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Thread: Field Embalming Demo Photos (Kid Friendly)

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Peoria, IL
    Posts
    115

    Default No Apologies Needed

    Noah,

    Think nothing of hijacking the original thread. I figure that it comes with the territory: new kid in the neighborhood with new and different toys and from a different school; people want to learn more. Invariably, everyone has a funeral-related question or story that they want to share or a myth that needs to be debunked; so, I'm used to it: church, grocery store, cocktail parties, etc. Once people learn what I do (and that I'm not a funeral director), the questions begin to flow.
    I remain as ever, your faithful & obedient servant,

    Jon Austin

    aka Benjamin Franklin Lyford, M.D.
    Drs. Chamberlain & Lyford, Principal Embalming Surgeons
    Washington City, D. C.

    Adservio mortuus quidnam es non potens adservio ipsum

    Traveling with while in the field:
    Mid-States Living History Association, Indianapolis, IN
    10th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, Springfield, IL
    The Society of Civil War Surgeons

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Peoria, IL
    Posts
    115

    Default Other Myths of Historic Houses

    Elizabeth,

    As long as I'm angering the docents at the local historical society or historic house museum, I figured that I should debunk another myth. Are you ready? Hold on... The niche at the top of a long flight of stairs in many grand homes isn't there so that it becomes easier to move a coffin downstairs from the bedroom. Oh, no! That would be completely impractical. Most undertakers were sole practitioners; so, who'd carry the other end? Why add to the weight and ungainliness of a body in a box and a long, steep flight of stairs? The embalming texts that we have in the Museum's collection suggest that the body was first carried downstairs and that preparation work wasn't done in a second-floor bedroom where jostling down the stairs could lead to a mess. Instead, a lot of embalming was done in the kitchen (no expensive carpet to damage, close to a source of water for bathing and mixing chemicals, and a rear exit to dispose of any fluids or drainage in the privy outdoors). After preparation, the body was removed to the parlor for laying out. The coffin or casket would them be ordered from a factory and shipped in. It would usually be delivered to the house the morning of the funeral service. Feel free to share this but do so at your own risk.
    I remain as ever, your faithful & obedient servant,

    Jon Austin

    aka Benjamin Franklin Lyford, M.D.
    Drs. Chamberlain & Lyford, Principal Embalming Surgeons
    Washington City, D. C.

    Adservio mortuus quidnam es non potens adservio ipsum

    Traveling with while in the field:
    Mid-States Living History Association, Indianapolis, IN
    10th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, Springfield, IL
    The Society of Civil War Surgeons

  3. #13

    Default

    Interesting topic! What kinds of people or circumstances were most apt to have a body embalmed? For long transportation, of course, but what were other tyipcal reasons or situations for embalming, and how common overall was it in the 1860s?

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@voyager.net

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    962

    Default

    All right, following the suggestion of the first quote under my signature, let's continue to debunk -

    T or F: the term "living room" was created to differentiate from the parlor, because the parlor was where the remains lay in state? Supposedly led to the term "funeral parlor". People associated parlors with the dead; too morbid, hence a new term: "Living room". No, I did not get that one from those insidious internet "FW: Fw: RE: FW: FW:fw: Re: Did you know??" e-mails.

    T or F: The term "wake" - was it left over from the practice of watching over a decedent on the off chance they might "wake up", and rigor/livor/decay setting in was confirmation s/he was truly dead? I understand there was paranoia about premature burial, to the point where author Hans Christen Andersen always left a note on his bedside table - "I am not dead; I am in a state of suspended animation."

    T or F: Flowers surrounding the remains and placed on the coffin (and later the filled-in grave) did double duty - kept the stink of decomp down, and originally used to scare off vampires because of their bright colors and beauty?
    Noah Briggs

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    447

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by NoahBriggs
    T or F: The term "wake" - was it left over from the practice of watching over a decedent on the off chance they might "wake up", and rigor/livor/decay setting in was confirmation s/he was truly dead? I understand there was paranoia about premature burial, to the point where author Hans Christen Andersen always left a note on his bedside table - "I am not dead; I am in a state of suspended animation."
    TRUE! Mary Lincoln was so afraid of being buried alive one of her "last requests" was that the nails in her coffin were not to be hammered in until 3(?) days after she was declared dead.
    There were "saftey" coffins made with various devices so one could escape or warn others they were alive.
    Ropes wrapped around the dead's fingers attached to a rope above ground to a bell to warn those above that the dead was alive!
    There are a myriad of stories, mostly from the pre-civil war period, of people trying to avoid the unthinkable - being buried alive with no way out!
    Elizabeth Topping
    Columbus, Ohio
    "Good women are rarely clever and clever women are rarely good." Adah Issacs Menken

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Peoria, IL
    Posts
    115

    Default Responding to Hank

    Quote Originally Posted by hanktrent
    Interesting topic! What kinds of people or circumstances were most apt to have a body embalmed? For long transportation, of course, but what were other tyipcal reasons or situations for embalming, and how common overall was it in the 1860s?

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@voyager.net
    Based upon our research, embalming would have been uncommon for local folks and for those on the lowest end of the social spectrum. Families were accustomed to burying the dead quickly (24 hours or so after death) due to decomposition. Embalming was ideal for shipping remains over great distances. Embalming was also useful in order to lengthen the time between death and the need to bury before things got unpleasant. During the War, we know that embalming was most commonly applied to officers because they were the most quickly identified as casualties, and the fresh bodies were the ones that hadn't yet deteriorated to the point that the embalming chemicals could no longer be distributed through the body via the arterial system. The families of officers were also more likely to be able to afford the cost, and the costs varied considerably. I've seen some reports of embalming at $15 and others ranging up to $75 or more, exclusive of the charge for the coffin and the freight charge via the nearest railroad. We do know that some of the embalming surgeons offered a pre-paid service for which the soldier carried a card so that if the body was found, the appropriate "contractor" would be called to handle the remains and oversee shipment home for burial. Of all deaths during the War, I've not seen a total, but one embalmer claimed to have embalmed about 4,000 bodies. Given the number of casualties and the fact thta many bodies lay exposed to the elements for months, there would be little that could be done once the stages of decomposition had advanced beyond the first 24 - 36 hours after death.
    I remain as ever, your faithful & obedient servant,

    Jon Austin

    aka Benjamin Franklin Lyford, M.D.
    Drs. Chamberlain & Lyford, Principal Embalming Surgeons
    Washington City, D. C.

    Adservio mortuus quidnam es non potens adservio ipsum

    Traveling with while in the field:
    Mid-States Living History Association, Indianapolis, IN
    10th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, Springfield, IL
    The Society of Civil War Surgeons

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Peoria, IL
    Posts
    115

    Default Responding to Noah's T and F

    Quote Originally Posted by NoahBriggs
    All right, following the suggestion of the first quote under my signature, let's continue to debunk -

    T or F: the term "living room" was created to differentiate from the parlor, because the parlor was where the remains lay in state? Supposedly led to the term "funeral parlor". People associated parlors with the dead; too morbid, hence a new term: "Living room". No, I did not get that one from those insidious internet "FW: Fw: RE: FW: FW:fw: Re: Did you know??" e-mails.

    T or F: The term "wake" - was it left over from the practice of watching over a decedent on the off chance they might "wake up", and rigor/livor/decay setting in was confirmation s/he was truly dead? I understand there was paranoia about premature burial, to the point where author Hans Christen Andersen always left a note on his bedside table - "I am not dead; I am in a state of suspended animation."

    T or F: Flowers surrounding the remains and placed on the coffin (and later the filled-in grave) did double duty - kept the stink of decomp down, and originally used to scare off vampires because of their bright colors and beauty?
    Number 1 is True: The change in terminology from "parlor" to "living room" occurred as the result of an article in Ladies Home Journal dating from around World War I. The former term was seen as old-fashioned and macabre, especially because the funeral profession had appled the term in the early 20th century as in "funeral parlor" or "home for funerals" for their business locations.

    Number 2 is also True: Wakes are ancient, dating back to pre-Christianity, but the term is derived from "awake", in which the living sat with the dead to watch for any latent signs of life so that premature burial could be avoided. The current concept of the wake dates from the Middle Ages during which time it became popular for survivors to view the body to confirm that the death was from natural causes and not suicide or homicide, whichin thecase of the latter would require retribution. Families were expected to provide hospitality to the visiting mourners, hence we have a funeral repast or meal that continues to this day as part of the ceremonies.

    Number 3 is Partly True and Partly False: We believe that while the fragrance of flowers could hide some odor, they were also objects of beauty. They've been presented as tokens of esteem and affection since ancient Egypt; however, the traditional color of funeral flowers up until WW I was exclusively white. Thus, the concept that the bright colors would scare off vampires is a myth, I'm afraid. The scent of the flowers would also attract insects to them and away from the body.

    Noah, you deserve some sort of prize! Perhaps a bouquet?!
    I remain as ever, your faithful & obedient servant,

    Jon Austin

    aka Benjamin Franklin Lyford, M.D.
    Drs. Chamberlain & Lyford, Principal Embalming Surgeons
    Washington City, D. C.

    Adservio mortuus quidnam es non potens adservio ipsum

    Traveling with while in the field:
    Mid-States Living History Association, Indianapolis, IN
    10th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, Springfield, IL
    The Society of Civil War Surgeons

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    South Louisiana
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Jon

    I am very impressed with your knowledge of the history of funeral practices. There is a differance between a casket and a coffin. A casket is what they use today. Does anyone know what they call those coffins? They are called Toe pinchers. The old timers called them heel squeezers. You can still order a heel squeezer. In two months I will be taking the test for my funeral director license. I was asked if I would ever consider doing an embalmer impression, I haven't decided. You have debunked many myths that people think really happened and many still think happen. I am still learning everything I can about the modern part of this industry,and once I get comfortable with that then I can work on the 1860's funeral impression.
    P.L. Parault




    "Three score and ten I can remember well, within the volume of which time I have seen hours dreadful and things strange: but this sore night hath trifled former knowings."


    William Shakespeare

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    447

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 1stSgt P.
    Jon

    There is a difference between a casket and a coffin. A casket is what they use today. Does anyone know what they call those coffins? They are called Toe pinchers. The old timers called them heel squeezers. You can still order a heel squeezer.
    The term "casket" was used to describe something that held someone's treasure(s). In the 19th century, jewelry and trinket boxes were called caskets. Coffins later became known as caskets, as they held something we treasured most - our dear departed loved one.
    Elizabeth Topping
    Columbus, Ohio
    "Good women are rarely clever and clever women are rarely good." Adah Issacs Menken

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI
    Posts
    388

    Default

    Jon,

    The vest was not an "issued item", meaning not part of the official uniform. Many soldiers wore civilian-style vests and some civilian contractors wore the military style, so don't worry about it as part of your impression. For comfort's sake, you may prefer the civilian style at the warmer events and the military cut at cooler ones.

    As to casket manufacture, I note that you have qualified the factory system by stating that they existed in most urban areas. I have worked with funeral directors in several small towns in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. In several of these towns, the local funeral home, as a business, also had a history of being the town's furniture manufacturer. In one town, the same family was involved in both the funeral home and furniture business (albeit strictly retail and no longer manufacturing) into the late 1980s.

    This does not, of course, contradict what you have related above. It merely fills out the picture a bit for those areas where keeping caskets on hand would not have been practical, shipping of one would have taken too long, and dedication of a business exclusively to care for the dead would not have been sufficiently profitable.
    \"Die Gedanken sind frei\"

    John Thielmann

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