Wisconsin Death Trip

Back in 1967, author and historian Michael Lesy stumbled across a collection of late-19th century photographs taken in a small town in Wisconsin called Black River Falls. Intrigued by what he saw, he started reading the town newspapers from the same period. Artfully arranging the photos and newspaper fragments in sequences, Lesy published them under the title “Wisconsin Death Trip” in 1973. This audio slide show – a special web extra from our show on death and mourning – includes an interview with Lesy and images from the book, in addition to other images of Victorian post-mortem photography.


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  1. Annie Delyth Stratton

    In some ways so alien to my own cultural upbringing, nonetheless I found this deeply moving. The narrator/curator put these photos into such a meaningful context that I will never look at death photos the same way again. I will “see” the photos before, and the emotional context behind the making of these photos and memorabilia. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  2. Cynthia Brody

    I experienced the book in a Political Science class in the mid-70s. Whenever I hear someone say how crazy these times are, I always think back to Wisconsin Death Trip and say, we just have fewer secrets now.