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History

Grave Robbers Rampant In 19th Century Cincinnati

coffin_torpedo_2.png
Public Domain
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This illustration of Philip K. Clover's design for a coffin torpedo shows a tripwire around the arm to trigger a shotgun-like blast.

An illicit body trade proliferated in 19th century Cincinnati, but this business wasn't in the red-light district, it was in local cemeteries. Medical schools in Ohio and nationwide needed cadavers for study but no laws allowed for body donation. Doctors turned to grave robbers to do the dirty work. Grave robbing was so rampant that inventors created unusual contraptions for protecting the dead. A high-profile case of body snatching finally led to legalized body donation in Ohio.

Here to discuss Ohio's history of grave robbing and the unusual tactics for deterring body snatchers are University of Cincinnati head archivist Kevin Grace; and freelance writer Lucy Tiven