Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Victorian Era Casket

During the Victorian era (1860-1910), funerals were held in the home of the family of the deceased. For the funeral, the coffin was draped with a black shroud, and all the mirrors were covered with black crepe. The funeral would have been the last formal reception of the guests by the deceased. Based on the etiquette of the period, the family of the deceased would provide gifts, food, and wine. The gifts ranged from ostrich feathers to gloves, fans, and mourning jewelry. Often, feasts were prepared as part of the mourning ritual, and in some cases the wine served at the funeral would have been wine that was saved from the deceased’s wedding. The extravagance of the funeral and mourning gifts reflected the social status of the deceased and their family.

Here in the museum we hold two Victorian era caskets. The one pictured is a child or infant size unlined coffin (casket) made circa 1900. It was made of mahogany (now blackened) finish on wood with silver decorations at the corners of the base. The lid has a glass-covered opening for viewing. The casket was never used, but was purchased by Henry Nieman for resale of the Nieman Brothers Funeral Home in Pemberville Ohio.

This casket was donated to the museum by Doritt Beckman of Pemberville. Dorrit Beckman was married to Clarence Beckman (5/10/1924-01/1995). Clarence's maternal grandfather, Henry Nieman, was the funeral director and mortician at the Nieman Brothers Funeral Home in Pemberville. Henry's brother, Charles Nieman (who had funeral homes in Woodville and Gibsonberg before joining his brother in Pemberville), was a partner. The Nieman Brothers became the Nieman-Beckman Funeral Home in 1940, when Clarence became a partner.

This item is held at the museum in memory of Clarence Beckman of the Nieman-Beckman Funeral Home, Pemberville, Ohio.

*This post prepared by WCHC graduate student intern Erin Gentry.

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