Page images


The total amount of obligations issued between May 1, 1822, and December 31, 1894, exclusive of debts assumed on annexations, renewals of matured loans, and notes issued in anticipation of taxes and paid off within the fiscal year, has been $110,715,431.18.

Cochituate Water-Works
Mystic Water-Works

Public Lands, etc., including Church-st.
district and similar improvements


Street Improvements

Laying Out and Construction of Highways,



Public Buildings
Public Grounds



Mount Hope Cemetery


War Expenses
Rapid Transit

Department Deficiencies.


[ocr errors]

$20,146,711 11 222,000 00

6,464,302 81

8,947,860 00

30,065,477 68 1,500,000 00

2,037,700 00

10,448,000 00

19,730,001 83

504,700 00

709,335 25

720,000 00

42,000 00

8,000 00

2,013,850 00

60,000 00 3,284,133 53 3,813,358 97


$110,715,431 18

SECTION 9. General Review of the City Debt. At the incorporation of the city in 1822 there was no public debt except the sum of $100,000 issued on account of the prisons and court house recently erected by the town of Boston. During the next thirty years there was a gradual increase of indebtedness, which by 1850 had arisen to $5,000,000. By 1860 it was $7,500,000. At the close of the war it was about $9,000,000, and remained at about that figure until 1870. During the next seven years a great increase took place; the net debt on December 31, 1869, having been $9,085,686.36, while on December 31, 1876, it was $28,




This increase of over nineteen million dollars was due partly to the annexation of the surrounding towns, but principally to the extraordinary expenditures for street widenings, over twenty-two million dollars having been spent for that purpose between 1868 and 1875. The Legislature of 18751 restricted the amount of indebtedness that the city could incur to three per cent. of the last valuation; and the ten years between 1876 and 1886 was a period of reduction, the net debt having fallen by December 31, 1885, to $24,700,014.29. In 1885 the Legislature (St. 1885, chap. 178) interposed another barrier by limiting the debt that might be incurred, except for water supply, to two per cent. of the average valuations of the preceding five years, less abatements to December 31 preceding. At about this time, however, certain undertakings involving a great outlay were begun, under special acts authorizing loans outside the debt limit. The cost of the new court house and the new public library, as also most of the money spent upon the parks, has been met by loans issued during the past ten years outside the debt limit; and the debt has in consequence risen from about twenty-five million dollars in 1885 to about thirty-six and a half millions in 1895.2

With the completion of these three undertakings, — the court house, the public library, and the parks, which together have involved the issue since May 1, 1885, of loans amounting to $14,079,000, there is no reason why we should not again enter upon a period of reduction, if it were not for the contemplated construction of the subway. This enter prise, if carried out, will preclude all possibility of reducing the debt during the next few years; but apart from the loans for the subway, which ought to be self-supporting, the debt of the city should be less in 1900 than 1895.

There has been an increase in the city debt of nearly $12,000,000 in ten years; but if we take a longer period,

St. 1875, ch. 209. Water debts are excluded from the computation.

The loans authorized by the Legislature outside the debt limit of 1885 amount to $24,406,000, of which $14,681,000 have been issued. See Appendix, Table 22.


say, twenty years, we find that the increase has been but $8,000,000; that the ratio of increase has been less than the rate of increase in population; and that the debt is less per capita to-day than twenty years ago.1

There would seem, therefore, upon the whole, to be cause for congratulation rather than alarm in the fluctuations of the city debt during the past twenty years; and if the debt is still larger than that of most cities, estimated per capita, it should be remembered that the cost of rendering this locality fit for the habitation of great numbers of people has necessarily been more than if Boston had, like other places, been favored with natural advantages for the inexpensive acquisition of drainage facilities, water supply, and broad thoroughfares for travel.

The credit of the city never stood higher than at present, the four per cent. loans issued in November, 1894, having been placed at a lower rate of interest to the purchaser than ever before. The premium realized was 13.55 per cent. for thirtyyear bonds, a figure equivalent to a net rate of 32 per cent., which is less than the interest paid on any other loan of equal size ever offered by the city to the public.


Taking the net debt as it stood December 31, 1874, — namely, $27,812,935.23, and the population as given by the State census of 1875, we have a per capita debt of $81.34; while on the assumption that there are now 500,000 people in the city, the debt per capita, December 31, 1894. was only $72.98.

2 The figures given in this paper are brought down to December 31, 1894, unless otherwise stated. Between that date and to-day (January 5, 1895), the million-dollar park loan authorized by the Legislature of 1894, to be issued on or subsequent to January 1, 1895, has been negotiated on a basis of 3.28 per cent. A loan order has also passed the City Council for $177,000, divided as follows:

New school-house, Ward 15, in vicinity of Boston and Harvest streets
Primary school-house, North and West Ends


Cudworth-street School-house, East Boston, additional land in rear of
New school-house, Aberdeen District

[merged small][ocr errors]










All of the items in this order have this day been approved, except that of $5,000 for a new ward-room in Ward 22. As the ward lines are to be changed this year, it would seem best to postpone all further expenditure for ward-rooms until the city is redistricted.





Believing that the first business of a great city was to protect the health of its inhabitants, I have deemed it my duty to pay special attention to the possibility of improving its sanitary condition.


The death rate of the city of Boston, due to preventable causes, has shown a marked decrease during the past twenty years, the average percentage of deaths from these causes during the last ten years having been 18.45 per cent. of the total number of deaths, while during the ten years next preceding the percentage was 26.78, and the city can no longer be officially described as one of the most unhealthy of large cities; "1 but it is nevertheless a fact that the percentage of deaths in this city from preventable causes is still greater than in London, Paris, and some other cities, and therefore greater than it should be.2 As the cause of the reduction in the relative mortality from preventable causes during the past twenty years could fairly be assigned to the improvements in drainage and sewage disposal effected during that period, so I found it to be the opinion of the health experts of the city that a still further reduction could be effected through the action of the public authorities, and the expenditure of public money; and it was in particular the opinion of the Board of Health that although the percentage of deaths from diphtheria, scarlet fever, and other zymotic diseases was lower in Boston than in any other large city in this country, the excessive

1 See inaugural address of Mayor Prince, 1877.

2 The percentage of deaths in this city, due to preventable causes, during the past ten years has been 18.45 per cent. of the total number of deaths. The figure for 1893 was 17.43 per cent. The average during the past ten years in London has been 17.2 per cent.; in Paris, 17 per cent.; in New York, 23 per cent.; and in four other large American cities, about 20 per cent.


[blocks in formation]

rate in this city as compared with London and Paris was due to the superior hospital accommodations of the latter cities for the isolation and treatment of contagious diseases.

SECTION 1. Organization. The general powers of the city relating to the public health, vested in the City Council by the general laws of the Commonwealth, by the charters of 1822 and 1854, and by various special laws, were in 1872 transferred by the City Council to a Board of Health.1

This Board has charge, by virtue of the city ordinances,2 of the quarantine, the small-pox hospital, the public bathhouses, and the public cemeteries, except Mount Hope Cemetery. It also attends to the abatement of nuisances, to the licensing of undertakers, to the authorization of stables, and to many other less important matters. Its chief function is to prevent the introduction and spread of contagious diseases, and for this purpose maintains a large corps of physicians and inspectors. Public vaccination is furnished when necessary, and a system of medical inspection of the public schools has recently been established.3 The Board has also been endowed by special statutes with special powers over certain kinds of nuisances, such as defective plumbing, obnoxious vaults, stagnant flats, etc.

Acute diseases (other than small-pox and cholera) and surgical cases are treated in the City Hospital, an institution established in 1861, and governed by a board of five trustees, constituting a corporation known as The Boston City Hospital. This board has charge of the City Hospital on Harrison avenue, and of the Convalescent Home in Dorchester.

[ocr errors]

The Inspector of Milk and Vinegar and the Inspector of Provisions are officers appointed to discharge the duties imposed upon the city by the statutes relating to the sale of milk, vinegar, and provisions.a

The Superintendent of Streets has charge of all matters

3 November 1, 1891.

* P.S., ch. 57, § 1, ch. 58, § 1, and ch. 60, § 71.

Sce Stat. 1821, chap. 110, sect. 17; Stat. 1854, chap. 448, sect. 40; and the Ordinance of December 2, 1872. For a short time at the commencement of the City Government a Board of Health existed, but it was abolished in 1824.

2 Rev. Ord. of 1892, chap. 15.

« PreviousContinue »