Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Historic Cemeteries and Taphophiles

I have been asked to share information on historic cemeteries. I am a fan of funeral art and believe the dead should not be forgotten. I have visited numerous cemeteries from my hometown and a few in the south. I have found many differences between the north and south cemeteries and have been told that it maybe Southerners are more sentimental. I have noticed that Southerners tend to use more symbols and epitaphs and tend to use more elaborate architecture than those I have visited in the north.

It wasn't until about the mid 1800's that the views of death had changed. Death became more of a celebration creating more elaborate rituals and customs for the Victorians. Prior to that, death wasn't taken as serious. Everything from how to dress for a man death vs. how to dress for a child's death, what food should be taken to the bereaved, how long the process of grieving would last, using the hair of the beloved in funeral art, memorial cards, post-mortem pictures, how large the head stone would be depending on how much money the family had... all fell under the practice of Social Darwinism!

Cemeteries were the forerunner for public parks. Victorians would have family outtings, such as picnics, by their departed's graveside. A graveside picnic :)

So far this year I have visited Oakwood Historic Cemetery in Raleigh, NC; Historic Lynchburg Cemetery, Lynchburgh, VA; Capron Cemetery, Capron, VA; Historic Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, VA; Courtland Cemetery, Southampton County; Cobleskill Cemetery, NY; Schoharie Cemetery at Old Stone Fort in Schoharie County, and numerous others.

Some of the best books I would like to suggest are ones from the historic cemeteries themselves! I have found a cookbook from Lynchburg Cemetery, VA, for what food is appropriate to offer comfort and solace to the bereaved and also tells the story of customs. This cookbook and Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils can be found at Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, VA, can be visited at and Historic Elmwood Cemetery can be visited at:

Other books I'd like to suggest could be:
Stories Told in Stone: Cemetery Iconology by Gaylord Cooper
Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
Cemetery Walk: Journey into the Art, History, and Society of the Cemetery and Beyond by Minda Powers-Douglas