Detail of outline map of New York Harbor & Vicinity (1906)

In the wake of a severe typhoid fever outbreak in New York City, the New York Bay Pollution Commission published the first systematic report on pollution in New York Harbor in 1906. Sanitation engineer George A. Soper marked the location of sewer outlets (in circles), oyster and clam beds (sketched on the map itself), and places where samples were taken (in black diamonds and red rectangles) on this map of New York Harbor. What Soper observed went counter to common assumptions: Sewage was not diluted by the tides; oysters that grew or were held in polluted waters absorbed high concentrations of colon bacillus, a bacteria found in human waste that was linked to typhoid. Soper’s map launched further investigations that ultimately ended oystering in New York Harbor. By the 1950s, as a result of pollution as well as dredging, overharvesting, and landfill, the harbor’s former 350 miles of oyster beds had largely disappeared.