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One of the most inescapable  needs created by death in an organized society arise from the fact that the deceased must be _____ from the place of death to other places for funeralization and disposition.



French in nature from "Herse" but derived from the Latin word Hirpex meaning rake or harrow- originally a stationary ornate framework.

Entomology of the Word Hearse


From the Latin word Funeralis.



Of all processions this is probably the oldest known to mankind.

Funeral Procession


Transportation became necessary and elaborate when interments changed from intramural to extramural in medieval Europe demanding a vehicle to transport the remains. (Bubonic plague caused thousands of bodies to be transported to extramural burial places).

Early Transportation of the Body


  • Bier or "Bear"
  • Bearers and underbearers
  • The Distance

Early Methods of Transportation of the Body


A hand stretcher on which uncoffined remains were placed to lie in state or waked and then utilized to transport the remains to the grave.

Bier ("Bear")


Would be responsible to carry to bier (sometimes a person's bed) to the grave. The four bearers, when exhausted, would be relieved by four underbearers.

Bearers and Underbearers


Created by the change from intramural to extramural interment required that horse (or donkey) drawn carts be utilzed to carry to bier and later the coffin.

The Distance


From 1600 to 1800 transportation of the dead went from farm wagon to elaborate glass paneled, ornate exteriors and hand carved wood with draped interiors. Prior to the Revolutionary war, the liveryman entered fneral service, it was one short step from providing transportation to directing funeral processions, and eventually taking charge of all funeral related proceedings.

Colonial American Hearses


Innovators of the funeral vehicle development 1850-1910

  • James Cunningham & son & co.
  • Hudson sampson
  • Crane, Breed & co

Horse Drawn Hearses of the Late 19th (post Civil War) and early 20th Centuries


Featured a "funeral car" at the New Orleans Cotton Exposition in 1884. It was rectangular, falling back to an earlier style with five urns and gilded columns.

James Cunningham & Son & Co.


In 1889 introduced the eigh poster, oval decked "funeral car". This marked the end of the ornamental deck hearse that had dominated hearse styling.

Hudson Sampson


Exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, the ost elaborate and outstanding funeral car of the 19th century. It weighed 2400 lbs. as opposed to the 1600 lb. standard hearse. It was a church on wheels.

Crane, Breed & Co.


The majority of the hearses at this time were hand made, and horse drawn designed by cabinet makers and/or liveryman undertakers.

Late 19th (post Civil War) and early 20th Centuries


Before 1865, simple yet ornate, and hand carved. It was basically a long rectangular box with windows along the side and skimped curtains with a drivers seat on top and pulled by one horse.

The Pre-Civil War Hearse


After 1865 to 1910, quite ornate, huge in size and weight, and drawn by as many as six to eight horses. They had full plate glass sides, fancy scroll work along the top, metal columns, flower urns, plumes (for horses), etc. These vehicles were referred to as "funeral cars" because of their massive size. They were not called hearses.

The Post Civil War Hearse


Undertakers seemed to buy new funeral vehicles in ___ year cycles.



In 1885, the first electric street railway appears in Baltimore, MD. In 1889, the first funeral trolley car appears in Atchison, Kansas, taking mourners to Mount Vernon cemetery. (Used all over the US in larger cities).

Funeral Trolley Car


Most funeral trolley cars were converted to these, with seating for pall bearers, family, minister, undertaker, etc. There was space for flowers and of course the casket. (Flowers were placed outside on the roof and on racks. The "spray" was placed on racks that had hooks to hold it.)

Full Size Trolley Cars


Would follow behind carrying relatives and friends.

Other Standard Trolley Cars


Was led by the ornate and decorative funeral trolley, would enter the various cemeteries on specially provided tracks.

The Entire Procession of Trolleys


The funeral trolley was popular in large cities between _____ and _____ but lost favor because of the "excessive speed" and the fact that it jolted the mourners.

1890 to 1925


Was run by United Railway and Electric Company, they had 2 funeral trolleys. One was named Delores (Sorrow in Spanish) and the other one was Chesapeake.

Baltimore City Trolley System


Had 2 funeral trolleys named Loudin and Linden. Each held 30 people and were used up to 1931.

Loudin Park Cemetery


Served all the major cemeteries in Baltimore. Bodies were laid out in houses, trolleys were ordered for a specific time. Flowers were placed on the trolley first then the casket. People attending the funeral were placed on cars behind. Tracks went directly into cemeteries.

Funeral Trolleys


The first motorized hearses appears to be old horse drawn funeral cars mounted on lengthened passenger cars and truck chasis. By 1920, specific designs for motorized hearses appeared. (Before 1920 most were conversions).

Designs of Gasoline Powered Hearses


  • Fred Hulberg
  • Crane, Breed & Co.

Innovators in the Development of Funeral Cars


1908 in New York invented a combined hearse-passenger vehicle. It was a combination horse drawn hearse-trolley car with an automobile power plant, 16 feet long selling for $6,000. None were ever sold. (The modern equivalent: Air Stream Combination vehicle) 

  • Major Flaw- Won't go up hills. 

Fred Hulberg


In June 1909 manufactured and sold the first auto hearse designed as a hearse and not a conversion. Was the 1920's before it was popular.

Crane, Breed & Co.