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Chapter 10. The Pattern of Late 19th Century Funerals. American Views of Death. America showed wide variations in funeral thoughts and customs… What do you think that the rural areas were like? What about the cities? There is only a small amount of uniformity in death customs:

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chapter 10

Chapter 10

The Pattern of Late 19th Century Funerals

american views of death
American Views of Death

America showed wide variations in funeral thoughts and customs…

What do you think that the rural areas were like?

What about the cities?

There is only a small amount of uniformity in death customs:

What are they?

What are some of the variations today?

american views of death3
American Views of Death

Catholic Church in Cincinnati:

Long time custom that the mourners are seated on the right side or the “Epistle” side of the church.

Only 40 miles away in Brown Co., Ohio they are seated on the left side of the or “Gospel” side.

During the latter part of the 19th Century there were broad changes and patterns developed:

The patterns and changes molded the modern day Funeral Director.

first response to death
First Response to Death

Family reaction and behavior

atmosphere of anxiety and emotional strain

funerals had a prevailing mood of gloom

Borrowed from the old days in England.

A final contribution of 19th Century behavior:

They wanted to provide a beautiful setting to the mood, gloom and somberness which had been imported from the feudal times.

first response to death5
First Response to Death

At the Home

Most deaths occurred at the home

If it occurred away from home the body was quickly returned there, so the home was the central point of mourning.

A hush fell over the household, blinds were drawn and people walked about on tiptoe and spoke in restrained tones.

First gesture-WOMEN-closed the eyes and straightened the limbs

“Funeral Directors” were summoned to come and take charge.

first response to death6
First Response to Death

When death occurred at a hospital

The family was insistent upon bringing the body back to the house as soon as possible.

~Funeral parlors were used for people who had no home of their own or had no relatives or friends who would offer the facilities of their quarters.

first response to death7
First Response to Death

People delegated the care of the deceased to the Undertaker.

In addition to agreeing upon a place of the funeral it was necessary to decide how much time would elapse before burial took place

If more than one day, preservative measure were taken.

first response to death8
First Response to Death

The two preservation methods were:

The body was kept in a cooler or “corpse preserver” surrounded with ice.

The undertaker could embalm with chemicals.

first response to death9
First Response to Death

At the Home

Procedures in rural areas

Usually no undertaker available.

Preparation procedures- The family washed and dressed the deceased.

Preparation procedures- The family used a corpse cooler or chemical embalming.

influence of the introduction of embalming
Influence of the Introduction of Embalming

Social problems.

People were afraid of what they did not understand

Many people viewed embalming as mutilation of the body.

A male family member was allowed to watch the embalming.

What do you think about a family member watching the embalming procedure?

influence of the introduction of embalming11
Influence of the Introduction of Embalming


Chemical embalming similar to process today.

Body laid out

Body was washed

Dressed in the best or favorite suit

Body was moved into the parlor to be viewed (even before the casket was obtained)

The funeral and the viewing were then held in the family home

influence of the introduction of embalming12
Influence of the Introduction of Embalming

Psychological Jargon

If the undertaker had training in embalming he undoubtedly protested the “humaneness” of embalming.

The supposed advantages were:

Sanitation (Protection)

Duration (Preservation)

Reliability (Presentation)


Oh, yes and don’t forget the possibility of the body “exploding” in the casket during the funeral ceremonies.

influence of the introduction of embalming13
Influence of the Introduction of Embalming

Psychological Jargon

The astute embalmer never failed to mention the possibility.

Interesting thing was:

Chemical embalming and corpse cooling was about the same cost unless the amount of ice was great.

Dr. Thomas Holm 20 years earlier charged $100

Hudson Samson charged as little as $15

influence of the introduction of embalming14
Influence of the Introduction of Embalming

Now, would you ever try to use “psychological jargon” to make a family do something they did not want to do?

How about try to “up-sale” because your salary depends on commission?

funeral arrangements
Funeral Arrangements

If the body was to be chemically embalmed

The undertaker brought a “cooling board”

Embalming tools,

Embalming fluid

And a door badge

funeral arrangements16
Funeral Arrangements

The Door Badge

A door crepe or badge that was attached to the door in such a manner that the door bell of knocker was covered.

Why would they want to cover the knocker or door bell?

funeral arrangements17
Funeral Arrangements

The Door Badge

Black was the color of the of the old

White for the young

And black with white rosette and ribbons for the young adults.

Purple, lavender and grey were later used

funeral arrangements18
Funeral Arrangements


Many people believed that embalming necessitated the removal of all the organs.

When the observer saw the size of the incision he was generally satisfied and seldom remained to watch the balance of the procedure

funeral arrangements19
Funeral Arrangements


The body was undressed

Washed on the bed

Orifices were plugged

Entire body was swabbed with embalming fluid


Eyes closed

Lips sewn together

Then the embalming

This was an early attempt at “Restorative Art”

funeral arrangements20
Funeral Arrangements


The undertaker employed arterial injection followed by cavity injection with a TROCAR inserted in the umbilicus and the corner of the eye.

Why were they using the trocar in the eye socket?

The next step was a conference with the family to complete the arrangements.

funeral arrangements21
Funeral Arrangements

Notification of relatives

The funeral director sent telegrams.

What do we do today and who is responsible for getting that done?

Notified the clergy

Arranged for the singers

Contacted the pallbearers

Notified the Sexton

funeral arrangements22
Funeral Arrangements

Casket selection

They were chosen from a catalogue, undertakers display room or a stockroom.

Hardwood was the most popular as opposed to metallic and cement caskets.

Cloth covered caskets make their debut.

Delivery problems-

What do you think caused the biggest problems?

funeral arrangements23
Funeral Arrangements

It took between 20-60 hours to get a casket.

Depending on: request, availability, and distance.

the funeral
The Funeral

In the City

Role of the undertaker- sent invitations, general supervisor, supplier and arranger of funeral paraphernalia.

Locations for the funeral- most likely in home, maybe church, and seldom in the funeral parlor.

Participants- friends, family, pallbearers, clergy, funeral director, hearse driver

the funeral cont
The Funeral Cont.

In Rural Areas

Role of the undertaker- ordered the casket, casketed deceased, and generally arranged things so that the preacher could play the dominating role.

Locations for the funeral- most likely in home, maybe the church, and seldom in the funeral parlor.

Participants- most of the people of the town or village were involved.

the funeral cont26
The Funeral Cont.

Church vs. Home Funeral

Are there any advantages to having the funeral services in the church?

What then are the advantages of holding the funeral at the home of the deceased?

Which do you think would be more beneficial to a family?


the funeral cont27
The Funeral Cont.

Open vs. Closed Casket:

The custom of opening the casket at the church for a final viewing was not accepted very readily by the clergy or the undertakers.

Why do you think they did not accept or like the open casket?

professional dress of the undertaker
Professional Dress of the Undertaker

Clothing kept with the somber-toned tradition:

Black broadcloth

Doe skin coats



Single breasted and buttoned up completely to the neck. White linen shirt and black tie with black gloves and black top hat.

It was very difficult to have the livery men look respectable.

the funeral procession and burial
The Funeral Procession and Burial

Formation of the cortege in the city

The hearse maintained the center of focus in the procession.

The plumes now again become important to show how wealthy or impoverished you were. (social status)

The first flower carriage is used to transport the flowers to the cemetery.

the funeral procession and burial30
The Funeral Procession and Burial

Formation of the cortege in the city


Flower carriage

Honorary Pallbearers

Active Pallbearers


Immediate family and relatives


The one exception was, if a society or fraternal order was involved then they always took the lead.

Procedure at the graveside

The undertaker lead the pallbearers and the clergy to the grave.


When is your job done at the cemetery, before or after the casket is lowered?

The grave was usually not filled in front of the family.

Rural variations

There were hell, fire, and damnation sermons at the grave.

The grave was usually filled in front of the family.

late 19th century mourning symbols
Late 19th Century Mourning Symbols

Personal dress was black clothing.

Appearance of the home

Door Badges

Draped room or entire house with black cloth

Dark colored veils covered the doorways of the home.

Timetable of mourning behavior

Lasted two years for the widow

One year for the widower

The first 6 months was the period of deepest mourning for all family members.

Stationary- the width of the border on the calling card told how long the person had need of mourning.

Social Emblems

Badges were made for “Undertaker”, “Pallbearer” or Masonic or Catholic emblems.

Funeral music was gloomy

early 1900 s
Early 1900’s

The attitude went from gloomy to beautiful.

Caskets were made to be more aesthetic.

The couch style was designed to make the deceased to look as comfortable and natural as possible.


For a time they were considered pagan, wasteful, and worldly.

Eventually they became popular to help avoid the gloomy atmosphere of the funeral.

Artificial flowers were used because real flowers were hard to get.