Gilded Age New York Podcasts

The Man Who Saved the Horses: Henry Bergh’s Fight for Animal Rights

PODCAST “Men will be just to men when they are kind to animals.” – Henry Bergh

Today’s show is all about animals in 19th-century New York City. Of course, animals were an incredibly common sight on the streets, market halls, and factories during the Gilded Age, and many of us probably have a quaint image of horse-drawn carriages.

But how often do we think about the actual work that those horses put in every day?

The stress of pulling those private carriages — or, much worse, pulling street trolleys, often overloaded with New Yorkers trying to get to work or home?

Work Horse parade, New York City: horse and delivery wagon, 1908. Courtesy Library of Congress

In the book A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement, author Ernest Freeberg (who joins Tom on this week’s show) tells the story of these animals — and of their protector Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

He ran the organization from the 1860s to the 1880s, and was a celebrity in his day — widely covered, and widely mocked for his unflinching defense of the humane treatment of all animals, even the lowliest pesky birds or turtles.

His story is full of surprising turns, and offers an inside account of the early fight for animal rights, and engrossing tales of Gilded Age New York from a new perspective — the animal’s perspective.

Featuring an interview with Ernest Freeberg, a distinguished professor of humanities and head of the history department at the University of Tennessee.

Listen Now – Henry Bergh’s Fight for Animal Rights

Bergh in an illustration by George E Perine
“The arrest, (afterwards imprisonment), for killing a cat, although provoked to the act by a cat-nyp.” New York Public Library
Caricaturist James Albert Wales lampooning Mr. Bergh. PHOTO: BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
Bergh made an easy target for satire magazines like Puck
Jacob Riis captured this tragic image in 1900.
Ini 1917 horses were sharing the street with automobiles and streetcars.
The rendering factory on Barren Island, Brooklyn. It was abandoned by the time of this photograph — January 1938. Photographer: Sam Brody. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, NYC Municipal Archives..



After you’ve listened to this show on Henry Bergh and the animals rights movement, dive back into the back catalog and listen to these shows with similar themes:

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