Jesse James' Corpse Basket - Funeral Museum
St. Joseph, Missouri
This small museum occupies a back room in a large funeral home that used to be a 1960s supermarket. Among the dozen or so antique coffins and urns on display is the undertaker's wicker basket used in 1882 to haul Jesse James' body from his home (where he was murdered) to this funeral home, which was in business even then (although not in this building). The Museum also has the original death ledger, which notes in business shorthand, "Mr. Jesse James killed $250." Jesse, who was interred thrice and dug up twice, had his initial funeral at Heaton-Bowman-Smith. "I always say we buried him the first time," says Marshall Wyatt, the home's executive director.
Another notable exhibit here is a crudely insulated "ice covered casket" that was once used to preserve bodies that had to be shipped long distances. It's an ancestor of the cooler that we have in the back seat of our car. Funeral home president Judy Smith told us that the Smithsonian has been making attempts to acquire the body ice box. Then she adds defiantly, "But they're not gonna get it!"