|This gorgeous view of Shiloh Military Cemetery came from Wikipedia.|
I have at least one relative buried here. Chances are, you do, too.
Aside from the changes to the cemetery landscape, the entire business of death was becoming more commercialized. Here are some interesting points about death and cemeteries from Sloane's book The Last Great Necessity. These have been gleaned from his chapters on the years 1855-1917:
- Cemetery management at this time passed from a sexton or a caretaker to a superintendent. Superintendents had more authority than sextons or caretakers, having the ability to limit monument size and alter landscape--this marks a change from when families decided the where, when, and how of burial.
- Strauch's changes meant that more and more cemeteries would require horticulturalists and engineers rather than relying on amateurs. (Note from moi: none of these changes necessarily apply to rural church cemeteries. Strauch is writing almost exclusively about larger metropolitan areas at this point.)
- "By the end of the 1870s, all cemeteries used annual-care fees, bequests, and perpetual-care payments as means of increasing their income." This change is going to pave the way for cemeteries as businesses run for profit and, of course, the abuses that come from greed.
- Did you know that the mechanical lawn mower was patented in England in 1830? You can imagine how much easier that made cemetery maintenance, and it also raised the standards of what was expected from cemeteries.
- The movement from rural cemetery to lawn cemetery mirrored the reform movement of the late 1800s when Americans were also trying to put order to the urban explosion of their cities. There was also a generalized movement toward specialization which, in the case of death and dying, meant that "nurses and doctors cared for the living, morticians handled the dead, and cemetery superintendents beautified the grave." Interestingly enough, many immigrants resisted these changes, still feeling that death was to be handled within the family.
- The Civil War impacted death and dying in many ways. One, embalming became popular as a way of getting deceased soldiers back to their families. Also, large numbers of dead required national cemeteries, cemeteries that reinforced America's sense of democracy as well as Strauch's vision of an uncluttered landscape by having uniform tombstones in neat rows with little landscape to intercede.
- At the same time, urban reforms meant more parks. Understandably, Americans started to frolic in these urban parks rather than in the rural cemeteries they had used before.
- And a side note from Jeanne Holder, she came across "tiered lots" whereby Victorians priced lots in a manner similar to which theater seats were sold. The most expensive ones were high on a hill facing east so the deceased would be able to better witness the coming of God. The cheap seats, if you will, were at the bottom of a hill facing west. (Side note: one of the Memorial Parks on Whitlock has almost all of its graves on a hill facing east. Coincidence? I think not.)
And I'm going to stop there. The next section is on the "Professionalism of the Process of Death," which is at the heart of my next novel. We'll spend some quality time there. In the meantime, I'm glossing over a lot of work so if you want to find out more, check out The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History by David Sloane