These 17 Photos Show How Much Funeral Service Has Changed In The Last 150 Years

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Funeral service has been around for a long time. And by long time, I mean since humans have been inhabiting Earth.

In fact, researchers have found burial grounds of Neanderthal men dating all the way back to 60,000 BC. Back then, funeral ceremonies consisted of decorating the bodies with flowers and antlers. Tens of thousands of years later, we’re still “decorating” our loved ones and sending them off in a meaningful way.

Although the basis of these funeral traditions have remained the same, there have been a lot of changes in the way we treat, celebrate and honor the dead. Want to see the changes for yourself? Then take a look at these 17 photos that show how much funeral service has changed over the last 150 years:

#1: Dr. Benjamin F. Lyford and Dr. C.B. Chamberlain standing at their “embalming tent” at Gettysburg, November 1863.

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#2: Kirk and Nice, the oldest and longest running funeral home in the U.S., 1872.
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#3 An illustration of the first crematorium built in the U.S. in 1876 by Francis Julius LeMoyne.

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#4: A woman dresses in mourning for her husband, wearing a brooch that holds his photograph, a popular style in Victorian mourning jewelry, 1896.

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#5: A post-mortem photo shoot, 1896.

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Commissioned by grieving families, postmortem photographs not only helped in the grieving process, but were also among a family’s most precious possessions.

#6: The Easterday Funeral Home and furniture store in Indiana, 1910.

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In the early 1900s, it was very popular for furniture makers to become undertakers, thanks to their handy skills and craftsmanship.


#7: A home funeral set in the parlor of a home in the early 1900s.

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#8: The first motorized hearse in a funeral procession, 1914.

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#9: The second annual meeting of the Cremation Association of America, held in Indianapolis, Indiana, September, 1914.

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#10: An early pre-need ad that dares to tackle a taboo subject, circa 1933.

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#11: York Casket Company shows off their new product line of metal caskets in their showroom, 1950s.

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During the 1950’s, over 50% of the caskets sold were made of cloth-covered wood or cardboard, but by the 60’s, metal caskets were beginning to gain favor.


#12: The first copy of Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death is published in 1963.

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The American Way of Death was one of the first published books portraying the funeral service industry in a negative light.

#13: A traditional New Orleans jazz funeral in the 1970s.

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#14: The innovative Airstream Funeral Coach makes its way to the American market in the mid-1980s.

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The airstream came complete with seating for 13 mourners and many of the amenities of a traditional motor home.


#15: On April 21st, 1997 the first ever space funeral is launched into the universe over the Atlantic Ocean.

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The cremated remains of 24 individuals were loaded onto a Pegasus rocket, including Timothy Leary, Gene Rodenberry and Gerard O’Neill.

#16: An early adapter of funeral webcasting helps people from all over the U.S. tune into their loved one’s funeral in 2008.

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#17: The first 3d-printed custom urns are created by two Princeton graduates in 2013.

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The future…

Now that you’ve been taken on a blast from the past, do you have a better idea of what the future holds for the funeral service industry? What trends do you think will become popular? Do you think the nature of funeral service will change?


Tell us what you think the future of funeral service is in the comments below!

Rochelle Rietow

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  1. ron archer

    Liked that history lesson. Especially impressed with the postmortem photo!

  2. Glyn

    it has to, the climate can not take 125 kg of CO2 for every cremation x 4 billion plus the Mercury and dioxin emissions.

  3. Blanche Bayliss

    Sorry, but #5 is not a postmortem photograph. Too many misconceptions about this form of historic photography on the internet and this blog is aiding in perpetuation of these misconceptions. Please do better research.