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Here’s How Mainers Removed Snow in the Early 1900s

Plow trucks, dump trucks, snow blowers, front loaders, backhoes… We’ve got a large arsenal of snow removal vehicles and machinery at our disposal these days. We’re also lucky to have the army of public works officials who work around the clock to get rid of the massive piles of snow after a big storm.

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the snow removal game wasn’t the same. Plows were man or horse-powered.

Plow Built by L.F. Whittier

Maine Memory Network says:

This horse pulled wood snow plow would cut two grooves in the snow and leave a raised cone in the center for the horse to walk on. The seat in front was for the teamster while a second man operated the levers and wheels in back. The levers operated the wings and the wheels operated the blade that cut 6″ – 8″ deep grooves for sleigh runners. When the spring came the roads became useless for vehicles and the only way to travel was by horseback.

The preferred method for working on snow covered streets was actually a snow roller.

The Maine Memory Network says:

A snow roller was an improvement over a snowplow because it packed down the snow on the roads to make a wide, hard, smooth surface. In a snow storm, banks made from plowing a road trapped the blowing snow and the road would drift in. The road roller did not make large snow banks. Rolled roads also were wider than plowed ones, allowing cars to more easily pass one another and did not confine teams of horses or upset sleighs, pungs or sleds.

Castle Hill’s Snow Roller

When the rolled snow became hard-pack ice, and ice lever was necessary to break up and remove the slippery terrain.

Portland’s Ice Lever

Maine Memory Network says:

Public Works employees using ice lever to break up and carry off ice at Mellen Street near the intersection with Grant Street in Portland.

I guess we’re lucky to have big machinery to handle our snow today. Can you imagine what it would be like to drive on roads that were cleared with a snow roller?

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