As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Invasion of the body snatchers

It makes me so happy when a student approaches the reference desk looking for help with a paper they're jazzed about. Such was the case when I met a student who was writing about the history of body-snatching in the United States during the 1800s. She enthusiastically described the lucrative practice of digging up graves and removing corpses from their coffins for sale to physicians, medical schools and others. We browsed through the New York Times for that time period and found a number of newspaper articles that described this practice in gruesome detail. I realize that not everyone seeking such info has access to resources such as The Historical New York Times or America's Historical Newspapers. For those folks, check out Chronicling America from the Library of Congress. This database allows you to search and view newspapers pages dating from 1880-1922. There, I found this little tidbit from Jan. 6, 1898 issue of The Valentine (Nebraska) Democrat:

Before the introduction of
this outer box it was comparatively
easy for the grave robber to make a
narrow excavation at the head of the
grave, lift the wooden lid over the glass
through which the face of the corpse
is seen, smash the glass, insert a body
hook under the chin and jerk the body
out of the grave. But now the whole
grave must be excavated and the lid
of the pine box unscrewed before the
coffin is accessible.

Neat stuff.

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