Just how much is an embalmed corpse worth, as far as entertainment dollars go? One early 20th century lawsuit attempted to decide just that. From the "Quad City times," October 13, 1903:
Des Moines, Oct. 13--The $10,000 damage suit brought to determine the possession of the body of the late John Allen has been set for trial to Judge McHenry's division of the district court Wednesday of this week. This case will attract much attention and furnish some interesting reading for the public inasmuch as it is the first one of its kind ever tried in the courts here and has a decidedly grewsome flavor to start with.Much to my disappointment, I couldn't find any information about how this lawsuit was concluded, leaving me unable to say how much Mr. Allen's petrified remains were worth in a court of law, not to mention who wound up in possession of this tribute to the wonders of Rex Embalming fluid.
Eleanor Langford and her husband, Homer Langford, are suing to recover $10,000 and the body of John Allen, the father of Eleanor Langford. William C. Harbach, M.E. Pettiss, the Pettis company and the Rex Embalming Fluid company are named as defendants in the suit. It is claimed that Allen died Nov. 11, 1896, and was ordered buried by Coroner Ankeny, that defendants afterwards had the remains exhumed, preserved them with the Rex Embalming fluid as an experiment, and proceeded to exhibit the body in this city and other parts of the country, charging money for these exhibitions and as a result selling great quantities of the Rex embalming fluid.
It is also claimed that the body has been mistreated, exposed to the rats so that the right foot has been gnawed off. The daughter asks to recover the body, and if not that the price of the clothing and casket, which is valued at about $80. In addition to this the sum of $10,000 damages are asked for from the court. It is expected that the body of the dead man, which it is claimed is in possession of the Rex Embalming Fluid company, will be brought into court and furnish a grewsome exhibit.