University of Vermont medical students who graduated in the 1870s recalled the school obtaining cadavers from nearby cemeteries.
In other states that were less strict about how corpses could be treated, businesses sprang up that sold cadavers. This was particularly true of southern states, which shipped the bodies of blacks north to medical schools. The practice of shipping bodies had its drawbacks, though.
One UVM student remembered a body arriving from New York packed in brine in a barrel labeled “onions.” The person, the students found out later, had died of smallpox. As a precaution, all the students were vaccinated the next day.
It wouldn’t be until the turn of the last century that New England states loosened their so-called anatomical laws. The new regulations helped keep doctors on the right side of the law and the deceased in their graves.
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