You want a piece of me?

Have an issue with tissue?  If so, then I recommend against you visiting the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.  Founded in 1849 by the Philadelphia College of Physicians, it houses one of the premiere collections of medical oddities and specimens.  Perfectly preserved skulls, fetuses, and the most enlarged body parts you’ve ever seen, cover the walls from ceiling to floor.  Among the collection of plasticized parts, lies a piece of the assassin himself.

During his autopsy on April 27th 1865, the vertebrae through which the fatal bullet traveled were removed from John Wilkes Booth.  Those vertebrae now lie in the National Museum of Health and Medicine.  The tissue surrounding and scraped from those vertebrae, on the other hand, is exhibited at the Mütter Museum.

Tissue taken from John Wilkes Booth during his autopsy aboard the monitor Montauk.

While documented as a “piece of the thorax of John Wilkes Booth” and still labeled as such, it is more likely tissue from Booth’s neck.  No mention is made of Booth’s thoracic cavity in the brief autopsy records.  The doctors performing the autopsy focused almost exclusively on his broken leg and neck wound.

So, if you’re ever in Philadelphia and you want to observe the medical macabre, stop on in the Mütter Museum and catch a look at a piece of the assassin.

The best resource about Booth’s autopsy is Roger Norton’s unparalleled Lincoln Assassination Research Site.  It was Mr. Norton who first learned that the Mütter specimen from Booth was probably not his thorax but tissue from his vertebrae.

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