A HISTORY OF BURIAL IN AMERICA

In early America, funerals were conducted at home and burials took place in the local or church cemetery, utilizing a pine box or a shroud.

Pioneers typically buried their dead on the side of the trail, many times without a pine box.

The Civil War changed the treatment of the dead body in America. An unprecedented number of Americans were dying far from home. Embalming quickly gained acceptance to allow for transport and a final viewing. This also created a need for (and acceptance of) professional individuals and services beyond the family.

In the 1800s, as burial moved away from family land or local spaces, “Rural” cemeteries were the norm. Landscape architects designed spaces that worked with the land, maintaining rolling hills, native plants and trees, any natural water features, and curving paths. The intent was to create a spiritually uplifting place of natural beauty.

The “Modern” cemetery, in the late 19th century, adopted a more uniform, park like sense of beauty, but shifted the focus more strongly to economy as well. The need for large equipment to create and maintain the burial spaces led to most of the rules surrounding conventional burial including vaults and other non-pervious containers.
Cemeteries became more closely associated with funeral homes and the two entities encouraged the public to accept the “modern” practices they were adopting as the only way to go.

*Many religious practices regarding burial or disposition of remains are largely the same and continue to be accepted in modern/conventional funeral homes and cemeteries.*