Thursday, December 27, 2012

Season of Silence


Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19)
by Caspar David Friedrich


The Old Cemetery, Hopkington, MA

South Cemetery, Boxborough, MA
Photo credit: Muffet

Pet Cemetery; Edith Wharton Estate
Photo credit: David Dashiell

Jewish Cemetery by Karina

Cemetery Père-Lachaise under the snow
Photo credit: ~Pyb

New London Road Cemetery, Chelmsford (England)
Photo credit: Kevin Faye



"I didn't see any people there any more, but the candles were still burning. 
The feeling of timelessness was very strong."

Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY
Photo credit: Michael Webster

~ fini ~

A Tisket, A Tasket - A Coffin or a Casket?

Coffins always have hinged lids, caskets have tops that 
remove completely and are screwed on after viewing.

A subcategory of taphophilia is often an additional interest in period funerary practices and accoutrements, both from the cultural and artistic viewpoint. How a culture treats it's deceased can reveal much about it's people, and no one took funerary arts into a more thoroughly romanticized and morbid period than those clever Victorians of the 19th century. From post-mortem photos to elaborate caskets and even burials where a mother could go down and sit beside her child during storms, they reached the peak of funerary arts and crafts before the onset of embalming changed many practices forever.

Recreated Victorian funeral parlor, National Museum of Funeral History. Houston, TX

On to the examples: coffins or caskets -

Victorian iron.

Victorian glass childs coffin.
One of only three surviving glass coffins, it is on display at
the Museum of American Glass in Millville, NJ.
Thanks to for this, and the following image -great finds.

One of the other surviving glass coffins, at the
National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX.
(Yes, in the background, you are seeing a casket built for three people.)

Copper viewing casket. Age unknown.

Viewing casket, 19th c.

Body basket.
Research has determined that these were most often used by undertakers to transport a body from the place of death to the funeral home. Typically they have wooden bottoms and canvas handles, and were made in various sizes, from infant to adult.
There are sketchy reports that they were occasionally used for viewing, but I have been unable to substantiate this, and it seems unlikely for several reasons; not the least being rapid body decomposition in their time.

Victorian, wooden, hinged viewing window, on wheeled trolley.

Closeup of viewing window.

Elaborate Victorian drop-down viewing coffin.


Left: 19th c. iron casket with hinged viewing faceplate.
Right: 19th c. wooden casket with viewing window.
These caskets were generally custom ordered and fitted to the occupant,
and also sometimes filled with alcohol to preserve the remains
possibly this aided in transports over distance, etc; see The Lady In Red.

Mahogany, unlined child's coffin (never used), c. 1900.
Donated to the Wood County Historical Center.