Saturday, January 23, 2010

Death Memorabilia, Part 3: More Examples of Memorial Cards

I have more special examples of memorial cards that I didn’t share in my earlier post Death Memorabilia, Part 1: Memorial Cabinet Cards. I’m fascinated by the wonderful variety found in the graphics, poetry, design, colors, and information in these cards. First, here's a great card for Mrs. Isabel Stone, who died in 1904. The card maker is not identified, but it includes one of my favorites of the memorial card poems. The first stanza of this poem is featured on the gravestone of my 3rd great-grandmother, Kitty (Settle) Morris who died in 1881 and is buried at the Old Dexter Cemetery in Cooke County, Texas.

Call not back the dear departed,
Anchored safe where storms are o’er
On the border land we left them
Soon to meet and part no more.

When we leave this world of changes
When we leave this world of care
We shall find our missing loved one
In our Father’s mansion fair.

The dove at the top of the card is carrying a banner which reads:

Let us be patient!
These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

Arguably the rarest and best card in my collection, the memorial card for one-year old Onie Dulaney was produced by the E. S. Utter & Co. Memorial Cards of 155 Randolph Street in Chicago. This card’s graphics are outstanding and filled with symbolism. Included are an hourglass, a large curtain (the veil separating life and death), the wings of a rising phoenix (a mythical bird that never dies), garland swags, and cemetery monuments. The moving poem reads:

This lovely bud, so young, so fair,
Called hence by early doom,
Just came to show how sweet a flower,
In Paradise would bloom.

Ere sin could harm or sorrow fade,
Death came with friendly care,
The opening bud to Heaven conveyed,
And bade it blossom there.

Another unusual design for a child’s card is “The Angel of Peace” card, copyrighted in 1898 by the H. F. Wendell Company of Leipsic, Ohio. This sweet design depicts an angel taking a child to heaven, and also features a crescent moon. The card memorializes Lenny Irvin Peterson, age 2 years, who died in 1915. Again, a beautiful memorial poem:

We had a little treasure once,
He was our joy and pride.
We loved him, ah! perhaps too much,
For soon he slept and died.
All is dark within our dwelling,
Lonely are our hearts today.
For the one we loved so dearly,
Has forever passed away.

Many cards bear this phrase along the top: “Whom the Lord Loveth He Chasteneth”, which speaks to a doctrine not generally espoused today. This card was produced by George Mitchell, Manufacturer, Fine Memorial Cards, Middletown, Ohio.

This is another H. F. Wendell card, notable because it’s a white card with gold border and black background within the border. It memorializes the 1923 death of Mrs. J. A. McNeal. This attractive card is from the declining years of the popularity of memorial cards.

In my earlier post, I said the oldest card in my collection memorialized an 1888 death. However, I forgot I had this card for Frank Herring, who died October 17, 1887. The poem is a well-known and beautiful funeral hymn:

Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep!
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes.

Asleep in Jesus! far from thee,
Thy kindred and their graves may be:
But thine is still a blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep.

Among the rarer memorial cards are ones that have a photograph of the deceased pasted in the center, as these were undoubtedly more expensive. This is a fine example for William Williamson, who died at the age of 41 in 1905. His poem reads:

He has gone from his dear ones, his child, his wife,
Whom he willingly toiled for, and loved as his life;
Oh, God, how mysterious and how strange are Thy ways,
To take from us this loved one in the best of his days.

Finally, this memorial card for Eliza E., wife of P. R. Russell is unusual in the volume of information it contains. This is the only card in my collection that mentions family members, marriage date, or place of burial. The design is unlike any I’ve seen and this card may well have been produced locally.

© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills

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