America’s oldest mummy, known as ‘Stoneman Willie,’ is finally set to receive a proper burial after being on display inside a Pennsylvania funeral home for 128 years.
Stoneman Willie’s true identity remained a mystery for over a century, as he had provided a fake name when arrested for pickpocketing more than a century ago.
Stoneman Willie, an Irishman, died of kidney failure in a local jail on November 19, 1895, and was accidentally mummified by Theodor Auman, a mortician experimenting with innovative arterial embalming techniques.
This technique involved injecting embalming fluid into an artery, displacing blood and facilitating the removal of blood from the veins. Auman’s own embalming fluid recipe, which contained an excessive amount of formalin, petrified Stoneman Willie’s body.
His mummified body has been a local icon, with his hair and teeth intact and his skin has become leathery over the years. The Auman’s Funeral Home, which had been preserving Stoneman Willie, identified him using historical documents and will reveal his real name when they lay him to rest on October 7.
Local historian George M. Meiser XI explained that before arterial embalming, corpses were stored on ice until burial. Stoneman Willie was an unwitting participant in Auman’s experimentation with the new embalming technique.
Despite being on display for well over a century, Stoneman Willie has become a storied part of Reading’s history and culture. Kyle Blankenbiller, a funeral director, referred to him as “our friend Willie.”
Historical records indicate that Stoneman Willie had given the alias James Penn when he was arrested for theft, and found inside a local boardinghouse with stolen items in his possession, including a gold watch, a razor, and money.
Now, as Stoneman Willie is laid to rest in Forest Hills Memorial Park, his real name will be inscribed at the bottom of his tombstone. This burial marks the end of a long journey for the mummy, finally receiving the proper burial he deserves after over a century of being on display.