orange peel

I’m currently working on the history of litter, litter bins, and anti-litter campaigns. Orange peel comes up a lot in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Council bye laws often had specific clauses against the dropping of orange peel in particular, with heavy fines against what was classed as a ‘dangerous substance’. And today I ended up in a rabbit hole of newspaper articles warning about the dangers of orange peel on pavements.

As with other items, it is evident that the rising concern about orange peel relates to the increasing availability and therefore affordability of oranges as a foodstuff, together with the realisation of urban residents about the materiality (hardness, slippiness) of pavements. Before the mid 19th century, only the main streets would have been paved under Improvement Acts, whereas later on, the city streets all became ‘hard’ and slippy rather than just muddy.

death from orange peel
Epworth Messenger, 5 January 1878
Wiltshire Times, 24 March 1945

in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the labouring Poor, litter or ‘refuse’ is specifically identified as orange peel dropped at marketplaces, for which there was a secondary trade by the Irish ‘refuse’ sellers.

mayhew, london labour and labouring poor
Mayhew, London Labour and the Labouring Poor, vol 1, p. 117

see Bob Nicholson’s thread about orange peel in Victorian humour:

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