A Market for Death: The Use and Abuse of Cadavers in Nineteenth-Century America
Scovil, Lindsay K.
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"A Market for Death: The Use and Abuse of Cadavers in Nineteenth-Century America" examines the rise of grave robbing for the procurement of human bodies for educational and entertainment purposes. In the late eighteenth century, new medical schools sought cadavers for dissection and anatomical study, and public entrepreneurs used bodies and body parts for entertainment in dime museums and traveling shows. While some bodies were available to the medical schools legally, most of the specimens used for medical education or public entertainment were stolen from their graves. This study focuses primarily on the period from the Revolutionary War through the passage of the first mandatory anatomy act in 1883. As a work of public history, this thesis builds upon an online exhibit that provides a new means for the public to learn about the ways that bodies were used for both educational and entertainment purposes in the early United States.