Preserving and Extending Arkansas History 1936 -1990

When state government moved into the new capitol building in 1912, members of the Legislature threatened to sell the Old State House. To forestall such efforts, Secretary of State Earl Hodges, a supporter of preservation, gave space in the building to the University of Arkansas Medical Department.

Many of the medical school's activities were ill-suited to such a historic site. Sheep pens erected behind the building for anthrax testing proved highly aromatic and unpopular with other tenants. The Humane Society, which also had its headquarters at the Old State House, particularly objected to the keeping of dogs for medical research. This practice stopped, however, when a Pulaski County Deputy Sheriff discovered one of his bloodhounds in the pens.

The often-rowdy medical students were also a cause for concern. School tradition required students who made egregious errors to publicly confess in the form of graffiti. These mea culpas soon covered the walls of the building.

The aspect of the school deemed most distasteful by the other inhabitants of the Old State House was unquestionably the dissection lab, which housed the human cadavers. The pickling vat in the basement was particularly repugnant, and it was not uncommon for club ladies, who were attending meetings at night, to encounter carts laden with human remnants en route to the incinerator on the third floor balcony.

The graveyard humor of the medical students did not help matters. Sometime in the 1920s, a fight (involving human internal organs) erupted in the dissection lab, shocking and appalling all who learned of it. Students often played pranks by hiding bits of anatomy in the belongings of other students. When a jacket left in a local restaurant by a medical student was found to contain severed human fingers, the entire community was scandalized.