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Hotel Inspection Bill


On this date in 1909, the Tagus Weekly reported on a new bill that had become law: a hotel inspection bill. Travelers today can easily find reviews of various hotels on Twitter, Facebook and websites. Even the ancient Romans had hotel reviews – they would scrawl a running commentary of life on their cities' walls, including comments on businesses and inns. For example, a graffiti found in Pompeii shared, "When ham is cooked and served to a guest here, before he touches the ham he licks the pot or the dish."

Not all reviews are glowing, of course, and in the early 1900s, there weren't always a lot of options for travelers. The new hotel bill of 1909 set standards for cleaning and keeping up hotels. For example, hotels were required to keep eight-foot bed sheets. It also called for sanitary plumbing, yearly carpet cleaning and clean pots, kettles, and pans. Fire escapes also became mandatory.

In another matter, the bill discouraged "the occupants of some hotels who neither register, pay bills or eat at tables, but are found in rooms to the great discomfort of the paid guests."

Today, these tasks are under the responsibility of the Division of Food and Lodging under the Department of Health, which is responsible for protecting public health through licensing and inspection of lodging facilities, restaurants, bars, campgrounds, and others.

It was and is an important task, as the article noted:

"Regulations for the health and safety of guests are wise and necessary. ...Fairly and properly enforced, with reason and common sense, the law ought to do some good, and cannot do much harm. Perhaps after a while, we shall get around to regulating other kinds of business, in the interests of health, cleanliness and sanitation. There is a general tendency these days for regulation, and we do by legal enactment what common sense and self interest should lead us to do of our own will and accord."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

The Tagus Weekly, February 26, 1909, p1