American Heritage Book Selection: The Body Snatchers

Columbia College presented a peaceful exterior in 1788, but inside its medical laboratories something strange was going on; and under cover of darkness freshly interred bodies were disappearing from nearby burying grounds

It was February 15, 1788, a Friday morning, in the offices of the New York Daily Advertiser at 28 Hanover Square in New York City. Francis Quids, the paper’s printer and editor, had just received a letter from a reader who asked that the letter be published. Because New York was small, extending only as far north as Chambers Street and containing only thirty thousand people, almost everyone knew what was going on in it. Still, the letter was shocking —not in the sense that it told Mr. Childs something he did not know about the city, but because it declared openly what was being discussed privately in tavern, home, and coffeehouse.