What story does this picture tell?

Found this on BoingBoing

Vintage photo of dead horse raises questions

A vintage Sheboygan photo, taken before the turn of the 20th century, has sparked some conversation in the community since its inclusion in The Sheboygan Press’ 2007 calendar.

The photo, which is inside the calendar’s front cover, shows a scene at Eighth Street and Indiana Avenue, looking north toward the Eighth Street bridge.

In the photo, a dead horse lies in the street, roped off with string tied to stakes in the dirt road. A man in a top hat, bow tie and jacket sits on top of the horse, and people in the background are standing still, looking toward the camera.

I emailed the Sheboygan Press the following:

It’s not really a caption, but I can relate it to a modern day scene we’re all familiar with:
The horse died (broke down) in the road. Being a responsible horse-operator (driver), the rider put out road markers (traffic cones), called for a cart (tow-truck), and sat down to wait. Passersby (rubberneckers) stop to stare, blatantly tying up traffic in either direction. Sadly, he’ll how have to explain to his date why he was late picking her up for the opera.

Man on horse in road


  1. I believe that is a photo of Bartholomew Haney the winner of a “Hands on a Dead Horse” competition. He was able to beat out 12 other competitors by staying in physical contact with the decaying carcass of the horse for 6 days.
    The majority of the participants were eliminated within the first 2 days because of an unusual heat spell for the month of May which brought on the decomposition of the horse faster than anyone had anticipated. Mr. Haney outlasted his last competitor who had to quit on the 6th day because of uncontrolled vomitting. Haney attributed his win to his diminished sense of smell due to a childhood addiction to sniffing turpentine.
    The popularity of this pasttime waned after the turn of the century with the coming of the automobile and lack of interest in owning a dead horse.

  2. In fact, the picture depicts an early horse squatter, employing a legal maneuver which was briefly fashionable in parts of the American midwest toward the end of the 19th century. Owing to a technical loophole in several states’ civil codes, enterprising citizens could claim sections of public property simply by placing a large dead animal (generally a horse, but frequently cattle and stray circus animals) on the parcel they sought, staking it out with rope and remaining there for minimum of ten days. The loophole was eventually closed by the 54th Congress in a resolution known popularly at the time as the Sheboygan Act. The practice, though illegal, continues today in parts of Ohio and Wyoming.

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