1914, New Orleans. The Public Health Service, created in 1902, helped suppress an outbreak of bubonic plague by mobilizing this team of rat-catchers to eradicate the filthy beasts which spread the disease. Seems like backbreaking work to me, one that would not necessitate a hat and tie.
An army of 380 workers swept across the city to carry out the campaign. In a single week, they inspected 6,500 railcars and 4,200 buildings, fumigated 101 ships, trapped 20,000 rodents, laid nearly 300,000 poison baits and discovered 17 infected rats.
Using good scientific protocols, workers recorded data for each trapped rat, and when a laboratory analysis identified an infected specimen, its point of origin was subjected to a scorched-earth campaign of fumigation, burning, and in some cases, complete leveling.. Tactics like these went on daily, citywide, for months.
Ground Zero in the geography of rats proved to be the Stuyvesant Docks, where that first infected specimen had been found two years earlier. Here, mechanical conveyors transferred Midwestern grain among railroad cars, ships and elevators. Coupled with the warm fresh water of the nearby Mississippi River and ample nesting opportunities, the Stuyvesant elevators were a veritable rat nirvana. The campaign made them into a rat graveyard.
Death to the Black Death!
Bonus rat fun fact: Cagney never actually said, “You dirty rat.”