern predicament. Finally, the period outlined (1885-1928) hosts the three distinct types of disasters that have been with New Orleans for most if not the entirety of its history: yellow fever outbreaks, hurricanes, and floods. To that end, this thesis will investigate the yellow fever outbreaks of 1898, 1899, and 1905; the Great Louisiana Hurricane of 1915; and the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. The goal is to discover how disasters impacted constructions and conceptions of the environment and the engineering used to control that environment. Additionally, this period witnessed an amalgam of historic developments that were already familiar to New Orleans in some fashion but that were nonetheless perpetuated by disasters in this period, including increasing federal involvement in environmental engineering, social divisions, and remembrance of past disasters. Lastly, in evaluating environmental engineering's turning point from creating to damaging New Orleans, this thesis seeks to question humanity's resistance and ignorance to the inevitable as well as humanity's ill-begotten quest to achieve "control" over the environment.

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