The bandages which Schmidt used so successfully were almost certainly steeped in human fat obtained from state executions.
As these slowly became less frequent, human fat may have become harder to obtain (and more costly) back in the Old World. Its economic value was certainly well known. For, at Rushall in Norfolk in 1736, after a man and his wife had “had some words”, the husband suddenly “went out and hanged himself”. Eschewing funeral or burial, “his wife sent for a surgeon, and sold the body for half a guinea”. While the surgeon was carefully “feeling about the body”, she assured him: “he is fit for your purpose, he is as fat as butter”; after which the deceased “was put naked into a sack, with his legs hanging out, thrown upon a cart, and conveyed to the surgeons”.