"Dead head" is historical. "Dead beat" has much the same meaning today.
16 June 1840, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, pg. 2:
Ai'nt the liberties of our country in danger, when the gentleman of the Press can't go as "dead heads on the lake?"
23 January 1841, Spirit of the Times, pg. 564:
Niblo's Concerts. (...) The house on Tuesday was filled as far as $300 could fill it, barring "the dead heads;" a good proportion of the audience were ladies.
26 October 1841, Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio), pg. 2:
Joshua A. Smith said he was on board the Caroline, was a "dead-head" passenger (one who did not pay, as the other witnesses were also that he heard a gun fired when he was at the gangway, and some one fell at his side.