The Origin of Pest Management

In the most recent issue of PCT magazine, Dr. Jerome Goddard shared a history lesson on the humble beginnings of the pest management industry.  A small excerpt of this article discusses the origins of pest management that we found very interesting.

“Organized, purposeful pest control probably had its origins during the early Middle Ages (500-1100 A.D.) as a result of people trying to get rid of rats.  A few chemicals and plant extracts were known to kill rats during that time, but people tried all sorts of other methods as well.

There are historical records of people using the names of saints and various religious incantations to try to drive rats out of cities and towns across Europe.  There are also reports of people “rhyming” them to death or using bagpipes to drive them away.  Sometime between the 11th and 14th centuries, the position of “apothecary” arose, and these people specialized in all sorts of medicines and poisons.

Modern day barbers are also ancestors of pest control personnel.  The profession of barber-surgeon was originally a branch of medicine and they were often assigned to armies during wars to perform battle surgeries.  Even today, the red and white barber pole represents the blood and bandages originally associated with barber-surgeons.  Eventually, during the 14th century, an official Guild of Barber-Surgeons was formed which, through time, enacted increasingly stricter educational and professional standards, eventually leading surgery to a more respectable profession.  The barbers were thus left behind to shave men, cut or dye hair, and dispense nostrums and ratbane, among other activities.

During the Middle Ages, the ratsbane seller was a street and market vendor who sold a variety of chemicals and rodent traps.  A little later, this developed into a profession called the “rat catcher.”

By the early 18th century, rat catchers of Europe had become highly specialized and used a variety of pest control methods such as traps, chemicals and terrier dogs trained to find and kill rats.  The first official pest control company was H. Tiffin and Son Ltd. in London, which had its beginnings in 1690.  This company promoted rat and bed bug control using methods and chemical compounds they invented.  Their trademark was “Bug Destroyers to Her Majesty and the Royal Family.”

Vermin exterminators eventually emigrated to the United States from about 1840 to 1930, carrying with them the knowledge of pests and pesticides.”

Click here for the full story on this History Lesson of the Pest Management Industry.