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


  1. The Civil war with massive numbers of dead needing a mass-produced coffin.
  2. Good transportation by steamboat and railway made the cases accessible to all parts of the country.
  3. Good promotion by undertakers, in the newspapers, of the superiority in quality of these cases in terms of design, material, and construction.
  4. Many notable leaders were interred in these cases. Example: John C. Calhoun which created favorable publicity.

Promotion and Success of Fisk Style Metallic Burial Cases Was Due to:


  1. Bronzed case line
  2. Plain or octagon pattern

Designs Used in Manufacturing Burial Cases


Cast iron with bronze finish bedecked with highly wrought ornaments, representing drapery, flowers, emblems of mortality, etc. Two models were offered, the ornamental and the cloth covered. (high end).

Bronzed Case Line


Finished in imitation rosewood represented the lower end quality in the Crane, Breed and Co. line.

Plain or Octagon Pattern


By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the cloth covered metallic burial case surpassed the all metal ornamental case in popularity.

Material Used for Burial Cases


Introduction of metallic burial caskets on the four-sided design.

Between 1860-1875


A front hinged perimeter drop down design patented April 19, 1859 in Providence, Rhode Island. Simplified the earlier Fisk style by utilizing less space, flattening the top, and decreasing the weight. The sides were more rectangelarized with internal overlapping support ribs.

A.C. Barstow- Ogee Design


The sarcophagus principle (Anthropoid) of shaping the casket top to the human form betwen 1860-1875 had given way to a rectangularized shape with a flat or slightly domed top.

Changes in Design


Furnishing undertaker and coffin manufacturer, in Boston, Mass. 1849, ten years before Barstow, claims to be the first to develop the straight-sided coffin. He also used the word "casket" (chest or coffer) to describe his innovation.

William Cooley


Between 1858 and 1862, marks without a doubt the introduction of the rectangularized casket and they mass produced it during the Civil War.

Crane, Breed and Co.


Developed in 1857 by Crane, Breed and Co. as a streamlined coffin was the forerunner of the modern casket.

Zinc Shoulder Casket


With the advent of these, after the Civil War, an emphasis on presentation of the dead rather than merely encasing the body came about.

Arterial Injection and Cavity Treatment of the Dead


In 1871, Crane, Breed and Co. mass produced the first sheet metal casket. Basically it was sheet metal molded over support iron flanges and much lighter in weight than those early designs made of cast iron. They produced two models, the Oriental and the New Casket.

Impact on Modern Casket Manufacturing Methods


After the Civil War, these entered the filed or mass producing metal caskets. By 1890, the term coffin was replaced by the term casket, not only in the funeral service profession, but also in the United States Patent Office.

Stove Manufacturers


Could compete with mass produced metallic caskets. They could be mass produced by many cabinet makers working together, utilizing modern methods after the Civil War, whose origins were the pre-Civil War furnishing undertaker. They would be wood constructed, reinforced by metal struts and supports, and covered with ornate broadcloth (up to 1945).

Cloth Covered Burial Cases- Wooden Casket Production


Impact on coffin-casket manufacturing was most noted by Samuel Stein and his _________ in 1871.

Stein Patent Burial Casket


Was an Austrian cabinet maker who settled in Rodchester, N.Y. in 1850. He supported himself by constructing glass display cases for stores. In 1870, he produced a glass and wood casket but it was too fragile and considered too innovative for the times. in 1872, he modified the glass sides with wood and then covered these panels with cloth; a success. (His first glass coffin was a failure).

Samuel Stein


In this time, Samuel Stein claimed that a wooden cloth covered casket would provide the same preservation features, as well as outlast a metallic casket (Note: Neither would preserve anything).

In 1874


  1. His casket was used to bury James Gordon Bennett, owner and editor of the New York Herald newspaper, who died June 1, 1872- favorable publicity.
  2. He was allowed to display his cloth covered caskets at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1875 (Took many orders from undertakers).
  3. In 1885, his style E state casket covered with the finest black broadcloth was used in the burial of U.S. Grant. It even had the ex-president's initials embroidered on its pillow.
  4. The success of his style E. state casket brought about a merger in 1890 with the National Casket Company. It occupied nearly one hundred thousand square feet of space and was producing six hundered cloth covered caskets per week.

Three Events that Brought about the Success to Stein and his Cloth Over Wood Casket


  • Materials used: concrete and artificial stone, terra cotta, cement and wood, glass panel, celluloid, papier mache, india rubber, and wicker (some success).
  • Designs: Glass panels flanged together to form a box, cruciform, with adjustable length and width.

Nineteenth Century "also ran"- Burial Receptacles with well Intentioned Ideas


  • Too fragile
  • Too heavy
  • Too Transparent
  • Too cumbersome
  • Too ridiculous in design

Most 19th Century "also ran" Designs failed for These Reasons.


  • Many of the early iron and cement coffins were the forerunners of the modern iron and cement burial vaults.
  • The glass coffins may have lead to the glass lined sealers of the 20th century.

Influence on Modern Practices


These caskets did not provoke more than a ripple of attention from 19th century undertakers, however, they were developed and sold to the public based on the fear of premature burial. Nothing psychologically had changed since ancient Rome and Greece in many citizen's minds.

Life Signal Coffin (Fraud Coffin)


  • Spring loaded lids (useless when buried)
  • Signal bell with pullcord attached to the deceased's hand.
  • Electric alarm systems
  • Signal flags working on the same principle as the bell.
  • Air hose going from the deceased's mouth to above ground.

Methods and Materials Used- Life Signal Coffins


At the end of the 19th century, this ended life signal caskets. (for obvious reasons).

Arterial Embalming


In 1843, life signal coffins were being patented in the U.S., the earliest 1843 to be patented came from the drawing board of this person (of Baltimore, MD). His invention was designed by an arrangement of wires, pins and a spring loaded lid to enable to occupant of the coffin by the slightest movement of the head or hand to cause the lid to spring open.

Christian Eisenbrandt


In 1868 (Newark New Jersey) consisted of a square tube containing a ladder and a cord. On one end of which was attached to the hand of the person in the coffin, the other end of the cord extended to the top of the tube with a bell.

Franz Vester


One who stole bodies from graves to sell to anatomists.



The problem of the resurrectionist, caused the development in Columbus, Ohio about 1878 of this. This device, made of iron and about an inch in diameter and six inches long, contained an explosive and a trip mechanism to set it off should the coffin be tampered with. (Basically a shot gun).

Clover Coffin Torpedo


Date back to the Egyptian pyramids and the Hebrew burial chamber.

Outside Enclosures


These were the first attempt to use structures similar to what is used today for outside enclosures (burial vaults, liners, and outside boxes).

Greek and Roman Stone Crypts (Garden Crypts)


Outside enclosures to protect the coffin with its remains during the middle ages fell strictly into the realm of the nobles. Intramural interment tended more toward crypts placed in the floor and walls of churches. It was an area of _____ _____ that we find the vault of at least its origin.

Extramural Interment


There was little use of outside enclosures of any kind during this period.

Colonial America (1500-1800)


At this time, we find outside enclosure development occurring in North America.

Nineteenth Century (1800-1900)


  1. Sectional
  2. Brick and slab
  3. Slate vault
  4. Brick and slate

Materials Used for Outside Enclosures (before metallic sealed vaults).


Concrete slabs of various lengths sealed together to form an oblong box; all attachment of such slabs was done with a sand base cement mortar (Forerunner of the modern cement outside liner).



Consisted of a concrete floor or slab with brick and mortar sides and a top slab of concrete.

Brick and Slab


Large squares or slabs of slate with tongue and groove end fittings bolted together to form an oblong box. (Many in coal regions).

Slate Vault


Popular in Eastern cities; slate bottom, brick and mortar sides and a slate top slab.

Brick and Slate


In 1872 in Hartford, Conn., protested the high cost of brick and slab as well as slate vaults. His idea was simple; place the casket into a wooden rough box on top of small supports, elevating it above the floor. Pour concrete into the rough box which would act as a mold. The casket would be completely encased in concrete.

Jacob Weidenmann


In 1878, invented the burial safe in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a large iron cage constructed of heavy iron slats bolted together and padlocked. Its purpose was to protect the remains against resurrectionists.

Andrew Van Bibber


The number of patents granted in connection with concrete burial vaults seems to skyrocket at this time. Wherever gravel, sand, and cement could be found, by 1920, there was a concrete vault company in operation.

Between 1900 and 1920


By this time, concrete manufacturers were producing both the simple concrete box called a grave liner as well as the reinforced airtight, water proof concrete vaults whose tops would seal with a tongue and groove that had eye appeal directed toward the consumer. Top seal concrete burial vault. The groove is in the lid, the tongue is the top perimeter rim of the box.



Of Springfield, Ohio, concerned with the number of grave robberies, developed a design that would dominate metallic vault stypes up to the present.

George W. Boyd


George W. Boyd's design consisted of the conventional two parts, a domed iron cover and a floor plate, both made of wrought iron plates riveted together as you would when making a boiler. This was the direct predecessor of this kind of burial vault used today.

Air Seal Metallic Burial Vault


George Boyd sold his patent to this person, whose salesmen sold the vault through the Springfiled Metallic Casket Company. By 1900, the Champion Company began manufacturing the vault themselves and became a competitor of Springfield Metallic Casket Company. These two companies dominated the metallic vault business, at the end of the 19th century, in the United States.

Scipio Baker of the Champion Embalming Chemical Company


Now this is the leader in air seal metal vaults today. Air seal is a dome on the plate/base system.

Clark Metal Grave Vault


Generally, modern concrete vaults are top seal and metal vaults are ___ ___. The newest plastic or fiberglass vaults are air seal.

Air Seal


Was a variation of the existing vault and was made like a safe deposit box with a hinged end panel. After placing the casket in the vault the end panel was sealed and the whole unit was lowered into the grave. (The modern garden crypt developed from these).

The End Seal Metallic Vault


  1. Initially, to protect the remains from grave robbers.
  2. Later, to protect the casket and its contents.
  3. Aesthetic beauty and eye appeal seems to be the most current appeal to the consumer.

Basic Concepts for the use of Vaults


  1. Hardwood and softwood was cheap and plentiful and was used to make rough boxes to protect ornate wooden and metal caskets that were shipped by steamboat and railway.
  2. Caskets were placed on top of these boxes for display. The get rid of these boxes, undertakers would offer them to their families free of charge a grave liners. Eventually they charged for the transportation and placing of these boxes in graves, and by 1870, were also charging for the box itself.

Development of the Wooden Rough Box


Rough boxes were extensively used as grave liners because of the many deaths due to influenza (Spanish Flu).

After WWI, 1918


5 to 10 percent of all funerals included vaults, mostly metal air seal. (Completely sealed).

By 1915


The vast majority of Americans could not, or would not, pay for concrete or metal vaults and most used wooden outside boxes as grave liners up to and through this time.

  • Wooden rough box- pine box with pine top- "now" they are not available.

Up to and Through World War II


It has only been since this time, that cemeteries have demanded the minimum outside box to be at least a concrete grave liner. (Rough boxes collasped and could not support the earth) Liners- no seal. Concrete slabs- top slabs just placed on top. "Now" concrete liner has 2 holes drilled in bottom and one piece top placed on top.

Since World War II (1945)


Funeral homes sold vaults exclusively. Since 1972, many cemeteries now sell concrete vaults.

Up to 1972


A cement box that has a top but does not seal. It has 2 large holes in the bottom for water drainage and supports the earth above it.

A Concrete Grave Liner


The reinforced cement vault has dominated vault sales.

From 1945 to the Present


Have dominated up until World War II. Since then, the metal casket has taken the lead.

Cloth Covered Wooden Caskets and Ornate Wooden Caskets