Development of Coffins, Burial Cases, and Caskets- Test 2 Flashcards Preview

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Consisted of wrapping the remains in a blanket or at best a cerecloth, "winding sheet," and placing the remains uncoffined in a grave. Old English= "Windeing Sheet."

Earlier Burial Methods in Colonial America


With the influx of European cabinet makers and carpenters, coffin making entered the American colonies. (Hardwood Based).

Between 1650-1700


Did not stockpile coffins but rather made them "at need" because both hardwood and softwood was available.

The Colonists


Mostly pine, were used for the masses.



Had fancy imported coffin furniture trimmings and fittings were used for the wealthy.



Most coffins at this time were on the octagon shape (eight sided) basically European in design.

From 1650-1820


Begins to appear after the War of 1812.

Furnishing Undertaker


All coffin furniture was imported; lugs, handles, latches, corner molding, etc.

Before the American Revolutionary War of 1776


Because of this, of both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, American craftsmen were forced to enter or initiate the industrial revolution mostly in the northeast.

The Embargo Acts


By this time, coffin furniture, as well as coffins, were produced entirely in America.



Some coffin shops began to produce coffins exclusively on the wholesale level.

  • Example: John L. Dillon coffin and shroud warehouse of New York.

After the War of 1812


Begins to become the primary expense of the funeral bill.

The Coffin After 1812


Undertaking was separated into two distinct roles in terms or wholesale and retail. (3 reasons)

By 1840


  1. The industrial revolution
  2. A prospering new middle class
  3. The sexton and liveryman undertaker relied on the furnishing undertaker for supply.

Reasons Why Undertaking was Separated into two Distinct Roles in terms of Wholesale and Retail.


Brought about the birth of the furnishing undertaker who turned the simple coffin shop into the coffin warehouse. (Mass Production).

The Industrial Revolution


Would spend money but at the same time demand more in service and better burial receptacles, caused the development of the concept of supplier, thus the rise in power of the furnishing undertaker.

A Prospering New Middle Class


Had to rely completely on the furnishing undertaker for supply.

  • The cabinet maker undertaker still had the economic advantage because he could by-pass the middleman, the furnishing undertaker, but in terms of fit, finish, design, and variation in style he could not compete.

The Sexton and Liveryman Undertaker


Prior to 1929 back to the Colonial period was full itemization.



Billing since the stock market crash was moved to this.

Package Deals (Unit Pricing)


Most noticed in the early 19th century with the development of the casket and by the end of the 19th century, the 6-sided simple wooden coffin was replaced by the 4-sided casket. The 8-sided octagon was still prominent until the 1940's.

Improvement in Function, Style, and Composition


Specific goals set forth by this person to sell his product to the rising middle class through the retail undertaker causes in evolution in coffin-casket design.

Furnishing Undertaker


  1. The product should have increased utility- usefulness.
  2. It should reflect a person's station in life. (Distinct price ranges)
  3. It should have preservation capability long enough to have a wake and funeral service (Ice tray caskets).
  4. It should provide protection against grave robbers and boddy snatchers that sold bodies to anatomists, also it should protect the remains from the forces of nature, example: water, rodents, etc.
  5. It should have eye appeal, be beautiful even artistic as were other consumer goods of the period.

Specific Goals of the Furnishing Undertaker Causing an Evolution in Coffin-Casket Design


In 1836, recieved the first American patent on a metallic coffin which he produced in his workshop in Richmond, VA.

James A. Gray


And associates of Salina, New York in 1835, recieved a patent to make coffins of stone, marble, and hydraulic cement. These patents expired in 1849 because they were hard to manufacture, were heavy to handle, and had little aesthetic appeal. This person may be credited for cement burial vault development.

John White


  • Rubber
  • Celluloid (forerunner of plastics)
  • Papier Mache
  • Aluminum
  • Glass
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Baked Clay

By 1860, There were Patents Issued for Every Kind of Material Thinkable to Make Coffins (Most of These were Unsuccessful).


Returned to the anthropoid shape. Copied an Egyptian sarcophagus style mummy case with folded arms, made air tight of cast or raised metal and patented in 1848.

Almond D. Fisk- Fisk Metallic Coffin (Fisk Mummy Case)


In actuality, it may have deturred decay but encouraged putrefaction. Fisk later suggested that gas or preservative fluid (alcohol) be used inside the case to prevent putrefaction.

Fisk Falsely Claimed that Because his Case was Airtight, it Would Prevent Putrefaction


  1. Lighter in weight because of the form fitting design (still very heavy).
  2. A glass porthole similar to a diving bell on the head end to view the deceased's face.
  3. Airtight design to protect the body (is a false claim).

Claims of the Manufacturer About the Fisk Metallic Burial Case


This company of Long Island, New York, intially, with Fisk in partnership, manufactured the Fisk Metallic Coffin.

The W.M. Raymond Company


  • Development was mostly in the East and Mid-West by Crane, Breed and Co. who acquired manufacturing rights from Fisk and Raymond, and by Jan. 1854, were in control.
  • Crane, Breed, and Co. falsely claimed, as did Fisk, the mummy case would preserve dead bodies- mass production in Cincinnati, Ohio plant.

Increase in the Manufacture of Fisk Style Metallic Burial Case