Civil War Institute
A census in 1890 listed Chris Baker’s occupation as “Anatomical Man.” While the title sounds like that one of today’s superheroes, the nineteenth century existence of this vocation kept people from lingering around medical colleges after dark. By day, Chris Baker worked as a janitor for the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. By night, he had the darker task of obtaining corpses for the school. He was a “resurrectionist,” and he was not alone in his eerie nocturnal task of preying on the powerless and recently interred with a shovel, bag, and cart close at hand. Until legislation governing the supply of anatomical material in Virginia was passed in 1884, grave robbing and body snatching were primary means of obtaining cadavers for medical school instruction. African American cemeteries and potter’s fields were primary targets, and medical students themselves were often the perpetrators. For students at the Winchester Medical College, this unseemly practice would lead to the destruction of their school.
This is the author's version of the work. This publication appears in Gettysburg College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.
Sawyer, Kaylyn L., "Grave’s Anatomy: Abolitionists, Body Snatchers, and the Demise of Winchester Medical College" (2016). The Gettysburg Compiler: On the Front Lines of History. 177.