Monday, January 14, 2008

Ohio's lead position in fighting ghoulism is frequently overlooked. In fact, in no less than Springfield (The Champion City), a major coup in the battle was made about the turn of the century.

Locking out the grave robbers
By Tom Stafford
Springfield News-Sun
Monday, January 14, 2008
The threat would disappear in years to come.
But to Springfield's Champion Co. of 1879, the danger was both clear and present: Graves were being robbed to provide cadavers for use by medical students.
The solution envisioned by a Springfielder named Boyd, was "a receptacle to make the grave safe from ghouls and grave robbers" — the burglar-proof vault.
An Oct. 18, 1930, letter describing the development of Champion vaults says improvements were incorporated into the subsequent designs of mssrs. Armstrong and Baker, the latter of whom likely crafted the vault used for Buffalo Bill's grave.
But for conjuring up the bad old days of grave violation, it's hard to imagine anything more effective than the undated advertisement for the improved version of the original Boyd vault — an ad that survives in the company archives.
Available in regular and extra sizes, the vault was touted as "the great grave robber foiler."
In a time when —according to the ad — more than 40,000 human bodies were "mutilated every year on dissecting tables in medical colleges in the United States," the vault represented the perfect solution to the problem "that has long agitated the public mind."
With a heavy angle iron framework, a steel plate on the bottom and a sheet steel casing on top, the security of the vault was assured by rivets and bolts "concealed by additional iron, so that it would be absolutely impossible to locate their exact position, even if the ghouls should go to the trouble of doing the additional amount of excavating that would be necessary."
To hold the top in place "six heavy spring hooks ... attach themselves to lugs on the inside of the top casing as it is placed in position," the ad says.
Once closed, "it is impossible to open the vault except to cut the top casing entirely open, which would require a mechanic to work at least 24 hours with the best of tools, which, of course, would render any attempt at grave robbing futile."
On the ends of the vault, "letters finished in gold bronze" added a handsomeness to complement a compartment the company promised would protect "both the casket and body from dampness, mould and decay, and from burrowing animals and vermin."
That last bit of information is what we today might call TMI (too much information). And whether it was included to reassure customers or drum up businessis unclear.
As to cost, the vaults ran $15 for child sizes, $30 for most adults, and $40 for the largest, which required special orders. And, promising to pay special attention to telephone and telegraph inquiries, the company said it stood ready to handle orders "every hour in the year."`N`NUObNXUbTTUWUXUaUZTZU\UWU^UbUZUaU[UcTYWVVZV

The Champion company

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