Cemeteries Gravemarkers

Cemeteries Gravemarkers

Edited by Richard E. Meyer
With a Foreword by James Deetz
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 347
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  • Book Info
    Cemeteries Gravemarkers
    Book Description:

    Cemeteries house the dead, but gravemarkers are fashioned by the living, who record on them not only their pleasures, sorrows, and hopes for an afterlife, but also more than they realize of their history, ethnicity, and culture. Richard Meyer has gathered twelve original essays examining burial grounds through the centuries and across the land to give a broad understanding of the history and cultural values of communities, regions, and American society at large.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-323-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    James Deetz

    To write a foreword to this collection of essays on cemeteries and grave markers is rather daunting, since the excellent introduction serves this purpose quite well. On the other hand, the introduction permits a certain freedom which I shall now indulge by touching on several subjects that otherwise, for better or worse, might never have appeared in print. I suppose it is natural that when our careers stretch further behind us than before, we look back on how it all took place, and what, if anything, it all meant. In my case, the period of the early sixties stands out...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction: “So Witty as to Speak”
    (pp. 1-6)
    Richard E. Meyer

    In 1693, inspired by one of his not infrequent visits to a local burial ground, the powerful Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather was moved to comment that “the stones in this wilderness are already grown so witty as to speak....”¹ Though Mather had a most immediate context for his remark—the unrestrainedly laudatory epitaph found upon the gravemarker of the Reverend Urian Oakes—he was also expressing, albeit unknowingly, what has come to be one of the most fundamentally agreed upon principles of modern material culture studies: artifacts, through a variety of complex and often interrelated manifestations, establish patterns of communication...

  6. Icon and Epitaph
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 9-10)

      The monuments in our cemeteries speak to us in many ways—through their shape, their size, their composition (type of material), and even their positioning with regard to one another and the cemetery site as a whole. But of all their Voices, it is the visual and verbal images they bear upon their faces which, be it symbolically or literally, seem to tell us the most of both the cultures and the individual lives which produced them. The four essays which comprise this section all deal with specific applications of this phenomenon, two of them focusing primarily upon the visual...

    • 1 Innocents in a Worldly World: Victorian Children’s Gravemarkers
      (pp. 11-30)
      Ellen Marie Snyder

      Victorian Americans lived in an era marked by rapid change. Technological advances, urbanization, expansive entrepreneurship, and a swelling population seemed to move society ahead at unheard-of rates. But as the rewards of civilization and the profits of business multiplied, concern rose over the consequences of economic prosperity and the environment that bred it. The thriving city marketplace was frequently depicted in sentimental Victorian literature as greedy, immoral, impersonal, and opportunistic.¹ In many ways, it seemed to embody the perils of the worldliness against which earlier puritan doctrine had railed.

      At the same time this characterization of the outside world was...

    • 2 The Bigham Carvers of the Carolina Piedmont: Stone Images of an Emerging Sense of American Identity
      (pp. 31-60)
      Edward W. Clark

      In downtown Charlotte, North Carolina is located a small cemetery surrounded by tall buildings. The Old Settlers Cemetery, as it is called, contains several gravestones relocated from surrounding sites overtaken by construction—the city’s slow pace has changed dramatically from the years when the textile industry dominated the region. Now this urban center is home to a rapidly expanding banking industry with its accompanying highrise structures of steel and tinted glass. This small pocket of memorials contains gravestones that recall the preindustrial South of two centuries ago, when the newly created United States of America was young and in its...

    • 3 Images of Logging on Contemporary Pacific Northwest Gravemarkers
      (pp. 61-86)
      Richard E. Meyer

      It is a commonly held belief, even amongst many of those who have devoted considerable energy to the study of cemeteries and gravemarkers, that the contemporary American cemetery is a place devoid of any significant degree of interest. The general image is that of a bland, featureless conglomeration of flat markers set into a nondescript landscape somewhat resembling a poorly designed pitch and putt golf course. Certainly there is some justification for this conception: the contrasts between the evolving sumptuousness of cemeteries and memorials in nineteenth-century America and the dramatic decline of these qualities in the first half of the...

    • 4 The Epitaph and Personality Revelation
      (pp. 87-102)
      J. Joseph Edgette

      Scholars from many fields, and perhaps most particularly those engaged in folkloristic and other approaches to the study of material objects, have recognized for some time that memorials erected to honor the dead serve an important and often complex function within the society which creates them. Furthermore, it has become obvious that this function often signifies far more than the essentially utilitarian purpose of marking the location of the grave of the individual buried there. Upon these artifacts one finds inscribed words, and sometimes visual images, which convey a great deal of information about the departed person and, in some...

  7. Origins and Influences
    • 5 The Upland South Folk Cemetery Complex: Some Suggestions of Origin
      (pp. 107-136)
      D. Gregory Jeane

      Few landscape features are as enduring as a burial ground. Although they disappear from the landscape through both neglect and intentional destruction, cemeteries, once sited, usually remain relatively resistant to change. There is a fascination with these holy grounds, containing as they do the mortal remains of our ancestors, and reminding us constantly not only of our individual frailty but of life’s ultimate mystery. This perhaps explains why there is a general reluctance to cavalierly alter the geography of a burial ground. In any case, because of this reluctance, cemeteries are a good place to accumulate information that can provide...

    • 6 J. N. B. de Pouilly and French Sources of Revival Style Design in New Orleans Cemetery Architecture
      (pp. 137-158)
      Peggy McDowell

      To many modern visitors who travel to New Orleans and tour the city’s early cemeteries, the rich variety of above-ground tomb types and materials creates an opulent impression of a veritable city of the dead. The visual sensation is often enhanced by somewhat romantic associations of the early cemeteries with the varied cultural traditions of the past. The names of extended families, often dating from the early nineteenth century and the several colorful periods of New Orleans history, are frequently inscribed on plaques of family tombs. When these tombs, with their imposing arrays of names, confront the visitor, the effect...

  8. Ethnicity and Regionalism
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 161-162)

      American cemetery and gravemarker study affords fascinating opportunities to observe different aspects of ethnicity through the material records of death left by various groups. These may range from distinctive types of markers, such as the metal cruciforms favored by certain German and Russian groups or the strong penchant for the inclusion of photographs of the deceased prevalent amongst those of Asian, Mediterranean and Eastern European heritage, to highly particularized landscape features such as theFeng Shui(geomancy) pattern observable in certain of the traditional Chinese cemeteries of Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes it is simply a matter of observing...

    • 7 The Afro-American Section of Newport, Rhode Island’s Common Burying Ground
      (pp. 163-196)
      Ann and Dickran Tashjian

      The Common Burying Ground of Newport, Rhode Island, has now been a place of general and particular fascination for centuries. Since 1650 the life of the city has moved along Thames Street and up Farewell to celebrate communal sorrow at the graveyard. This is not a garden cemetery, a place for casual strolling and picnics. Hidden and askew in tall grass, old bushes, and ivies (both benign and poisonous), the stones are packed into a space seemingly smaller than its ten acres bounded by Farewell and Warner Streets (fig. 7.1). According to one source, there are 8,072 graves marking the...

    • 8 Navajo, Mormon, Zuni Graves: Navajo, Mormon, Zuni Ways
      (pp. 197-216)
      Keith Cunningham

      The Navajo have a phrase they use frequently, which they translate into English as “the Navajo Way,” and they say it in English as in Navajo: all in capital letters and underlined. They apparently use this term to refer to their core complex of traditional beliefs and values which make them Navajo and which motivate and direct their behaviors from the crad1eboard to the grave. “Way” is a very useful word for the study of culture. In terms of deathways, “way” involves funerary practices, cemeteries and gravestones, and the eschatology which reflects and directs these.

      The Ramah Cemetery at Ramah,...

    • 9 San Fernando Cemetery: Decorations of Love and Loss in a Mexican-American Community
      (pp. 217-236)
      Lynn Gosnell and Suzanne Gott

      For many families in mourning, there exist few social rituals which provide a means for both the expression of grief and continuing love for family members. Grave decoration is one of the few widely practiced activities which offers a framework for such expression. Even when tending to a grave is primarily the responsibility of one individual, the task is usually accomplished in the name of family. When couples or families spend time decorating a grave at a cemetery this function is more apparent. Most social of all occasions are religious or locally recognized decoration days, when an entire “community of...

    • 10 Western Pennsylvania Cemeteries in Transition: A Model for Subregional Analysis
      (pp. 237-258)
      Thomas J. Hannon

      This essay is the result of a long-term research project which has made intensive use of the cemetery landscape to reconstruct an aspect of the cultural history of the western one-third of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It seems probable that the evolution of the cemetery and its transitional processes in that region are not markedly different from such processes elsewhere, except perhaps in terms of chronology or highly individualized regional nuances. Therefore, I am hopeful that the method employed here might present itself as a model which, with appropriate adaptation and modification, can be replicated anywhere in the United States....

  9. Business and Pleasure
    • 11 Monumental Bronze: A Representative American Company
      (pp. 263-292)
      Barbara Rotundo

      Studies in the material culture of nineteenth-century America usually concern artifacts that have become obsolete because they no longer fulfill a need or because alternative products are cheaper and/or more efficient. Often such artifacts had a long history of folk use that predated industrial mass production. Yet some, equally obsolete today, developed only after modern industry made their manufacture possible. Sometimes, as in the case of cast-iron buildings and building facades, the product had faults that were corrected by an improved product—structural steel. But this essay concerns an artifact that has many desirable traits, has never been improved upon,...

    • 12 Strange but Genteel Pleasure Grounds: Tourist and Leisure Uses of Nineteenth-Century Rural Cemeteries
      (pp. 293-328)
      Blanche Linden-Ward

      When Cincinnatians opened their newspapers one early fall day in 1867, they must not have been surprised to read of “grave charges of conviviality in the cemetery.” They knew that Spring Grove, like the other “rural” or garden cemeteries founded on the peripheries of American cities from 1831 into the 1860s, was more than a plain and simple burial place. These new institutions served as popular “resorts” or “asylums,” frequently termed that by the genteel who favored their use for meditative promenades, considered acceptable and even desirable by the staunchest moralists or advocates of well-spent, edifying leisure time. In their...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 329-340)
    Richard E. Meyer
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 341-342)
  12. Index
    (pp. 343-347)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)