Morgue (from the Languedocian morga, a repulsive face), a place for the exhibition of dead bodies of unknown persons, with a view to their identification. Such establishments existed in Paris as early as the 17th century, in connection with prisons. The one in the Chatelet was succeeded in 1804 by a separate establishment, which was enlarged in 1830; but this proving inadequate, another was opened in 1866 close by the Seine, behind the cathedral of Notre Dame. It consists of a central pavilion and two wings. The dead are placed inside a glazed partition, on slabs of marble, and streams of water and other means are employed to delay decomposition. The average period of exhibition is 24 hours, and the greater number of the bodies are recognized. When there is evidence of death by violence, the bodies are examined in the dissecting room. The burial of the unrecognized and poor is at the public expense in special lots in the cemeteries. The effects not claimed by relatives are retained for six months.
The following table shows the number exposed in ten years:
5 to 25..................
25 to 45...
45 to 65..................
65 to 85...
Besides these, there were 94 fragments, 296 foetuses, and 197 new-born infants; the number of the last has greatly increased of late years, in consequence of the suppression of deposit boxes in foundling hospitals. In the whole number there were 1,766 suicides, most of them recovered from the Seine. A majority of these were natives of Paris, of the poorest classes. The annual average is about 250 adult males and 50 females, but is much larger in time of epidemics and disturbances. It has been exceptionally large since the Franco-German war, the suicides increasing from 567 in 1872 to 660 in 1873, and to nearly 1,000 in 1874. - The morgue in New York was established in June, 1866. It is on the grounds of Bellevue hospital, and is under the charge of the warden of the hospital, a keeper, and an assistant. As soon as a corpse is brought in, a full account of its recovery, when and where found, a description, and other particulars are recorded. Notice is sent to the coroner, and if there are indications of a violent death the case is reported to the superintendent of police. Recognized bodies, by permission of the coroner, are removed by friends; those un-recognized are exposed on marble slabs, under streams of water, for 72 hours, or less at the discretion of the warden.
Photographs are t:ikcn for the inspection of persons in search of missing friends. The clothing is exhibited 30 days, and kept a year. Unrecognized bodies are buried in the city cemetery on Hart's island, and numbers and records permit their identification and removal. In no case is a corpse devoted to dissection. On the first day of each month the warden makes a detailed report of all bodies, identified or not, to the commissioners of public charities and correction. From .June, 1866, to Oct, 19, 1874, 1,283 bodies were received, of which more than one half were recognized and removed by friends. Nearly three fourths were bodies of persons drowned, a large proportion of them while bathing. From January to October, 1874, there were brought from the rivers to the morgue 127 males and 17 females, of whom 101 males and 11 females were found in May, June, July, and August, leaving but 26 males and 6 females for the live colder months. But in New York, as in Paris and elsewhere, the warm months are selected by suicides who drown themselves. A considerable number of those who are drowned purposely or by accident or are murdered and thrown into the East or North river, are not recovered, but are carried away by the tide.
Of infants dead from neglect or other causes at time of birth, and of foetuses, only a few are taken to the morgue. - The morgue in Brooklyn, N. Y., was erected in 1870 at a coast of $25,000, and is the most complete building of the kind in the country. It is in Willoughby street, in the rear of the jail, and, with every convenience for the exhibition and preservation of bodies, contains rooms for post-mortem examinations, a large jurors' court room, which can ho used as a chapel for funerals, and residence rooms for the keeper and bis family. It is under the supervision of the coroners. The rules and regulations are substantially those of the New York morgue. Minute descriptions of the unrecognized are published in two of the city newspapers. In no case is a corpse given up [or direction till every means of identification has been exhausted. The number of bodies averages 150 a year, more than half of them drowned, and there is in addition an annual average of about 50 dead infants and foetuses The number of bodies recognized and removed by friends in four years is as follows: 62 in Sept. 1. 18,4. In 1874, to the same date, 101 bodies, some of them recognized, were buried from the morgue at public expense. - The morge in Chicago III, is on the grounds of the Cook county hospital, and was opened June 1, 1872. It is in charge of the warden of the hospital, under the supervision of the superintendent and medical director of public charities.
The rules and regulations are nearly identical with those of the New York morgue. A law which went into effect July 1, 1874, permits the devotion of unrecognized hodies to dissection. The receipt of bodies has been as follows: 70 males and 7 females in 1872, 94 .males and 9 females in 1873, and 102 males and 11 females to Oct. 5, 1874. Of these, 32 were infants dead from neglect or other causes at time of birth, and there were in addition 6 foetuses. Of 261 deaths in three years, 105 were caused by drowning, 52 by railway accidents, 23 by suicide, and 81 resulted from other causes; and 212 bodies were recognized. - The morgue in Boston, Mass., was opened in 1851, near the Massachusetts general hospital, and is in charge of an undertaker. A coroner is called to determine whether deaths are by violence, suicide, or accident. Bodies are exposed 48 hours or longer, and descriptions are recorded, garments exhibited and preserved, and notices inserted in the newspapers, but no photographs are taken. Unclaimed bodies are buried at public expense. Statute law forbids devoting unknown bodies to dissection. Reports are made to the city registrar. About 100 bodies are annually received, and about two thirds of them are recognized.
No infants are sent to the morgue, unless inquests are necessary; they are delivered to the city undertaker for burial. - An ordinance adopted in St. Louis, Mo., in September, 1874, provides for the establishment of a morgue in that city.