More? Check out these notable embalmings
Although the Chinese and Egyptians perfected embalming, the modern journey took a more convoluted route.
The Civil War brought swift changes in the techniques and fluids used. Families who desired to have their dead soldiers shipped home instead of being buried in shallow graves began to pay increasingly higher costs. The increased prosperity caused surgeons to quit their professions and become embalmers, making as much as $100 per body.
Prevailing embalming fluids were causing the deaths of medical students who worked on cadavers. Thomas Holmes developed a "safe" solution: 4 ounces of arsenic mixed with one gallon of water. He sold the product to undertakers for $3.00/gallon. Other early solutions contained creosote and even mercury.
The most unusual story, however, occurred in 1775 in London, England when Martin van Butchell, an eccentric dentist, embalmed his wife. With glass marbles in his eyes and dressed in lace, he put her on display to attract attention to his dental office, which was also his home.
He might not have been as eccentric as one would think. A rumor surfaced that a clause in the van Butchell marriage certificate claimed that Martin would continue to receive income from Mary's estate as long as she remained "above ground".
Martin's new wife demanded he remove the corpse, which now resides in the Royal College of Surgeons.
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