Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farewell Till We Meet Again

Here’s a few images of burials and cemeteries that were professionally taken and mounted on photo boards – the same mounting as for cabinet cards, but these images are different sizes. All of these images most likely date to the 1900-1910 era.

The first is one of my favorites, both for one special feature in it, as well as the story of how I got it. In 1996, I stopped at a dilapidated old motel along Interstate 20 east of Abilene, Texas because there was a hand-lettered sign out front advertising “Junk and Antiques”. The building was awful, and so was the merchandise – clearly more junk than antiques. As I was leaving, I noticed this old photograph under a pile of debris, which included a can of paint. I pulled it out and liked it, due to its subject matter, but then I saw cockroach excrement over much of the mounting board and some of the image. I was putting it down when the little banner (which appears to be supported by sticks) near the head of the grave caught my eye: “Farewell Till We Meet Again”. How could I leave that gem behind? The price was two dollars, so I took it. When I got home, I cut off most of the mounting board and worked at cleaning the image with a damp cloth. The worst of the matter was in the center, above the grave, and you can see where I removed some of the emulsion in my efforts. Other stains remain on the upper edge, but I cropped them out. This image was taken by Harrik’s Studio of Schulenberg, Texas and I assume it was made in or near Schulenberg. Notice how the photographer altered the negative to outline the grave and floral offerings, and obliterated the upper portion of the image.


Below are four images, three of interments and one of a cemetery. None of these are identified as to location or photographer, but the one that shows the burial with the head and foot marker already in place (which must have been ordered and erected prior to death) is marked on the back “Eugene South’s grave”.





© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills

Real Photo Postcards of Interments and Cemeteries

First, let me share a pet peeve. I frequently see obituaries that refer to the “internment” of the deceased. That is not the correct term. According to Merriam-Webster, “interment” means the act or ceremony of putting a dead body in its final resting place, and a synonym for interment is burial. “To inter” means to bury or entomb. “Internment” means the act of confining or the state of being confined, especially during time of war, and synonyms for internment are captivity, confinement, and imprisonment. (A correct usage of “internment” would be “The internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II is one of the more shameful chapters in United States history.”) Yes, the terms are somewhat similar in meaning, but they are definitely not interchangeable. I see this so frequently that I wonder if grammar or spell check software is the responsible culprit.

Anyway, today I thought I’d share some real photo postcards of interments. A real photo postcard is exactly what you’d think it is – a postcard bearing an actual photograph. These were common from about 1910 to 1950 – the photo could be professional or amateur, and anyone could have negatives printed with the inexpensive postcard backs. They were suitable for mailing, and many were mailed, although the images shown below are postally unused. Postcard collectors refer to them as RPPCs or RPs. For more information about the world of postcard collecting, you can visit the Capital of Texas Postcard Club, of which I’m a member. For detailed information on RPPCs, this link to Playle’s is outstanding.

None of these images are identified as to cemetery location or name of deceased. These cards all date to the 1904-1920 era, based on the design of the stamp boxes on the backs (see the Playle's link for more information on dating RPPCs using stamp box design). The first image shows a wonderful old graveyard with some seriously large floral tributes, including one from the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), of which the deceased would have been a member. The other arrangement looks to be the compass and T-square of Masonry; I don't know how common it was to be in both societies.

This image shows a cemetery with graves uniformly outlined with bricks. This is an interesting old tradition, which is frequently not seen today, since it’s much easier to maintain a cemetery that does not have grave outlines. You also see old graves that are outlined with rocks, shells, iron or wood fencing, or that are mounded to form the outline. The modern version of outlining is the use of concrete grave covers and/or curbing.

The last image shows a close-up of a burial with floral offerings and grave markers in the background.

© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills

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

Death Memorabilia, Part 2: A Memorial Card Catalog

As I mentioned in Death Memorabilia, Part 1: Memorial Cabinet Cards, a number of companies marketed memorial cabinet cards, including the National Memorial Company of Northfield, Vermont, which was established in 1876. A few years ago I was fortunate to find a copy of the company’s “Catalog and Price-List of Fine Memorial Cards”, which was published about 1897. The cover instructs “Do not Destroy or Return this Catalog – If you are not interested, give to a bereaved friend.”

The catalog depicts five designs of memorial cards and features 22 “Selections of Memorial Poetry” that can be selected for any of the cards. (I’ll be covering memorial card poetry in a future post, and will include the poems from this catalog.) The dates of death on the samples shown are all from 1896, which is why I believe this catalog was published about 1897.

“The Memorial Cards used by us differ much from those furnished by any other company, are designed by our own artists, and while elaborate in detail are strikingly neat, tasteful and appropriate. They are printed in a combination of the richest bronzes, and a mere reproduction in black gives almost no idea of the beauty of the designs.

“A heavy velvet-faced black card is used for all orders, unless a white card is desired, but all designs may be had, when specially ordered, worked on a white instead of a black ground. The white cards are of the finest finish, and we advise their use for a child’s card. Many prefer them, also, for a young lady. The price is the same as for black cards. They are very neat, and will please those of the most refined tastes.”


The catalog also includes prices and general instructions, such as information regarding references, payment in advance, and how to send money through the mail. The cost of memorial cards was: 1 card – 15 cents, 4 cards – 50 cents, 8 cards – 75 cents, 12 cards – $1.00, 25 cards – $1.75, 50 cards – $3.00, and 100 cards – $5.00.

The page titled “Special Announcements” advertises the company’s additional offerings of Catholic Prayer Cards, German and French Cards, Mourning Visiting Cards, and Memorials for Framing. The Mourning Visiting Cards were “printed in the best manner on finest quality of Bristol board with black border, and of the very latest fashionable size, sent postage paid at the following prices: 25 for 50 cents; 50 for 75 cents; 100 for $1.00”. The Memorials for Framing are described as “A very handsome Memorial for framing, size 13 X 16 inches, mailed for $1.00. Send name, date of death and age of deceased.”

Shown below is an example from my collection of National Memorial Company’s Design No. One, which memorializes William J. Thiel, who died in February 1897.

© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Scottsville Cemetery, near Marshall, Harrison County, Texas

The Scottsville Cemetery is four miles east of Marshall, Harrison County, Texas and is filled with wonderful, artistic old funeral monuments. These two antique photographs were taken about 1910 by the Parker-Corti Studio in Marshall. One shows the cemetery entrance with the chapel in the background and the other is a close-up of the chapel. Each is identified on the back and one has the notation “Mrs. P. Youree”. I assumed they belonged to Mrs. Youree who died in 1934 and is buried at Scottsville. This is a very old Texas community, founded by the William Scott family who moved to this area in 1840.

Select this link to view cemetery listings and photographs of many of the monuments. Scottsville is several hundred miles from my home, but is definitely on my list of cemeteries to visit and photograph.

© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills

Friday, January 1, 2010

Death Memorabilia, Part 1: Memorial Cabinet Cards

As a longtime collector of American funeralia, I’ve accumulated a large quantity of death-related memorabilia. This series of posts will examine the different categories, characteristics, and purposes of paper funeral collectibles.

Memorial cards, properly called memorial cabinet cards, are the size of cabinet photographs, measuring 6 ½ by 4 ¼ inches. They were printed on thick card stock, as were cabinet photographs. A number of companies produced the cards, most notably the Memorial Card Company of Philadelphia. I also have cards from a number of other companies, including E. C. Stark Memorial Cards of Philadelphia; H. F. Wendell & Co. of Leipsic, Ohio; National Memorial Co. of Northfield, Vermont; Art Memorial Co. of Baltimore, Maryland; and George Mitchell Fine Memorial Cards of Greenfield, Indiana.

The earliest example in my collection is dated 1888 (shown above), the latest example is from 1927, and most of the cards are from the 1895-1915 era, which seems to be the heyday of these cards. The card manufacturer is frequently not identified, but some makers imprinted their advertising on the back or on the bottom of the card. A memorial card for Cora Esther Schucker, who died March 6, 1891, has a piece of advertising glued to the back that provides valuable insight:

“This Memorial Card is sent to you for your inspection. It has been for a number of years in Europe and lately in many parts of the United States, a beautiful custom upon the death of a dear friend or relative to prepare a suitably inscribed Memorial Card of the deceased, which kept in the family album or neatly framed becomes not only a token of respect to the memory of the departed one, but is a continual reminder of one who in life was near and dear to you. Thinking that you would appreciate one of our Cabinet Memorial Cards, we have taken the liberty of submitting this sample to you for inspection. If it meets with your approval, you can retain it by remitting to us the price, 25 cents. Additional copies can be procured at the following prices: 6 for 50 cents, 9 for 75 cents, or 12 for $1.00. Should there be any mistake in the printing, or should the card be injured in the mail, return it to us with 25 cents and the corrections you desire and we will rectify it.

"Your particular attention is called to the clearness and brightness of our gold work, in comparison to the numerous imitations, which you no doubt will receive. Being the originators of this business in the United States and having special machinery for the manufacture of these goods, we can guarantee our work to be first-class in every particular.

"If you do not wish to retain it, cross off your name and address on the large envelope wherein we sent it to you, and return it to us. For price list, designs, verses, and other information see the accompanying descriptive circular. Very respectfully, MEMORIAL CARD CO. P. O. Box 619, 120 and 122 N. Seventh Street, Philadelphia.”

The memorial card companies probably subscribed to various newspapers to learn of local deaths, and they may also have employed persons in different areas of the country to clip death notices. The company would then make a memorial card, using the information in the obituary, and send it to the survivors along with a solicitation for orders. In those days, of course, there were no addresses required for mail, unless a person lived in one of the largest cities, so it was easy to reach people this way. I would say this was a very effective marketing strategy. Below are images of Cora Schucker's memorial card, front and back.



Memorial cards, then, would have been ordered and received well after the funeral services concluded. Their purpose was to serve as a keepsake to memorialize the deceased; they were sized and marketed to be kept in the family photo album (along with the family’s cabinet photographs) and that is where you still find many of them today.

Memorial cards were also available with a photograph of the deceased glued onto the card, although this type of card was undoubtedly more expensive and is seen much less frequently than the others. The identifying information on the photograph card below is worn off, but it was for J. W. Pitt, who died December 29, 1899.

In the earlier years of their popularity, memorial cards tend to be black with gold lettering and designs, although other background colors were available. Beginning about 1900, other colors were used more frequently, primarily white and gray, and it may be that eventually black was no longer the preferred color. None of the memorial cards in my collection after World War I are black; all of those examples are white. My examples of gray cards date from the 1900-1910 era. Most cards have smooth edges, but I do have several deckle-edged cards, one of which is shown below.

Every card in my collection is printed with portrait orientation so that the cards could be used in photograph albums, save one example from 1927 which is done in landscape orientation (see below). This was, of course, well after cabinet photographs and cabinet photograph albums were no longer widely available and the demise of the memorial card may well be associated with the demise of the cabinet photograph. It appears that memorial cards declined in popularity by about 1915 and I’ve found no examples dated later than 1927.

Cards are occasionally seen memorializing multiple deaths, as in the Lowe card above and this card.

Here's a nice card from the Wendell Company of Leipsic, Ohio.

This card was manufactured by the Stark Company of Philadelphia.

This card was manufactured by the Art Memorial Company of Baltimore.

Lastly, the card below is a white card with a double poem, done by the Wendell Company.

Future posts planned for this series will focus on memorial card poetry, a memorial card catalog, funeral/death notices, funeral cards, obituaries, and funeral memorial books.
© 2010, copyright Stephen Mills