When someone dies, the standard procedure is to inform their next of kin. Doing that these days is pretty easy, as we all have smartphones and wallets full of IDs and credit cards. But back in the early 1900s, it wasn't that simple.
If you died out of town back then, you had to hope there was enough information on your person to get your body where it needed to go. Sadly, that's exactly what didn't happen in 1911 to a man by the nickname of Old Mike.
Old Mike was a traveling salesman who died in the town of Prescott, Arkansas in 1911.
No one knew Mike's full name, but they knew who he was, since he'd visit Prescott about once a month to sell pens, stationery, and other household goods to the townspeople. Sadly, during one overnight trip in Prescott, his body was found in the city park. It's likely that he suffered a heart attack or stroke.
The town mourned for Mike, and his body was taken to the Cornish Funeral Home where it was embalmed and prepared for burial.
Unfortunately, a search of Mike's suitcases did not turn up any identifying evidence about him and his family. In the hopes that someone would eventually identify Mike and claim his body, the funeral home put him on display. Years went by and no one came forward to claim him. Over time, Mike gained the nickname of Old Mike, and became a regional tourist attraction of sorts.
By 1975, it became clear that no one was going to claim Old Mike.
That's when the Arkansas Attorney General's Office requested that the funeral home have Mike buried. Above is a photo of the people who turned out for Old Mike's long-awaited funeral.
What a strange way to go. I bet Mike never imagined that he'd become famous, let alone as an embalmed corpse at a funeral home in rural Arkansas. I could certainly think of worse fates for my corpse when I die...