Dead In Necropolis: the Ghosts of OCOB - Phineas Gage

Skull diagram of Phineas Gage by John M. Harlow, MD (1868) Wikipedia.
Have you been reading the One City One Book selection, Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst? If you have, you've certainly come across the ghost of Phineas Gage, forever searching for his tamping iron - the iron bar that shot through his skull and forever changed our understanding of neurology and psychology. Recently there has been much excitement surrounding the discovery of the only known portrait of Gage in existence. It is a fascinating tale of the confluence of history, archives and the internet. The image, originally posted can still be viewed on the photo_history Flickr account.

In May of 1860 Phineas Gage died in San Francisco and was buried at the Lone Mountain Cemetery. In 1866, with the consent of Gage's family, Dr. John M. Harlow - who had been in charge of Gage's case - retrieved Gage's skull for further study. Phineas Gage's headless body was relocated to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma. His skull and tamping iron are on display at Harvard Medical School's Warren Anatomical Museum.

The San Francisco History Center holds the funeral records for Lone Mountain from the years 1850 to 1862, and we just happened to have found Phineas Gage listed:

Funeral record for Phineas Gage. N.Gray Funeral Record, 1850-1862 (Lone Mountain). San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
(Click to see larger.)

The record states:
Date of Burial - May 23, 1860, Name - Phineas B. Gage, Age - 36, Nativity - New Hampshire
Disease - Epilepsy, Place of Burial - Vault, Undertaker - N. Gray

See more funeral records along with tombstone fragments from San Francisco's Odd Fellow's Cemetery in a new display coming to the San Francisco Public Library in September.

We're pretty used to cavorting with the local ghosts here in the San Francisco History Center, and we'll be sharing some insight into their lives in the upcoming months. In the meantime, get to know some of the Bay Area's more colorful (and now dead) characters highlighted in Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis by picking up a copy at your local library today. Check out One City One Book's events page for the fun and fascinating events coming in September and October!


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