In this day and age of pest control companies, pesticides for sale, and well built houses, it’s hard to imagine the pests that our forefathers had to put up with. Our prairie foremothers had bugs, snakes and mice falling from the ceiling of their soddies. Nowadays we aren’t so used to seeing things like that. In fact, many of us panic at the sight of creepy crawlies, whether they be of the buggy type like centipedes, the no legged type like snakes, or the four-legged type. . .like rats.
Recently I acquired two Woman’s World magazines, one from September, 1922 and one from July, 1926. Both had an ad for products to get rid of rats.
That struck me weird because I’ve never seen ads like that in present day women’s magazines. That’s probably because we’ve become relatively successful at keeping the pest population at bay in the United States. Notice I said, “at bay,” not controlled or eliminated. I think the recent upsurge in bedbugs is a good example that we aren’t really in control (a topic I’d like to address in a future blog).
But back to the rats. . .they’ve played a significant role in the history of man, for instance, in spreading the Black Death through another pest--fleas.
I just finished a book about the first epidemic of bubonic plague (spread by fleas via host rats) here in the continental United State. It makes for fascinating reading and tells not just the history of the plague, but how it impacted the path of medicine.
Now that I think about it, given the history of plague and rats (not to mention ticks and Lyme disease, brown recluse spiders and necrosis, or snake bites and death), perhaps screaming at the sight of a pest and running away isn’t such a bad idea.
Here's the Amazon link for the book:
Here is an article about the San Francisco plague: