The whole story is a bit horrific, but almost understandable. I bet that most of us never heard of this from our history classes in school! I know I didn't!
A half century before the Panama Canal was constructed, a railway was built to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The chief inspiration for this project was the California Gold Rush of 1849 and the mad rush to stake a claim to fortune. Men came from across the globe to work on the railway, many without any identification or known next of kin.
This feat of engineering would come at great cost to many—diseases like yellow fever, malaria, and cholera plagued the workers, and thousands died. A ban on opium caused many of the Chinese workers, who had become addicted to the drug in their homeland, to commit suicide. No official records were kept, but the death toll could have easily exceeded 10,000.
It might seem natural that the Panama Railroad Company would simply bury their dead and move on, but they had other plans. Keeping their eye on the bottom line, they pickled many of the corpses and sold them off to medical schools for experimentation. It was an exciting time in medicine—anesthesia had just been discovered, and surgeries, which had previously been hack jobs performed as swiftly as possible, became far more intricate. Bodies were in high demand, and for over five years, the Panama Railroad Company was a leading supplier.
If you want to read more about the Panama Railroad, you can do so right here! Just a tad unsettling, wouldn't you say?
Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Still in the 40's outside.