Friday, January 05, 2007

Mystery Man and His Horse (dead)

I have always been a fan of old photos of towns and cities. On my computer, I have a nice collection of old photos from Oxford, MS where I live. It is very interesting to see how things use to be. What an old photo gives you is a rare look at one moment in history. This photo is one example of that. It was found in a collection of photos in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It appears in this photo that a well-dressed man is sitting on top of a dead horse. The mystery is in the fact that no one really knows who the man is or why in the world he is astride this dead horse in the middle of the street. But there are some theories.
The photograph is thought to have been taken between 1876 and 1884. It was recently featured in the 2007 calendar of a local newspaper. Scott Prescher, a restaurant owner in Sheboygan, has a copy of the photo framed in his place of business. He says, "This thing has gotten more mileage than you can shake a stick at. It is just a funny picture. He is sitting on there with a top hat like he had somewhere special to go and his horse just croaked in the middle of the road." But he doesn't know anything other than that about the photo.
Beth Dipple, director of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, says the photo has been in their collection for about 20 years. When the photo was featured in the Sheboygan Press, the center was flooded with emails and calls about its origin. Many theories exists as to the circumstances of the photo. One person claims, "it was staged for a political campaign perhaps related to sanitation issues." Another person thought, "the horse is being helped to relieve excess flatulence." But Dipple has another theory, and perhaps the best one. Apparently, in the 1800's, the city had laws that required people to stay with their dead horses until they were picked up and disposed of. Weird isn't it?

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