MEDICOS TAN
                              HUMAN SKIN

From the San Francisco Call, Volume 84, Number 141, 19 October 1898

Mr. Peterson's Candid



He Denounces the Practice as Based
on Theft, and Hopes The College
 Will Succeed in Stamp-
ing It Out.

Where those medicos tan human skin

The exposé of the unlawful use of human skin purloined from autopsy and dissecting rooms has caused widespread fear in the breasts of the students of the colleges.  The professors and higher medical men universally denounce the practice of tanning the human skin.  Any student convicted of the crime will be expelled from college. 

The demonstrator of anatomy of Toland Medical College, Dr. Samuel G. Tuggles, when interviewed yesterday, could not deny the truth of the statements of The Call, and said:

"What stand the university may take in the matter I cannot say.  For my own department I can say that I do not know any particular student who may have tanned or caused to be tanned human skin.  The subjects are skinned before being dissected.  I am not always in the dissecting room, and I suppose some of the skin gets tanned.  The Call seems to know more about that than I do.  I have been very much interested in what it had to say, and I hope It will put a stop to this disgusting practice. 

"The students are obliged to attend the lectures three times a week under the different physicians who lecture at the City and County Hospital.  They do attend autopsies and probably have opportunities to remove the skin.  It is stealing and against the rules of the college, and when a student is going to break a rule he does not tell the professors beforehand.

"Yea, I know that medical students do such things, but if they do it at Toland I do not know anything about it.” 

There is a tannery at Army street, just back of the Cogswell College, run by Poetsch & Peterson.  A physician gave this place as the one which does the tanning for the young physicians connected with the City and County Hospital.  

At the tannery Mr. Peterson described again the details of the business as revolting as the smells which live around his place.  He said: 

"I have tanned plenty of human skin for the medical students and doctors who cut up the people to see what killed them before they died.” 

"You are sure you can do it well; I am very particular.” 

“Oh, yes: I have been doing it for two or three years.  It is not a hard thing to do. I just soak it one day in strong salt and water—plenty of salt.  Then, when it gets pretty soft I soak it for about a week in some alum and salt and water.  Then if it must be dark I smoke it.” 

"I see.  Can you show me a piece?” 

"I have one little piece, but it is not so good.  You see it was poor skin to begin with.” 

"Do you know where this skin came from?”

 "A doctor who was just cutting people up at the county hospital.  It was wrapped up in a paper and was fresh.” 

"Did he say he was from the City and County Hospital?”

"Oh, yes.  They all say they come from there.  You see it is not so far away. Cannot I tan some for you? I can do line work.” 

An old man, a Mr. Booth, who has worked in the tannery and lives at Bryant and Twenty-sixth streets, said he had seen human skin in the office of Poetsch & Peterson, and that they could tan it because they did not use bark. 

"Won't bark tan the skin?” 

"Makes it as rough as a bear's back.” 

"Do they tan much skin?”

 “Yes.  They try to keep it secret-like, but the doctors and young medical students bring in pieces to tan every little time.  They handle it in the office, but the doctors don't make any secret of it.  They want the leather for slippers or razor strops, or something like that.” 

"What do you think about this tanning of human skins?” 

"Poor folks can't afford to think of anything.  "Tain't no use.” 

A shoemaker at Twenty-sixth and Howard streets pays he has seen human skin in the office of Poetsch & Peterson. 

"The boss showed me a piece of skin a few days ago and asked me if I knew what It was.  It looked just like pig skin, but I knew it was tanned human skin, bocaupe the pores are larger.  He said the doctors from the City and County Hospital had brought It to him.” 

The internes (sic) of the City and County Hospital are mostly young physicians, and upon them rests the accusation of the tanners.  Over them are Dr. F. W. Dudley. Dr. J. O. Hirshfolder, Dr. W. W. Kerr, Dr. C. N. Ellinwood and Dr. R. A. McLean. Yesterday afternoon the only interne at the City and County Hospital who was visible was D. V. Luchetti, who says he has no Christian name.  He is a young man, very young.  He has an idea apparently that the autopsy room as well as the entire hospital was founded and is maintained for the benefit of young doctors and students. 

He said: "Why, I never saw any skin in the autopsy rooms, did you?  Do you want to have some tanned?  I do not know anything.  So Mr. Peterson says we give him skin to tan.  I can't say.  I have all of mine yet.  Come down town and let's have a good talk over the matter.  I never have a word to say to such people as Peterson; my time is too valuable.  I just go to the autopsies and see what I want to see, but never anything else.  See?” 

"But, Dr. Luchetti, this is not a joke.” 

"Is it not, though?”


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