An arc of death : suicide, alcoholism, murder, accidents, and other early deaths in St. Louis, Missouri, 1875 to 1885
In this study of 120 coroner's inquests conducted in St. Louis between 1875 and 1885, the author examines how six different kinds of deaths were investigated and interpreted. Each chapter focuses on a different cause of death: suicide, alcohol-related deaths, deaths caused by complications from abortions, homicides, accidents, and natural deaths. While coroners ultimately determined how and why a person died, their verdicts were informed by their interviews with witnesses and were subsequently reported on by the press. By viewing death investigations from three social locations -- that of the investigating coroner, witnesses in the inquest, and newspaper reporters' it becomes apparent that three factors were the most important factors in investigating and interpreting deaths. These factors were whether the deceased had family members who testified on their behalf, whether the coroner believed that it was possible that another person may have caused or contributed to the death that he was investigating, and the reputation of the deceased. Coroners did not investigate all deaths the same way, but based them on their own assumptions as well as their training and Missouri law. The ways in which these men and women lived shaped not only how they died, but how their deaths were investigated and interpreted.
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