Funeral directing, as a specific occupation, sprang forth after the Civil War (1865). Prior to the Civil War the term "funeral undertaking" encompassed other tradesman and their efforts, more of less, as a sideline performing funeral service tasks. (Tradesman undertakers working part time).
Limitations of the Term "Funeral Directing"
- A specific set of tasks for the care and disposal of the dead.
- As a business enterprise taking on professionalism by offering personal specialized service.
Funeral Directing Concepts
Only on a small scale was the British style of this seen in colonial America and only in large population centers. Most came from the British upholsterer's trade.
- Cabinet Maker
- The Protestant church sexton
- Liveryman Trade
Introduction of Many Craftsmen into the Field of Undertaking in Colonial America (Prior to the Civil War as a Sideline)
Upholsterer's trade, coffin making.
Directing the burial, record keeping.
The Protestant Church Sexton
Renters of hacks and carriages.
Increased as cities grew and material resources of townspeople increased. All of America's old established funeral services evolved from the cabinet maker, the protestant church sexton, and the liveryman trade.
The Importance of Tradesmen
The basic undertaking functions in colonial America and later on the developing frontier, from 1700-1860, were accomplished by:
Neighbors, Relatives, Clergy, Craftsmen, Doctors, Nurses, or the Family
Earlier performers of the personal service that indirectly involved funeral services, often as a sideline betwen 1700 to 1820 were:
Nurses and Midwives- "Layers out of the Dead"
The role of this person in early American Funeralization was most significant. As an extension of their role as nurses and midwives, they would wash, dress, and place the deceased in sate mostly on a slumber couch, bed, or if available at the time of death, a coffin (very often it took 2 to 3 days for a coffin to arrive).
Like a chaise lounge, only one end raises.
This person was also using a rental slumber couch.
Tolling of the bell and digging graves was extended to include directing funeral processions, laying out of the body, being in attendence to families, furnishing merchandise, and paraphernalia, and record keeping.
Religious Functionaries in Funeral Service Specifically the Role of the Portestant Church Sexton
- He would take charge of other undertakers' funerals once inside the cemetery.
- He controlled cemetery and church policy as they related to rules, regulations, fees, statements or birth and death, scheduling funeral times, etc.
Sexton-Undertaker was the Most Powerful of the Three Trades to Enter Funeral Service as a Sideline in the Early 19th Century
An independent Patterson, New Jersey Undertaker, in 1950 won his court case against the sectons' monopoly in his area.
- "Inviter to Funerals"
- Town Undertaker
A licensed position in the colonies and common between 1650-1700. This licensed individual was paid by local government to be sure all were properly buried. He was the forerunner of the coroner.
Inviter to Funerals
Developed between 1750 and 1800 and became entrenched in municipal government by the Ware of 1812. It was a definite advantage for this person to hold a public office in the health field as a coronor prior to the Civil War. Conflict of interest had really not been established in law as yet.
A cabinet maker-undertaker from Baltimore, MD. Was appointed coroner in 1799.
By this war, 1861 to 1865, we find that undertaking had taken on the characteristics of a service occupation with a specific set of tasks and functions organized into a pattern of behavior toward the dead.
The Civil War
- Placing the deceased in state; some embalming but mostly ice trays.
- Transporting the body to the grave.
- Furnishing paraphernalia of mourning clothing, emblems, etc. (sold or rented).
- Some paperwork filed. Not at the health department, but with sextons at local churches.
Specific Undertaking Procedure From Death to Burial
Appears just prior to the Civil War (1840's to 1850's) as a wholesaler who supplied coffins and other funeral paraphanalia to the emerging undertaker who no longer had the time to devote to making his own goods (Becomes very powerful- origin of Funeral Supplier and Manufacturer).
The Furnishing Undertaker
The furnishing undertaker encouraged others to enter the funeral service who were not these. He would be a silent backer for others to enter into Funeral Directing if all materials were purchased from him. (Until the Sherman Antitrust act 1890's).
Cabinet Makers, Sextons, or livery Men.
The cabinet maker still held this because he could cut out the middleman, namely the furnishing undertaker, prior to the civil war.
The furnishing undertaker encouraged professionalism in funeral service by encouraging undertakers to devote full time personal service to bereaved families, freeing them from obligations to craft or trade.
After the Civil War (1865)
The cabinet maker could no longer compete against the furnishing undertaker who by now developed mass production manufacturing techniques for all kinds of coffins.
After the Civil War, and by 1900
- Prior to 1840: Traditional wooden coffin handcrafted in a cabinet shop.
- 1840 to 1870: Mass produced metallic Fish mummy case.
- 1870 to 1900: Cloth covered wood and metal coffins mass produced by furnishing undertakers.
19th Century American Burial Receptacies Used