Origins of funeral customs were British and Dutch.
Americn Colonial Funeral Behavior
Founded in 1607 and was basically a commercial enterprise.
Virginia Colony (South)
These funeral customers were carried intact to the southern colonies.
Was the primary controlling force over funeralization practices in the southern colonies.
Anglican Church Sexton
The actual preparation and care of the remains were perfromed:
Within the Family Unit
Founded in 1620 by Puritans as a religious colony in exile from Anglican England.
Masachusetts Bay Colony (North)
Massachusetts Bay Colony established this kind of government that rejected all other creeds except their own.
During this century, the Massachusetts Bay Colony embraced the doctrine of fatalism and rejected an organized clergy, doctrines, or any other trappings of European organized religion.
The 17th Century
- Simplistic committal services
- Immediate interments
- All preparations of the deceased accomplished within the family unit.
- Eliminated prayers during the committal
Massachusetts Bay Colony Funeral Practices
The Calvanistic work or starve to death ethic with dedication to the production of goods and service and the development of one's own individuality, pulling one's own weight, spread throughout the colonies from it's base in New England. (Protestant work ethic).
Rise of Protestantism
Death was common place, and the funeral was a common occurrence and because of its frequency became integral as a social custom.
Burial Practices (American Colonies)
- Indian wars
- Colonial disputes
- Very high infant mortality rate
- Communicable diseases (smallpox)
- Public executions
The Reason for Death Being Common Place
Burial was in churchyards and this was firmly transplanted into the colonial regulatory and legal system as it related to funeral practice. (Still influences funerals today).
British Common Law
Puritan funeral customs were models of simplicity and dignity.
An increase in social character and prestige attached to funeralization. Ostentatious funeral practices (within 100 years (3 generations) poor people could become wealthy (small cottage industries became profitable.))
The skull and crossbones was replaced by this on gravestones.
Winged Cherub (1700-1800)
Fatalism and pessimism were replaced by this as prosperity increased in New England.
Liberalized Calvinism (Presbyterianism) 1700-1800
The return of these, often printed and attached to coffins. (1700-1800)
Were given as gifts to those who participated in the funeral. Massachusetts general court passed laws prohibiting "Extraordinary expense at funerals."
- Due to extensive gift giving at funerals, the colonial widow was faced with tremendous financial burden.
Use of Gifts (Late 1700's)- Scarves, gloves, books, printed verses, needlecraft, etc.
Would begin in the church with prayers and a sermon said over a pall-covered coffin placed on a bier.
The Funeral (1700-1800)
On foot, underbearers actually carrying the coffin on the bier, while pallbearers, men of dignity, held the corners of the pall. Pallbearers held 6 sticks attached to the pall and carried it over the coffin or bier. Went slowly and was marked by numerous rest stops and frequent change of under bearers.
The Procession (1700-1800)
Charging fees for:
- Announcing the funeral by tolling the bell
- Digging the grave
The funeral bt the revolutionary war was both a social function and a public event. No charge for birth/death records or other recordkeeping.
The Colonial Sexton
A Catholic colony that continued the European pratices of the Roman Catholic Church. Was a place where British Roman Catholics could practice their faith free from persecution.
Is a result of 200 years 1600-1800, of extremely hard working merchants, farmers, and fishermen, planting the seeds for the industrial revolution and the turning point for funeral service in the future United States.
The Rise of a Middle Class
Funeral services during this tie became a middle class phenomenon.
The 18th and 19th Centuries (Extends into the 20th Century)
This is the influence of the revolution.
Social Change in the Later Colonial Period
- The remains were washed, dressed, and placed in state by family, neighbors or even a nurse. (There were no hospitals, only a few Barber Surgeons)
- A coffin was purchased by a cabinet maker, the more expensive coffins would have expensive "Coffin Furniture" (attachments) imported from England or Germany.
- Evisceration and placing remains in cere cloth during hot weather.
- Giving of gifts to mourners.
New England Wake
Metal decorations, lugs, frames, handles, corner molding, latches, etc.
Heavy double duck canvas, usually wool.
- Funerals under direct control of the Anglican Church usually by the sexton who is now charging a fee for his services.
- The British medieval customers of drinking and feasting were carried into the colonies and a new custom of shooting off guns was added (exiled "lower class" population, mainly from prisons).
- After 1750 as the colonies became stable there was some degree of ceremonial dignity restored to the Christian funeral.
- Specific garments for mourning were also characteristic of the southern colonies (Formal Funeral Dress).
Virginia or Southern Colonial Funeral