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Body of Baby Mailed to San Francisco Hospital

The front page of the November 13, 1936 edition of the Oakland (California) Tribune included a lengthy article with the headline: "BODY OF BABY MAILED TO S. F.". This headline was enough to catch my eye and encourage me to read the article. What I read was one of the most gruesome happenings I had ever read. The full article is as follows:

Gruesome Find Made in Dead Letter Office;
Package Forwarded From Chicago

San Francisco, Nov 13 -- The decomposed body of a newly born baby boy, apparently mailed from Chicago, ILL, it was found in a cardboard package today by employees of the dead letter office in the post office here.

Police at first believed the package had been mailed from Oakland, as a blurred postmark appeared "Oakland" at first glance.

Postal Inspector Frank W. Spence, however, identified the postmark as "Chicago" through a powerful magnifying glass.


The body was wrapped in a rag, with heavy brown wrapping paper around the box. The package was addressed to "Francis Munger, St. Mercie Hospital, San Frisco." Under the address in parenthesis was the word "San Francisco." The only sign of a return address was a legend: "No. 2745 Maldron".

Oakland police were notified when the package was believed to have been mailed from that city, but were unable to find a Maldron Street in Oakland. The address was printed in crude lettering, and over the address was the number "1431". Spence was checking in Chicago to determine whether the number was left by a postal stamp. A total of 81 cents in postage was on the package, corresponding to the Chicago rate. The body was discovered through the odor. Immediately on opening the package, employees notified the postal inspectors, police and the coroner.


Dr. Sherman T. Leland, autopsy surgeon, said he would perform an autopsy later today to determine whether the baby had been dead when it was put into the package, and also to determine whether it had been killed before being mailed, or had been dead at birth.

As there is no "St. Mercie" Hospital in San Francisco, the package was delivered to St. Mary’s Hospital, where attaches said there was no Fancis Munger. Likewise, police were unable to find such a name in either the telephone book or the city directory.

After being taken to St. Mary’s, the package was taken back to the post office, and eventually found its way back to the dead letter department.

Believe it or not, at the time, it was not illegal to mail a body (dead or alive) through the post office. It was assumed that people knew better and wouldn't do it without a specific law prohibiting it. Shocked by this instance, the postal officals quickly passed a law prohibiting the mailing of bodies (animal or human, dead or alive.)