Speculation abounds over the origin and nature of a strange vintage photo from Sheboygan, WI of a man in a top hat apparently sitting on a dead horse in the middle of the street.
According to the Sheboygan Press the photo was taken at South Eighth Street and Indiana Avenue in Sheboygan, Wisconsin between 1876 and 1884 – based on the presence of a bridge over the Sheboygan River in the background and the absence of the railroad tracks that were installed in 1884. Other sources cite the photo as circa 1900. Some don’t think it was in Sheboygan at all.
Due to the rampant sanitation issues with horses in the 1800s some speculate the photo was a political campaign ad. Some other theories are that, since there doesn’t appear to be rigor mortis in the horse’s legs, it could be trick horse for a carnival or sideshow passing through, or that the nice man is just assisting the horse in expelling excess flatulence.
It is rumored that there was a municipal ordinance in place at the time that stated when a horse dropped dead in the street, the owner was required to wait by the animal until someone came to clean it up.
In New York in the 1880s, where herds of pigs roamed the city and horses were literally worked to death with a meager two-and-a-half year lifespan, it was common practice to leave the 1,200 carcasses in the streets to rot until it they had disintegrated enough to be easily removed.
So is this Sheboygan, WI man trying to make a political statement with his trained circus horse, or is he just waiting for a tow?