Boston (Mass.). School Committee.

Reports and other documents relating to the ventilation of the school houses of the city of Boston online

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Online LibraryBoston (Mass.). School CommitteeReports and other documents relating to the ventilation of the school houses of the city of Boston → online text (page 1 of 3)
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^„ 1830. -^^





At a meeting of the School Committee, December 9, 1847,
the Committee on Ventilation made their second and final Re-
port, which was ordered to be printed.

At a subsequent meeting the following Order was passed :


" In School Committee, December 29, 1847.

" Ordered, That the Committee on Ventilation, be instructed to
append to their late Report on Ventilation, such parts of their
previous Reports on the same subject, and such special directions
to the Masters, as they may think advantageous.
"A true copy.

"Attest, S. F. McCleart, Secretary."

In February, 1846, a Sub-Committee of the School Commit-
tee, consisting of Messrs. Clark, Loring, and Brooks, was appoint-
ed, in the words of the Order, " to consider the subject of Ventila-
tion of the School houses under the care of this Board, and to
Report at a future meeting, some method of remedying the very
defective manner in which it is at present accomplished.

"And said Committee are authorized to ventilate, as a matter of
experiment, any two School houses in such manner as they may
deem expedient."

In December of the same year, (1846), this Committee made a
Report, containing their views upon the subject, and the result of
their investigations of the condition of the School houses, &c., from
which the following passages, after undergoing some necessary
revision, have been extracted.

It is believed, that these Reports, with their accompanying doc-
uments, now contain information upon all points necessary to be
understood, in order to ventilate any School house in a perfectly
satisfactory manner.

Boston, December, 1847.

Men, and women, und liUle children, husband. anC 1
mdfalever^jy^, „„„, a„d ,„oO.«ri, were h.nped uboui ih*
>nderry, o.Hoor of the calun in disorder, some wiih then


^ Uij ! . i ' : i;.L^ :. i)ucainber,adreadral

loiik pluctj UQ board llic aleemer Londoi

her p!i*«ag« from Sligo to Liverpool, by wliich op clothes torn from iheir backs in lailers, soniB
wards of seventy person., men,, and chil 'heir bands and face, laceriiled. f""'° 7/*"/;'"''
, . .V, ■ I «r .- 't\ features tro.iden into u muni.i.y by the jron-shod

drtn.lon iheir lives l-y^^ffocjlion. Ihc particu |«^^^'°;^^^^ , ^^ their fellow-sufferers; here a father
lar. are thui related : /"%> ^^ ^ lomk^d in the armrt of hi. daughter; ihero a sisie-

"It appears that about four o'clook on the cve-<.|ineini? la the eorpso of her brother, their counte-
ning of the 1st Dccenibur, the steamboat London- n,npt.g black and distorted with the convulsions
icrry left the barbur of Sligo. There were on board produced by suffocation.

hor Ibreo cabin passengers, a numt)er of ehoep ami 'ii,e followMi(i; is a description of the scene which
ox.n, and about 150 emigrants. The vt-ssul was met the eye of th»i mats whfn a sieeras* passenger
crossing over to ihis port, whence the majority oi ^^(,o had, ui last, forced liis way out, coiiimouicaled
the untortunato passengers intended to proceed m- jq him the terrible intelligence :
einigraiiis to Ain<rica. Towards nightlull a heavy 'The mate instantly became alarmed, and ob-
gale cume on, and at last blew with so much vio- tainin" a lantern, went down to render aesistance
lence, that bhortly afier midnigbt, or rather towarda jjuch "however, was tha foul state of the air in the
one o'clock on iiiornin< -■ ■ ■
cleared of all except the seamen

iengers, perhaps one hundred and fifty in number, guished. At length, on the tarpaulin com-
wcie crowded into the (ore cabin, men, women and pletely removed, and a free access of air admitted,
<:hildren, all wore driven below —driven, we say, ihe real nature of the catastrophe exhibited itself —
because several struggled against those who forceu There lay, in heaps, the living, the dying, and the
them down the companion ladder. j^j^j one frightful mass of mingled agony and d'-aih.

After some ditliculty, however, many remonstran- ji spectacle enough to appal the stoutest heart. Men,
ces, and much opposition, the poor emigrants were «yomen, and children were hpddled together, bUck-
crammod into the narrow compass oftho fore-cabin, ^ned with sulTocation, distorted by convuleions,
it coQipariment little moro than eighteen feet long bruised and bleeding from the desperate straggle for
hy eleven feet wide, and seven (eet high. The existence which preceded the moinent when ex-

ing, the decks were cabin, thnt the light was immediately extinguished
en. The steerage pas- a second was obtained, and ii, too, was extin

pace was capable only of accomiiiodaling about for-
ly passenger!), and here were nearly one hundred
-ind bfiy of both sexes, huddled together indiscrimi-
nately, the old and the young, the robust and the
sickly, the adult and the infant. Meanwhile, the
sea was running hi^h in the' channel, so ^hat tbt-
waves repeatedly broke over the steamer. Then ii
was that, through the negligence of ihorO who wen
responsible for the lives ul the people on boaid. a
measure of momentary convenience waa adopted
which led to a catastrophe the like of which Ims on-
ly occurred before in the notorious prison of Culcut
la. 'l"he companion, the only aperluru by which
the fore-cabin received ventilation, was closed, ami
)ver the companion was nailed down a piece of tar-

1 his was at about midnight between Friday and
r^atarday. The result proved to be only such as*
coiiiiiiun sense would mil every one was inevitable
The dizzinetis and qualms of aea-sickness were verN
«oon forgotten in unendurable sensations of sufibca-
tion. ElFirts were made to force a way out of the
confinement: they were found to be unavailing
^houts were raised to attract attention; they whip
drowned in the roaring noise of the storm. And
then, according to the description of the few cur
vivors, ensuiid a npnctacle sucti as sets the imagina-
tion of evi;n the most moibul at defiance. The
.iieamer drove bravely through the tempest, whil.
ilio.e who directed her remained wholly unconscious-
ol the frishiful conllint for life and death wllkh was
ihen raging in her vtiry entrails.

The trampling and Ix-aiii g sounds within the cab-
in were rendered inaudible by the throbbing ol ih)
pistons, and the shrieks and ^rouiis of ihe sullererk
(inly died away with the gale towards moriiin{i
Not until ilifu were tlin seamen awatn of the Irage
dy which had burn enacted under their feet. Oui
of the one hundred and tifly passengers who had
been driven down the companinn-lidder a few hi>ur>-
before, seventy-two were found lo have perished !

blasted nature resigned the strife. After some-time
',he living were separated from the dead, and it was
'.hen found thtt the latter amounted lo nearly one-
"lalf of the entire number.'

■ Captain Johnstone appears at length to have been
iiade aware that he had become a main actor in a
scene of the most horrible calamity. But he was
uncertain what to do. He put hi* steamer into
Lough Foyle. but it was twelve hours before he
could make np his mind to paaa up to the quay at

\ The coroner's jary have found Alexander John-
Itone, captain, Richard Hughes, first mate, and
Ninian Crawford, second mate of the Londonderry,
fcuiliy of maii^laujihter, and have expressed in the
stronaBSt terms their abhorrence of the inhuman
conductor the other seamen oa board, throughout
this unhappy transaction."

The steamship America Capt. Loitch, from Wew
York, Nov. 22d, arrived in the Mersey afternoon ol
4ih in'st., having made the passage in about 12 days.
I The steamship Acadia, Capt. Stene, arrived at Liv-
erpool 12ih A. M., in les. than thirteen days from
! Boston. The steamship Washingion, Capt. John-
; ston from Now York, 20ih ult, arrived at Southamp-
ton on the 5ih inst.

The steamship Herman, Capt. Crablree, sailec
I from tjouthampton. on the I2ib December, for New
Vortf wah «!».«. - • (jnd a large freight list.



Death from Asthra'cite Coal Gas. AW'
old man named Ttiomas Fitzpairick died yester .
day at his residence in 7lh street below Wharton,
from the effects of Anthracite Coal ?as inhaled
hy him during Saturday night. His son was
likewise nffected hy it, but is in a fair way of re-
covery. It seems that on Saturday ni<!;ht, before
5oin!? 10 bed, they made up a fire and turned the
damper o( the stove, so thai in a short lime
(hereafter, the fitincs must have spread through
their apartment and rendered thein unconscious.
On Sunday about ten o'clock, they were d srover-
ed almost lifeless. Dr T. S. Reed was called in
the afternoon to see the suflcrers, but it was too
\nv<^ »n do :iny eaod in the case of the father.
^phUa^'i^' - . „Jr-^?,.te,Jan23d. , ^^A

"- - Ti„.,„„„,c' The

ch /^^/

Important Discovery in Ventilation.
The London Literary Gazette announces a verj
impQriani discovery in ventilation. The inventor,
Dr Ghowne, has taken out a patent for it. It is
based upon a principle of the syphon, hitherto
unnoticed. It is found that air rushes into the
short leg of the syphon, and out at the long, in-
cessanilv. The application of this principle, to
the purp'oses of ventilation, will suggest them-
selves to every mind. The discovery is one of
great importance, without doubt. Every room,
connected with a chimney, can have an appara-
tus constituting the short leg of the syphon, leav-
ing the chimney ior the long leg.



The Committee, to whom the subject of Ventilation
was referred, ask leave to


That, during the early part of the present year,
they have visited, and carefully examined, all the
School houses under the care of this Board, in obe-
dience to the Order herewith prefixed.

Your Committee do not deem it advisable or ne-
cessary, to enter upon the discussion or description
of the various systems of ventilation which have been
proposed from time to time, or to consider their
comparative merits. Many of them, no doubt, are
excellent ; and, if properly arranged, must be effi-
cient. But we believe, that the distinguishing ex-
cellence of any method must consist in, and be in
exact ratio to, its adaptedness to meet the peculiar
requirements of each case to which it is applied.
Nor do we think it possible for any plan to succeed,
which does not include the architecture and situa-
tion of the structure to be ventilated, and the num-
ber and necessities of those who are to occupy it.
Nevertheless, a suitable attention to the laws of life,


and of the physical agents which are concerned with
it, will always ensure ready indications of the best
course of procedure, and, at the same time, furnish
a basis whereon to found it, which will be sufficient-
ly firm and comprehensive. Your Committee, there-
fore, desire to call the attention of this Board to the
consideration of such general and well-established
Physiological and Philosophical principles, as have a
distinct and intimate relation to the subject of this
Report, or may be useful in its elucidation.

In doing this, there are two things of which they
hope to satisfy the Board.

First. The necessity of a system of Ventilation,
which shall furnish, for all the pupils in the Public
Schools of Boston, at all times, an abundant supply
of an atmosphere entirely adapted, in its purity and
temperature, to the purposes of respiration.

Secojidlij. The entire failure of the measures here'
tofore adopted to accomplish this desirable end.

The function of Respiration is that process, by
whose agency and constant operation, the atmos-
pheric air is admitted to the internal surface of the
lungs, for the purpose of effecting certain changes in
the blood which are as essential to the continuance
of life, as to maintain the integrity of the bodily or-
gans. During this process, the air is constantly los-
ing its oxygen, which is carried into the circulation,
while, at the same time, it is becoming overcharged
with tlie carbonic acid gas, which is continually
thrown off from the lungs by respiration. This effete
and deadly jjoison spreads itself rapidly into all parts
of the room.

" M. Lassaigne has shown, by a series of inves-
tigations, that, contrary to a common opinion, the air
in a room which has served for respiration without


being renewed, contains carbonic acid alike in every
part, above as well as below ; the difference in pro-
portion is but slight ; and where appreciable, there
is some reason to believe that the carbonic acid is in
greater quantity in the upper parts of the room. These
experiments establish the very important fact, that
all the air of a room must be changed in order to
restore its purity."*

LeBlanc — who examined many public and private
buildings, in France and elsewhere — speaking of the
Chamber of Deputies, where sixty-four cubic feet of
fresh air per minute were allowed to each individual,
states, that of 10,000 parts escaping by the ventila-
tor, twenty-five were carbonic acid ; while the quan-
tity of this gas ordinarily present in the atmosphere
is but TfftoT).

Dr. Wyman makes the following remarks on this
point : " Although carbonic acid is a much heavier
gas than atmospheric air, it does not, from this
cause, fall to the floor, but is equally diffused through
the room. If the gas is formed on the floor, with-
out change of temperature, this diffusion may not
take place rapidly. In the celebrated Grotto del
Cane, carbonic acid escapes from the floor, and rises
to a certain height, which is pretty well defined to
the sight on the walls ; below this line, a dog is des-
troyed, as if in water ; above it, he is not affected.
An analysis of the air above and below a brazier has
been made, and it was found equally contaminated,
— the former containing 4.65 per cent., and the lat-
ter 4.5 per cent, of carbonic acid.

" From the experiments of M. Devergie, who has
devoted much attention to the poisonous effects of

* Silliman's Journal, for September, 1846.


these gases, it appears, that the heat disengaged
from the comlnistion of charcoal, produces an equa-
ble mixture at all elevations in tlie apartment ; and
this state of things continues as long as the room
remains warm ; but after twelve hours or more, the
carbonic acid sinks, and while that near the ceiling
contains only a seventy-eighth, that near the floor
contains nearly four times as much, or a nineteenth."*

If further proof be needed to establish this posi-
tion, we have other testimony. It is known that a
considerable quantity of vapor is discharged from the
lungs during respiration. With regard to this, Mr.
Tredgold says : " If the air did not contain this mix-
ture of vapor, it would not rise when expelled ; and
we have to admire one of those simple and beautiful
arrangements, by which our all-wise Creator has pro-
vided against the repeated inhalation of the same air ;
for a mixture of azote, carbonic acid gas, and vapor,
at the temperature it is ejected, is much lighter than
common air even at the same temperature. Hence,
it rises with such velocity, that it is entirely removed
from us before it becomes diffused in the atmos-
phere. But as all gaseous bodies and vapors inti-
mately mix when suffered to remain in contact, we
see how important it is that ventilation shoidd be
continual ; that the noxious gases should be expel-
led as soon as generated ; and that the ventilation
should be from the upper part of a room."t

If, to the foul effluvia ejected from the lungs, and
accumulating in an apartment as badly ventilated
as one of our School rooms, be added the fouler mat-
ter thrown into the air from the insensible perspira-
tion of so many individuals, many of whom are of

" Prncticnl Treatise on Ventilation, p. 77.

f Tredgold on Warming and Ventilating Buildings, p. 70.


uncleanly habits in person and apparel, it is appa-
rent, that, in a very limited period of time, the air
in a perfectly close room would become so entirely
unfit for respiration, that, to all who were exposed
to its influence, submersion in water could not be
more certainly fatal.

The terrible effects of continued exposure to car-
bonic acid gas in a concentrated form, have been
graphically described by Howard, in his account
of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Of one hundred
and forty-six persons, shut up in this place, for only
ten hours, without any other means of ventilation
than one small opening, but twenty-six were found
alive, when it came to be opened ; and most of these
suffered afterwards from malignant fevers.

The fainting of feeble persons in crowded assem-
blies, and the asphyxia so often produced in those
who descend into deep wells without suitable pre-
caution, are familiar examples of the same noxious
effects of this poison.

It has been usually estimated, that every individ-
ual, by respiration, and the various exhalations from
the body, consumes or renders unfit for use, at least
from four to five cubic feet of air per minute. This
is probably a low estimate ; but authors of good re-
pute differ considerably on this point. Mr. Tred-
gold's remarks, in this connection, are interesting
and pertinent. " The Physiological Chemists," says
he, " have placed in our hands a more accurate
means of measuring the deterioration of air in dwell-
ing-rooms, than by the best eudiometer; for they
have shown, by repeated experiments on respiration,
that a man consumes about thirty-two cubic inches
of oxygen in a minute, which is replaced by an equal
bulk of carbonic acid from the lungs. Now, the


quantity of oxy«?cn in atmospheric air is about one
fifth ; hence it will be found, that the quantity ren-
dered unfit for supporting cither combustion or ani-
mal life, by one man, in one minute, is nearly one
hundred and sixty cubic inches, by respiration only.
But a man makes twenty resj)irations in a minute^
and draws in and expels forty inches of air at each
respiration ; consequently, the total quantity con-
taminated in one minute, by passing through the
lungs, is eight hundred cubic inches."* The other
sources of impurity, which should be considered, will
increase the estimate to the amount above stated.
The amount of vapor discharged from the lungs, and
thus added to the impurities of the air, is said to ex-
ceed six grains per minute. It has also been shown,
that air which has been some time in contact with
the skin, becomes almost entirely converted into car-
bonic acid.t

In estimating the amount of fresli air to be supplied
we ought not merely to look at what the system will
tolerate, but that amount which will sustain the high-
est state of health for the longest time. Dr. Reid
recommends at least ten cubic feet per minute, as a
suitable average supply for each individual ; and
states that his estimate is the result of an " extreme
variety of experiments, made on hundreds of diff"er-
ent constitutions, supplied one by one with given
amounts of air, and also in numerous assemblies and
meetings, where there were means for estimating the
quantity of air with which they were provided." J

These calculations refer to adults ; but the greater
delicacy of the organization of children, and their
feebler ability to resist the action of deleterious agents,

* Treilgold on W'urniing and Veiililaling Buildings, p. GO.
' Cniikshanka makes it twenty-three grains per minute.
\ Illustrationa of Verjtilatjon, p 175


together with their greater rapidity of respiration, de-
mand for them at least an equal supply. Proceeding
upon this basis, and multiplying the amount required
per minute, by the minutes of a school session of three
hours, we have eighteen hundred cubic feet for each
pupil, and for two hundred and fifty pupils — the
average maximum attendance in one of our large
school rooms, — 450,000 cubic feet, as the requisite
quantity for each half-day. The rooms contain about
22,500 cubic feet only : so that a volume of air, equal
to the whole cubic contents of each room, should be
supplied and removed, in some way, ten times every /v^*-*^^ .
three hours, in order to sustain the air in them at
a point which is perfectly healthy and agreeable.
For such a purpose, the present means are so entirely
inadequate, that it was found that the air of a room
became tainted in ten or fifteen minutes. In ordi-
nary cases, four per cent, of the air expelled from
the lungs is carbonic acid. The presence of five or
six per cent, will extinguish a lamp, and with diffi-
culty support life. It is therefore certain, that the
air would become deprived of all its best properties
in one school session.

The very earliest impressions received by your
Committee, in their visits to the school houses, satisf
fied them of their lamentable condition in regard td)
ventilation. In some of them, they found the air so
bad, that it could be perceived before reaching the
school rooms, even in the open entries ; for we no-
ticed that the clothes and hair of the children who
passed us on the stairs were perceptibly impregnated
with the foetid poison. And these circumstances ex-
isted in houses, whose open windows testified, that
the Masters had endeavored to improve the atmos- .
phere by all the means placed at their disposal. To this


custom, — that of openiiui windows in school hours^ —
the Instructers are compelled to resort for relief; this
expedient being certainly the lesser of two very great
evils. Yet this dangerous and injurious practice
only mitigates the e^■ils of bad air, by creating others.
It produces colds and inflammatory complaints, and
the air still remains impure, offensive, and highly
deleterious ; sufficiently so, to affect the delicate or-
ganization of childhood, to blight its elasticity, and
destroy that healthful physical action, on which de-
pends the vigor of maturer years.

We have referred to some of the more violent and
sudden effects of exposure to air highly charged with
these noxious gases. There are others, which, al-
though more remote and hidden, are not therefore of
less importance. The grave consequences of long-
continued exposure to an atmosphere but a little be-
low the standard of natural purity, although not im-
mediately incompatible with life, can hardly be over-
stated. These effects are often so insidious in their
approach, as scarcely to attract notice ; it is therefore,
the more necessary to provide against them in ad-

Children, who are confined in the atmosphere of
these schools, soon lose the ruddy and cheerful com-
plexions of perfect health which belong to youth,
and acquire the sallow and depressed countenances
which might reasonably be expected in over-worked
factory operatives, or the tenants of apartments
which are never blest by the cheeiful sun or the re-
iving air.

Although the atmosphere in the different school
houst's varied very much in particular cases, either
owing to the time of the visits, or from the amount
of attention and intelligence of the ^Masters, vet in


none of them was it at all satisfactory ; not one of
them was furnished with any useful or systematic
means of ventilation.

All of the rooms are provided with registers, in or
near the ceiling, ostensibly for the purpose of dis-
charging the foul air, but which are entirely useless.
The openings through the roof into the open air,
where they exist, are so small, as to be quite inade-
quate to relieve the attics ; so that the bad air must
accumulate there, and, after becoming condensed, be
gradually forced back again, to be breathed over by
the same lungs which have already rejected it. The
condition of the apartments, after undergoing a repe-
tition of such a process, for any length of time, can
easily be imagined.*

It may be deemed a matter of surprise, that the
subject of ventilating our school rooms has not long
ago received the consideration necessary to remedy,
or even to have prevented altogether, the evils of
which we at present complain. But these evils have

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Online LibraryBoston (Mass.). School CommitteeReports and other documents relating to the ventilation of the school houses of the city of Boston → online text (page 1 of 3)