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Weird laws of Delaware – dead bodies and wooden legs

skeletonIt’s time for another edition of weird laws of Delaware. This time we’re featuring laws on pawning artificial limbs and selling dead bodies. Our first weird law is:

In Delaware it is against the law to sell a wooden leg at a pawn broker. Status: mostly true.

The law actually says “No pawnbroker … shall take or receive as a pledge or pawn any artificial limb or wheelchair.” 24 Del. C. § 2307(b) So it isn’t illegal for someone to pawn their wooden leg, it is illegal for the pawnbroker to take it. When this law was originally passed in 1907 (24 Del. L. 162) it also prohibited pawnbrokers from accepting workman’s tools, but that provision has been dropped. This is the first law I’ve looked at that is truly an unusual law; as far as I’ve been able to tell Delaware is the only state that prohibits pawnbrokers from taking artificial limbs.

Weird law #2 this week is:

In Delaware you may not sell dead people for money without a license. status: Not true

I have to confess this one has me kind of stumped. It is cited all over the internet but I can’t find any Delaware law, current or old, that comes close to saying this.

There is 11 Del. C. § 1333 Trading in Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects, which makes it illegal to trade in “unlawfully removed human remains,” but it doesn’t mention licenses, except to say that the law does not apply to “A licensed mortician or other professional who transports human remains in the course of carrying out the individual’s professional duties and responsibilities.” There is also 16 Del. C. § 2701, et seq. which regulates obtaining dead bodies for anatomical studies but there is no mention of sales or licenses.

So for now, I’m declaring this weird law not true. If anybody has any idea where this comes from please let me know.

Photo from The Powerhouse Museum Collection on Flickr.

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