Full text of "Markers"
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Annual Journal of
The Association for Gravestone Studies
Association for Gravestone Studies
Copyright © 2006
Association for Gravestone Studies
278 Main Street, Suite 207
Greenfield, Massachusetts 01301
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Printed in the United States
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for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.
Cover Illustration: photograplis by Gary Collison.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Obituary: Barbara Rotundo (1921-2004) 1
Richard E. Meyer
Pictorial Headstones: Business, Culture, and the Expression of
Individuality in the Contemporary Cemetery 6
Albert N. Hamscher
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis of
Nashua (Nashville), New Hampshire 36
"Smith, Leather Britches — Slain": Interpreting an Outlaw Legend
through His Gravestone 72
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section 92
James A. Freeman
Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an Unusual Nevada Gravesite 134
The Year's Work in Cemetery and Gravemarker Studies:
An International Bibliography 142
Compiled by Gary Collison
Contributors and New Editorial Board Members 154
MARKERS: ANNUAL JOURNAL OF
THE ASSOCIATION FOR GRAVESTONE STUDIES
Gary Collison, Editor
Venn State York
June Hadden Hobbs
Mount Wacliusett Community College
Jessie Lie Farber
Editor, Markers I
University of Texas at Arlington
Former AGS Research
Richard E. Meyer
Editor, Markers X-XX,
Western Oregon University
University of York (UK)
James A. Slater
University of Connecticut
David Charles Sloane
University of Southern California
David H. Watters
Editor, Markers II-IV
University of New Hampshire
The Pennsylvania State University
This year's issue reflects the wide variety of our members' backgrounds
and research interests. Two articles discuss aspects of the gravestone
business. Albert N. Hamscher examines the rise of modern pictorial grave-
markers in an expanded version of the presentation he made at last year's
AGS conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Drawing on many sources but
particularly trade publications and interviews with monument makers, he
traces the role of the monument industry, technology, and consumer culture
in creating and promoting the expressions of identity popular on today's
gravemarkers. Using a more traditional carver-study approach, William
Lowenthal looks at the development of the 19th-century monument industry
by following the career of stonecarver Moses Davis of Nashua (Nashville),
New Hampshire. Davis began as a small-scale craftsman in the middle of the
nineteenth century but by the end of the century had become a monument
"manufacturer and dealer" and diversified death-industry businessman.
Two other contributions deal with the role that even the simplest of
gravemarkers play in our individual and collective imaginations. Richard
Francaviglia offers wide-ranging and suggestive speculations about the
meaning of a lone 1907 Nevada gravemarker that has been lovingly vis-
ited and cared for by a variety of persons. Keagan Lejeune examines the
gravestone of "Leather Britches" Smith, a notorious outlaw figure in early
twentieth-century western Louisiana at the time of the labor troubles at lo-
cal timber mills. He finds that Smith's gravestone functions as "a visible
reminder of the town's historical notoriety" and "a tangible narrative device
that sparks the retelling of the legend, facilitates the expression of belief,
and redirects potentially divisive comments about family involvement in
the union strife."
Finally, James Freeman's article on Singapore's "multicultural" cem-
etery and its dominant Chinese section describes the exotic gravemarkers
and traditions that reflect Singapore's successful experiment in forming a
multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. As Jim's analysis reveals, the cem-
etery tells a hopeful story of unity in diversity in a time when too much of
the world is torn by ethnic and religious strife.
Once again I thank the members of the board of editors and several anon-
ymous scholars for their generous and conscientious assistance in evaluat-
ing manuscripts. For invaluable support both tangible and intangible, I am
grateful to Dr. Diane Disney, Dean of the former Commonwealth College
(now University College) of the Pennsylvania State University; Dr. Sandy
Gleason, Associate Dean; Dr. Robert Caserio, Head, Department of English,
the College of Liberal Arts; and Drs. Joel Rodney, Chancellor, and Joseph P.
McCormick III, Director of Academic Affairs, of Perm State York. For assis-
tance of various kinds, I am indebted to Andrea Carlin, Joe Edgette, Marie
Ferre, Janet Heywood, Jim O'Hara, Brenda Malloy, Carole Wagner, and
Gray Williams. I thank the members of the late Barbara Rotundo's family
for supplying the wonderful frontispiece portrait and family photographs.
Markers is indexed in America: History and Life, the Bibliography of the
History of Art, Historical Abstracts, and the MLA International Bibliography.
Barbara Rotundo (1921-2004)
Obituary: Barbara Rotundo (1921-2004)
Richard E. Meyer
Where would gravestone studies be today without Barbara Rotundo?
It is difficult to imagine any individual who has exerted such a powerful
influence, in so many diverse and significant ways, on this field of study.
Scholar, leader, mentor, friend — these are but some of the roles she as-
sumed with her unsurpassed dedication and enthusiasm over a period of
more than thirty years. Her passing on December 24, 2004, at the age of 83,
has left a vast gap that can never be properly filled; but, more importantly,
the memory of her beloved personality and her many achievements remains
as an inspiration to all of us.
Those of us who love old (and sometimes even newer) burial places
and gravemarkers, who write about them, photograph them, talk about
them, work to restore and preserve them, and come together periodically
in groups to share our collective wisdom and enthusiasm, often make the
unwitting but quite understandable erroneous assumption that such mat-
ters constitute our only significant interest (I have often thought that the very
first question one should ask of any new acquaintance in this field is, "What
do you do in your other life?") In Barbara's case, how many of us knew
that she was an economics major in college (Mt. Holyoke), held graduate
degrees in English and American literature from Cornell University (M.A.)
and Syracuse University (Ph.D.), founded one of the first university writing
workshops in the country (SUNY/ Albany), wrote a textbook on grammar,
was a dedicated member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) for
more than fifty years, and throughout her life devoted herself to volunteer
activities with a variety of organizations, most especially the Girl Scouts of
America? Had she never stepped foot into an old cemetery, or looked upon
a gravestone, her life would still have been one filled with diverse and re-
But of course she did set forth into those old cemeteries, so many of
them, and did gaze upon thousands of old gravemarkers, and from these
experiences created a body of achievements which, for us at any rate, con-
stitutes a legacy of immense value and importance. As a gravestone scholar,
Barbara, in a pattern consistent with most everything else in her life, dem-
onstrated a truly remarkable range of interests. Not only that, the various
articles she published over the years — in particular her works on Mount
Auburn Cemetery, the rural cemetery movement in America, white bronze
gravemarkers, and ethnic folk gravestone fabrication — often stand as semi-
nal works in the field (see the select bibliography at the conclusion of this
2 Barbara Rotundo ( 1 92 1 -2004 )
obituary). When added to these one considers the numerous contributions
to the AGS Quarterly and the dozens of papers presented before the annu-
al meetings of such bodies as the Association for Gravestone Studies, the
American Culture Association (Cemeteries and Gravemarkers Section), and
the Pioneer America Society, the record of her scholarly activity is most im-
pressive indeed. The effect has been evident even posthumously: her last
published effort, an elegantly written entry on "Cemeteries," appeared in
The Encyclopedia of New England, released in September of 2005.
The impact of Barbara Rotundo's leadership roles within the field of grave-
stone studies is enormous. With regard to the Association for Gravestone
Studies alone, she served as the organization's president and on several oc-
casions as a member of its board of trustees, as a long-standing member of
the editorial board of Markers, as a contributing editor for the AGS Quarterly,
as the coordinating force behind the group's 25 th Anniversary Fund, and in a
variety of functions associated with its annual meetings, including those of
program chair, registrar, participation-session facilitator, and cemetery tour
leader. For these as well as her scholarly achievements, she was recognized
by AGS as the 1994 recipient of the Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award, its
highest honor, awarded for outstanding and significant contributions to
AGS Quarterly editorial board meeting in 1994: (from lower left)
Rosalee Oakley, Barbara, Fred Oakley, Miranda Levin, and Jessie Farber.
Richard E. Meyer
Barbara discoursing on a "white bronze" (galvanized zinc)
monument to a group of rapt AGS conferees in 1991.
Perhaps above all else, however, Barbara should be remembered for the
friendship and mentoring she graciously offered over the years to emerg-
ing gravestone and cemetery scholars and, for that matter, to anyone with a
genuine and sincere interest in such matters. Yes, she could be a bit formid-
able at times: she had small patience for sloppy, careless work, and even
less for academic pretentiousness. But in terms of a willingness to share her
time and resources freely, to give kindly and thoughtful counsel, and, above
all, to show sincere appreciation of and respect for the views and research
interests of others, I can think of no other person who has done more over
the years to encourage and bring new people into the field and to help in
advancing their contributions. One need only pay heed to the many trib-
utes and acknowledgments to this remarkable woman found in scholarly
books and articles to gain a sense of the positive impact she has exerted
I, too, am most acutely aware of this impact. I shall never forget how and
where I first met Barbara Rotundo, and the permanent effect this meeting
had on my scholarly career. In the summer of 1982, when I was a folklor-
ist specializing mainly in the analysis of ballad and legend texts, I found
myself part of a small interdisciplinary group of scholars participating in a
Barbara Rotundo ( 1 92 1 -2004)
Barbara enjoying time with three of her grandchildren
(infant Ann Danforth, namesake Barbara Rotundo, and
Nicholas Danforth, pirate) in 1989.
National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on the subject of "Tomb
Sculpture," directed by Ruth Butler, Rodin scholar and professor of art his-
tory at the University of Massachusetts/ Boston. It was great fun! We read
Erwin Panofsky from cover to cover, viewed countless slides of funerary
sculptures by Bernini, di Camaino and others, and engaged in lively dis-
cussions of the mortuary architecture displayed throughout the great ca-
thedrals and basilicas of Europe. And then one day Ruth had a guest, an
acquaintance of hers, come to visit with us during one of our semi-weekly
sessions. "You know," Barbara said, "you really don't have to go all the way
to Europe to see this stuff. We have our own versions right here in America
— all you have to do is walk around Boston, look at the Granary and King's
Chapel Burying Ground, or, better still, cross the river to Cambridge and
have a stroll through Mount Auburn." We took her up on that, some of us,
and for me it marked the beginning of the most exciting and personally
rewarding segment of my scholarly life. As she did for so many others both
before and after, she opened my eyes that day to a world of new possibili-
ties. I'll always be grateful to Barbara for that, and for how so often over the
years she listened to my thoughts, encouraged me in my work, and in count-
less ways helped me to be a better scholar. I suspect I am far from unique in
this regard; many of us, I am certain, have stories we could tell of the ways
in which she influenced us for the better. We as individuals, and the field
of gravestone studies as a whole, could not have had a better friend than
Barbara Rotundo. We shall miss her greatly.
Richard E. Meyer 5
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS BY BARBARA ROTUNDO
"The Rural Cemetery Movement." Essex Institute Historical Collections 109.3 (1973):
"Mount Auburn Cemetery: A Proper Boston Institution." Harvard Library Bulletin
22.3 (1974): 268-79.
"Mount Auburn: Fortunate Coincidences and an Ideal Solution." Journal of Garden
Histonf. An International Quarterly 4.3 (1984): 255-67.
"Crossing the Dark River: Shaker Funerals and Cemeteries." Communal Societies:
Journal of the National Historic Communal Society Association 7 (1987): 36-46.
"Monumental Bronze: A Representative American Company." In Cemeteries and
Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture. Edited by Richard E. Meyer. Ami Arbor,
MI: UMI Research Press, 1989, pp. 263-91.
"A Modern Gravestone Maker: Some Lessons for Gravestone Historians." Markers:
Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies 14 (1997): 86-109.
Pictorial Headstones: Business, Culture, and
the Expression of Individuality in the
Albert N. Hamscher
For the historian, cemeteries are a valuable source for investigating a
broad range of subjects concerning the collective values and attitudes of
generations past. Innovation in cemetery design, or noticeable changes in
the images and epitaphs displayed on headstones, are of special interest be-
cause they invite a search to identify the forces responsible for a departure
from conventional norms of behavior. Because the cemetery is an outdoor
museum, an archive fashioned in stone and bronze, a growing historical
literature has charted the major changes in American cemeteries across four
centuries and has placed these changes within the larger context of cultural
structures during specific periods of study. 1 Nevertheless, the cemetery's
status as a venue for retrospection has had an unintended consequence: a
paucity of scholarly attention to important contemporary developments
— those associated with the very recent past and those whose evolution
remains under way. If the cemetery is surely a window on the past, it is
equally a mirror of the present, a mirror that reflects significant patterns and
trends of modern culture.
As a case in point, since the 1970s personalized headstones with pictorial
images have become increasingly prevalent in the contemporary cemetery.
On many recent gravemarkers, one or more images record a notable aspect
of the deceased person's life and interests. Some stones convey an apprecia-
tion for the natural beauty of the immediate geographical location — a prairie
sunset in the Midwest, a mountain or desert vista in the West. Others recall
a person's occupation, a notable example being the different logging motifs
popular in the Northwest that have been investigated by Richard Meyer.
In all regions of the country, one can observe references to hobbies, sports,
and other leisure activities: automobiles, motorcycles, trains, and recreation-
al vehicles; teddy bears, horses, musical instruments, knitting needles and
yarn; baseballs, footballs, golf clubs, and objects related to track and field. A
portrait of the deceased person, either an etching or a photograph encased
in a cameo, is also common. In brief, "Ken's Gone' Fishin'," and these days
his stone is likely to depict a body of water, a boat, tackle and gear, a leaping
fish or two, perhaps even Ken's smiling face. 2
How are we to explain this impulse to express an intense sense of in-
dividuality in a setting that for nearly a half century prior to the 1970s was
dominated by mass-produced stock headstones whose principal features
were, to draw on the vocabulary of monument makers, "band-aids and
cabbages" — a simple notation of vital statistics in rectangular format on a
stone's center complemented by a few rosettes carved in the upper corners?
An answer to this question must take into account both sides of the pro-
ducer-consumer relationship. The former requires attention not only to the
"internal" forces within the monument business that prompted an interest
in novelty, but also to the technological developments that permitted the
tangible expression of this interest. But what monument makers have to of-
fer must strike a responsive chord in the consuming public. The relationship
between producer and consumer is a reciprocal one, with each responding
to the other in a mutually beneficial and satisfying way. Understanding the
appeal of personalized stones takes us outside the cemetery and the monu-
ment shop into the larger arena of American culture and the "external" forc-
es that have created an environment, and a market, in which personalization
and individuality could flourish.
Two preliminary observations are necessary. First, the current public
interest in personalized headstones with a pictorial format is not as novel
as it might appear at first glance. One need only recall the rich variety of
imagery on the Puritan stones of the colonial era, the different symbols re-
lated to family lineage (and solidarity) on nineteenth-century stones, and
a long tradition of occupational imagery as well as military, fraternal, and
benefit society emblems to be reminded that historically many Americans
have wished to make an artistic statement on their markers about what they
valued in life. Vivid expressions of individuality in the contemporary cem-
etery seem to be out of place because they stand in sharp contrast to the
uniform, plain stones that characterized cemetery landscapes from the 1930s
to the 1960s. But when today's personalized stones are viewed in the broad
sweep of American history, they signal a revival of a tradition rather than an
abrupt appearance of an unprecedented sentiment.
With this said, contemporary designs do mark a break even with the
more distant past in several fundamental ways. If every period of American
history offers examples of highly artistic and elaborately carved stones, the
pictorial images on many modern markers exhibit an attention to detail that
few earlier stones can match. One might argue, of course, that this sophisti-
cation of portrayal simply reflects enhanced technological possibilities, and
this is certainly true. But technology is woven into the fabric of culture and
merits attention in its own right. More importantly, the images on mod-
ern stones are in many cases frankly secular and private in their messages.
Modern stones exhibit in striking fashion a preoccupation with the "here
and now" rather than with the "hereafter." Automobiles and baseball gloves
displace the cross and the Star of David. In addition, the images focus on the
self, on one's own particular interests, on one's own "lifestyle." The aim is
not to draw the observer into a public arena of commonly shared values
about, for instance, religion and the family- Instead, the observer is simply
Albert N. Hamscher
informed that the deceased enjoyed engaging in certain activities. Larger
community concerns give way to a snapshot of individual biography. "I"
displaces "We." This is not to say that the deceased and their relatives who
purchased personalized stones lacked religious or other deeply-held convic-
tions, or that their personal lives were characterized by an unbridled hedo-
nism and an absence of introspection. To make such a judgment would be a
careless presumption. Nor is it to imply that headstones in the past uniform-
ly proclaimed adherence to religious, family, or community concerns. One
can discover a variety of expression even in sections of cemeteries that have
stones dating to a limited time period. Nevertheless, the fact remains that
the pictorial representation of the self defined in secular terms is largely, if
not exclusively, a modern phenomenon that sets the present age apart from
A second observation concerns the prevalence of the new style. One
should not expect to find it in every contemporary cemetery, and when
found it is not necessarily predominant. The personal preferences of pur-
chasers are not the only consideration that figure in the selection of a mark-
er. Cost is a factor, and cemetery regulations concerning the size, shape, and
color of stones — and the visual images on them — can inhibit the introduc-
tion of new forms of expression. Even when the consumer's imagination is
given free rein, religious beliefs, philosophical convictions, and community
or ethnic traditions can hinder the adoption of novelty. Cemeteries are in-
herently conservative places, and many consumers are content with replicat-
ing what they see around them. Moreover, as Richard Meyer has noted, the
presence of personalized headstones with pictorial images often depends on
the efforts of one or several monument makers in the vicinity who actively
promote this form of memorialization. There can be no question, however,
that personalized headstones have proliferated since the 1970s and that few
contemporary cemeteries do not have examples of them. By the mid-1980s
at the latest, this style of personalization had become a major topic of dis-
cussion in the trade journals of the monument-making craft. And there is
no sign that the trend is abating. In any case, the significance of a cultural
artifact does not depend exclusively on its numerical representation. What
matters most is what the artifact reveals about the collective values and at-
titudes that favored its introduction and encouraged its adoption.
The growing popularity of highly personalized headstones among
monument makers in recent years is well chronicled in the craft's major
trade journals— American Art in Stone, Monument Builder News, Monumental
News-Review, and its successor, Stone in America. 3 To be sure, no trade or
professional publication speaks for all its subscribers. But in order to retain
readership, editors must report on and respond to major developments in
10 Pictorial Headstones
the field. In the decades immediately following the Second World War, nu-
merous articles in these publications reviewed the principal business chal-
lenges confronting monument makers. One was the increasing geographi-
cal mobility of the American population, which reduced the demand for
spacious family plots that could accommodate large headstones and other
kinds of monuments. 4 Another was the constraints that cemetery regula-
tions placed on the artistic creativity of monument makers and the range
of products they could offer. 5 In the view of most commentators, the me-
morial parks that multiplied during the 1950s and 1960s posed the greatest
threat to the monument maker's viability in the marketplace. As a design
concept, the open lawns of the memorial parks, with their small granite or
bronze markers flush to the ground, repudiated longstanding traditions of
memorialization — including upright headstones and large family monu-
ments — and rendered the services of monument makers and dealers all but
Responses to these challenges varied. Surely, some listeners nodded
in agreement when a speaker at the annual meeting of the West Virginia
Cemetery Association in 1956 claimed in the heated rhetoric of the McCarthy
era that "the current trend away from sentiment in this country . . . has been
fostered for years by a motley assortment of atheists, communists, pseu-
do-intellectuals, and materialists of various breeds." 7 In more measured
tones, the large majority of commentators sought concrete, practical solu-
tions. Articles urged monument makers to adopt more aggressive market-
ing techniques, such as the "pre-need" sales that the memorial parks had
used so effectively to gain customers. 8 Trade journals regularly reported
on court decisions that prohibited cemeteries with non-profit charters from
selling markers for profit. 9 Subscribers were encouraged to finance and to
participate in local public-relations campaigns that aimed, in the words of
one proposal advanced by the National Cemetery Association in 1953, "to
promote more active use of cemeteries for memorialization activities" and
"to erase from the public mind the morbidity that now surrounds the sub-
ject of cemeteries." 10 In 1959, Capitol Records released a recording by Jerry
Reed entitled "Stone Eternal," which The Memorial Builder hoped "will make
the public monument conscious [and] help to combat the no-monument
In the opinion of many monument professionals, however, the product
itself had grown stale and unappealing. "Our cemeteries are becoming un-
interesting and monotonous," wrote monument designer William Patten in
1954, a view reiterated by the retailer and industry activist W. E. Luck in the
following year, when he deplored "our nearly meaningless standardized
stock monuments, in monotonous row on row that is simply unacceptable
to modern tastes." 12 In 1958, he spoke with equal frankness about "the public
rejection of monotonous and meaningless stone-yard cemetery sections that
Albert N. Hamscher 1 1
made possible the rapid spread of the Park idea." 13 The root of the problem,
according to monument designer Conrad Kennerson, writing in I960, was
"the 'terrible thirties/ the dark years when what may be called the economic
phase of monument design came into being, . . . [when] labor saving ma-
chinery . . . [produced] plain slabs . . . [that] failed to convey a real message
of sentiment." 14 In 1971, monument designers Aldo and Rose Marie Pitassi
regretted the possibility that when future generations examined "the spirit
of 20th-century America" as reflected in its cemeteries, "they might even
surmise that we were the victims of an automated culture; four-sided, stan-
dardized people without imagination, without color, without soul." Two
years later they warned that "our monuments still speak the language of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth century — or what is worse, they say
nothing at all. Small wonder that many of our potential buyers decide to
have their anonymity elsewhere." 15
But by the early 1970s, the Pitassis were preaching to the converted. In
the 1950s, there was already a growing consensus among monument makers
that "personalization" provided a way to revitalize the craft and to combat
the memorial parks. Of course, the personal touch could take many forms,
including carefully crafted epitaphs and a knowledgeable selection of ap-
propriate, if traditional, symbols that conveyed the essence of the deceased's
core values. 16 Objects dear to the deceased were also considered to be ap-
propriate in monument design, but as yet vivid pictorial images had few
adherents. Between 1950 and 1954, Monumental News-Review published a se-
ries of "Case Histories in Personalizing Memorials" with illustrations by the
designer Ernest Leland. The message of the articles was that personalization
could be captured in a headstone's shape, contour, and line. "True, an au-
tomobile design [for a deceased automobile dealer] in itself would make
a bizarre memorial; but why not capture the feeling of streamlining in the
flow of the line?" The headstone of a florist might "develop a contour, which
in the flow of line, recalls this subtle and unrivalled beauty of contour in
Nature." 17 Indeed, as if anticipating future developments, one commentator
cautioned against any "vulgar display of human vanity." 18
Stones with pictorial images were erected in the 1950s, but they were
normally confined to local celebrities — the muscular torso of the high-wire
circus performer, the "stratosphere man," Arzeno Selden; a trumpet on the
headstone of the jazz musician W. C. Handy. 19 These were modest begin-
nings, but during the following decade trade publications promoted the
wider adoption of this form of memorialization. In 1960, Monument Builder
News sponsored its first annual memorial design competition, reserving one
category for "pictorial monuments." Winners included stones with the im-
age of a lighthouse, of a farm scene with cattle, and of a man astride his
horse. 20 In the same year, Kale Mathias, president of the Monument Builders
of America, put aside reservations about vulgar displays of vanity and re-
12 Pictorial Headstones
minded readers "that the human being is basically selfish. He was created
that way. We must make him want monuments for his own purposes, and
we must make him feel the acute inadequacy of any other type of memo-
rial plan." 21 A 1965 survey of over 1,300 retail monument dealers across the
country — sponsored by the Elberton Granite Association in conjunction
with the Area Redevelopment Administration — did not explicitly address
the subject of pictorial images on headstones. However, it did report that 62
percent of the dealers surveyed "felt that their customers would prefer to
choose from a variety of types and sizes of monuments," a phrase that the
Pitassis interpreted to mean that the purchasing public "still regard [s] the
selection of a memorial as a personal matter in which they desire to express
their individual tastes, emotions, and religious belief. . . . Personal identity
is the need of this generation." 22
Despite calls for innovation, the cemetery landscape of the 1960s re-
mained for the most part rooted in the tradition of stock designs, of "band-
aids and cabbages," of rosettes and the standard symbols of the cross, the
Star of David, praying hands, and linked wedding rings. There were cer-
tainly more stones of colors other than gray — impala black, apache red, and
premier rose granites, for instance — and stones with other than rectangular
shape — hearts, triangles, and slanted monument faces. But detailed pictorial
images remained exceptional. 23 As one peruses trade publications from the
1960s, one senses an impatience with the status quo, a desire to enter the
"Space Age," as Kale Matthias put the matter; or to engage, in the words of
the Pitassis, "the spirit of the age, the quick, restless, curious, moving, ques-
tioning spirit of modern man." 24
The obstacles to further change were considerable, however. Some of
these were technical in nature: traditional sandblasting techniques allow for
only so much detail, and the hand labor necessary to prepare pictorial im-
ages increased the expense of a headstone and no doubt deterred some cost-
conscious consumers. Equally important, consumers on their own initiative
were unlikely to entertain creative alternatives unless they were encouraged
to do so by monument makers and retailers themselves. The rhetorical ques-
tion posed by a monument maker in 1984 was implicit in numerous journal
articles in the 1960s: "What makes a personalized scene sell? We offer it. A
lot of dealers don't." 25 On this score, most monument makers in the 1960s
were reluctant to depart from ordinary ways of doing business. "Design
duplication is perhaps one of the worst faults of the average dealer," wrote
monument designer J. B. Hill in 1961. 2b According to an executive of the
Rock of Ages Corporation, A. B. Yeager, writing in 1969, "The press of com-
petition between the wholesale granite centers on the national level, and the
hardnosed in-fighting often encountered on the local level have a tendency
to remove elements of personalization design from the sale and to rely on
so-called 'stock design' to provide a generalized appeal and not require too
Albert N. Hamscher 13
much sales effort." He believed that a "considerable portion of the public
still resists the concentrated efforts of Memorial Park sales counselors to
sell [the no-monument] concept." But he also warned that "this market will
gradually diminish . . . unless we keep it alive by devoting our best efforts to
the promotion and sale of meaningful monuments." 27
Only in the 1970s, and even more so in the 1980s, did headstones with
a pictorial format become well represented in the contemporary cemetery
and a topic of discussion in nearly every issue of the major trade journals.
In 1974, Monumental News-Review reported that "complete outdoor scenes,
depicting hunting, fishing or nature hobbies are becoming increasingly
popular," and the list could be expanded to include musical instruments,
horseshoes, automobiles, pets, and numerous other representations of the
deceased person's interests. 28 In a lengthy article on the history of memorial-
ization written in 1976, Eileen Mueller, associate editor of Monument Builder
Neivs, reviewed recent developments and concluded that "while individu-
alism has not yet captured the mass market, we believe we are presently
experiencing an important turnaround in attitudes toward both design and
the very concept of memorialization that will be significant to the future." 29
In 1978, the Monument Industry Information Bureau published a widely-
disseminated pamphlet — "an important tool for monument dealers" — that
urged consumers to consider "artistic personalization" when purchasing a
marker, by choosing "additional artwork [as well as an inscription] which
has particular family meaning." 30 By the late 1980s pictorial headstones had
become sufficiently widespread that differences in design by geographical
region were evident: "In New England," noted monument designer Peter
Quinlan, "we have lots of scenes depicting hunting or fishing activities,
with deer, fish, and boats incorporated into the artwork," while on the West
Coast vineyards, mountains, rolling valleys, and seascapes sold well. 31 In
1987, monument designer N. W. Thomas summarized the trend succinctly:
"I remember when we put a little rose on the top corner and that was it.
Now, people want horses and teams, mountains, rivers, streams, deer, elk
and just about every other kind of hobby or something special on their mon-
ument." A year earlier, a monument dealer in Columbus, Ohio, was more to
the point: "There's virtually nothing we can't put on a monument." 32
Technological developments were an important ingredient in the suc-
cessful promotion of pictorial memorials. As a point of departure, since
the 1930s sandblasting has been the standard method for carving design
elements on headstones. The traditional procedure begins with the applica-
tion of a temporary adhesive on the polished surface of a granite stone. The
monument maker then affixes to the stone a sheet of rubber. Next, a car-
bon pattern is transferred to the rubber sheet with a gentle rubbing motion.
Using a sharp carving knife, the monument maker then cuts and removes
the lettering and other carving impressions. The stencil is then subjected to
Fig. 1. Operator using a sandblasting machine to etch a
stencil design onto a gravestone.
a stream of sand or other abrasive material applied with strong force (Fig.l).
In the places where portions of the stencil have been cut out, the abrasive
erodes the stone to the desired depth. Where the stone remains protected,
the surface is untouched. With this process completed, the monument mak-
er can then use a narrow stream of abrasive or pneumatic tools to carve
flowers and other ornamentation. 33 To the present day, monument makers
utilize the basic elements of sandblasting — designs cut from a rubber stencil
and the application of abrasives to erode the stone's surface — in order to
carve design elements on most of the headstones they produce. Over time,
however, the process has become increasingly sophisticated owing to tech-
nological advances. Three in particular are noteworthy.
First, during the 1970s, the invention of several photo-engraving tech-
niques enabled monument makers to transfer portraits and other images
taken directly from photographs to the blast stencil. Early examples tended
to be either grainy in appearance or little more than rough outlines of an ob-
ject with only a modest degree of shading and highlights. By the late 1980s,
refinements of the process permitted the reproduction of photographs on a
marker with great clarity and detail. A picture is re-photographed and its
negative, which can be either enlarged or reduced in size, is attached to a
photo-sensitive stencil. The negative and the stencil are then subjected to an
intense light that "burns" the negative image onto the stencil. After a chemi-
Albert N. Hamscher 15
cal solution enhances the image, the stencil is affixed to the stone and blasted
with fine grit. 34 The procedure yields the best results on dark stones, notably
"black granite" (actually, charnockite) that exhibits all shades of contrast in
sharp detail. Dark granites have been available in the United States since
the 1950s. But in the early 1980s, international market conditions — a strong
dollar, relatively low wage rates abroad, subsidies by foreign governments
to their profitable industries, and so on — resulted in a sharp increase in im-
ports of granite, including black granite from South Africa and India. A for-
tuitous business climate for consumers, in this case monument makers, thus
offered a raw material at reduced cost that could accommodate technologi-
cal progress. 35
Second, beginning in the mid-1970s, monument makers began to use
a device called a "lucy graph" that previously had been widely used in the
advertising industry to reproduce display graphics. The machine, which
looks much like a microfilm reader, projects enlarged or reduced images
of photographs, portraits, printed material, and even three-dimensional ob-
jects. The projected image can then be traced and transposed to a stencil
for sandblasting. According to one enthusiast, this "personalization tool"
solved "the historic problem of altering the size of a design to fit just about
any size memorial." By 1984, over 200 monument retailers had purchased
the device. 36 The "lucy graph revolution" was short lived, however, because
the photocopying machine, whose reproduction capabilities also expanded
in this period, could often accomplish the same task at less cost. More im-
portantly, by the mid-1980s the third important development had begun:
monument making entered the computer age.
In the mid-1980s, several companies developed a "computer assisted de-
sign" (CAD) system for monument makers. The system has two basic com-
ponents: the standard computer-monitor-mouse apparatus and a "plotter"
to cut sandblast stencils (Fig. 2). Using commercially produced software, the
monument maker can call to the monitor screen a broad range of text fonts
and graphics, retaining or modifying them at will. With the use of a scanner,
camera-ready artwork can also be entered into the system. One can even
begin with a blank screen and use the mouse to draw design elements on the
monitor. In all operations, the user can reduce or enlarge images, rotate them
in all directions, and either fill in or erase sections of the artwork. Designs,
in brief, can be "modified with an almost infinite number of lettering styles
and carving selections," a feature that is well suited for producing pictorial
headstones. Saving images on disk enabled the monument maker to build a
graphics library for future use. As monument designer Tony Caldwell ob-
served, the CAD system "gives you a drafting board, a pallet, to work on."
Once the digitized image is completed, it is sent electronically to the plotter
for cutting on a perforated stencil roll. As the computer expanded the ar-
tistic horizons of monument makers — horizons that progressively widened
as computer memory increased over time — so the plotter reduced manu-
facturing costs and performed more accurate and uniform cutting than the
traditional hand method. By 1989, several hundred monument makers had
purchased a CAD system, and it remains an important technology in the
monument industry. 37
Technological advances were not limited to the refinement of sandblast-
ing techniques. In the late 1970s, and especially during the 1980s, monument
makers began to etch pictorials directly on headstones much as a painter
works on canvas without the mediation of another procedure (in the case of
monument makers, sandblasting). Hand etching entails placing a series of
one-sixteenth inch cuts on the stone's polished surface (Fig. 3). When etch-
ing is performed by a skilled practitioner — and the procedure does require
both practice and artistic talent — the result is a pictorial image of stunning
detail and, by any reasonable aesthetic standard, beauty. As Stone in America
reported in 1985, "the use of etchings . . . has been a breath of fresh air in the
monument industry. . . . The kind of detail available through etchings has
never existed before." As with the other techniques considered above, mon-
ument makers used to their own advantage developments in other fields.
Similar to the case with photo-engraving procedures, etching is best accom-
plished on dark, especially black, granite. Dark stones show the contrast-
ing white "scratches" to the best advantage, and permit a three-dimensional
Fig. 2. CAD system used to produce rubber stencils for sandblasting the
final design onto a gravestone (plotter in the background).
Albert N. Hamscher
Fig. 3. Hand-etching with a diamond-tipped engraving tool.
18 Pictorial Headstones
effect. As noted earlier, black granite became widely available at reduced
cost in this same time period. Moreover, hand etching requires the use of a
hand-held diamond-tipped engraver, an implement that was prohibitive in
cost prior to the invention of artificial diamonds in 1954 (and their commer-
cial application, first in the metalworking industry, in the late 1960s). When
Peter Quinlan noted in 1988 that "the man-made diamond is the single big-
gest development in the last 50 years for the memorial industry," he was
referring primarily to quarry machines (saws, boring machines, polishers,
and so on) and to the industrial operations used to shape and give texture
to the headstones sold to monument makers. But his observation applies
equally well to hand etching as a method of completing the final product
for consumers. 38
In recent years, laser technology has offered an additional way to etch
images directly on a marker. In this process, the computer converts a pho-
tograph or other graphic into a code. As the laser nozzle sweeps over the
surface of the stone, the code turns the thin laser beam on and off in order
to burn away the polish. Because the beam can sweep the same section of
the stone several times, the resultant image exhibits a high degree of detail
and contrast. 39
However important technological advances were in the production of
pictorial headstones, one must return full circle to monument makers them-
selves in two respects. First, echoing the observation that "We offer it. A lot
of dealers don't," designer Ken Huffaker observed in 1984 that "I think re-
tailers are pulling the string. If you're enthused about it [the pictorial memo-
rial], your customers will be too." 40 Throughout the 1980s, the trade journals
attempted to generate enthusiasm for pictorials not only by reporting on
the latest technological advances that enhanced their detail and quality, but
also by publishing articles that featured firms across the country that had
enjoyed retail success in promoting pictorial memorials to the public. With
such titles as "Picture Perfect," "Personalized Pictorials," and "Adapting to
New Trends," these articles spoke with optimism about the "wave of the
future" and "a new trend becoming increasingly popular" that was destined
to enjoy a "healthy future." 41 There was also an effort to reassure monu-
ment makers that pictorials were not an eccentric departure from the past
but the continuation of an American tradition. "Back in the 1800s," noted
monument designer Chuck Guest in 1984, "the old slate and marble stones
had a whole paragraph written about the person who was buried there. All
we're really doing is putting a picture there instead. Isn't a picture worth a
thousand words?" 42 At the same time, the journals included articles about
the activities of the younger "baby boomer" generation of monument mak-
ers who came of entrepreneurial age in the 1970s and 1980s and who "are
striving for change and are excited by new contemporary designs." 43 In this
Albert N. Hamscher 19
way, the trade journals updated the appeal of tradition — an appeal that
came naturally to practitioners in a conservative industry — by giving it the
imprimatur of youthful exuberance.
Efforts to promote pictorial headstones no doubt gained momentum in
the 1980s because a new business challenge emerged: cremation — "the bo-
gey man of the future" and "a trend that can no longer be ignored." 44 The
practice of cremation in the United States was rare in the 1950s and 1960s — 3
to 4 percent of all deaths — but rose progressively thereafter — 6.6 percent of
deaths in 1975, 9.2 percent in 1980, 13.9 percent in 1985, 17.1 percent in 1990,
and 27.8 percent in 2002. 45 Monument makers viewed cremation, as they had
earlier the memorial parks, as a threat to their retail business. They correctly
assumed that many people who chose cremation preferred the scattering of
ashes to traditional forms of memorialization, including permanent mark-
ers. As Karl Swenson, president of the Rock of Ages Corporation, told a
convention of memorialists in 1987, "The major concern with respect to the
cremation rate (estimated to be more than 25 percent of the national death
rate by the year 2000) as it relates to our business is the fact that a substan-
tial portion of cremations (an estimated 80 percent) are now not memorial-
ized." 46 Monument makers could take some comfort from two national sur-
veys concerning the death care industry conducted by the Wirthlin Group in
1990 and 1995 that were less pessimistic. They found that 47 percent (1990),
then 50 percent (1995), of respondents who were likely to choose crema-
tion for themselves or for loved ones also planned to purchase a monument
or marker. 47 Personalized headstones were viewed as a way to attract this
potential clientele. As monument designer David Quiring had already ob-
served in 1985, "A lot of people in our industry feel the way to lead people
away from the scattering idea is to give them more value in the cemetery. . .
[by giving] customers more options." 48 That technological advances permit-
ted the placement of crisp images on the small, flat markers found in the
memorial parks and in many cemeteries in the western United States no
doubt added to the appeal of pictorial headstones among monument mak-
ers. 49 It is also possible, although difficult to establish with certainty, that
the business consolidation that occurred in the monument industry begin-
ning in the 1960s — with many small "mom and pop" operators giving way
to fewer, larger enterprises — also contributed to the emergence of a critical
mass of monument makers who were interested in pictorial markers. The
large enterprises served wider market areas than in the past, and they had
the financial resources to purchase the latest equipment and to offer con-
sumers a greater range of monument styles. 50
A second comment about the role of monument makers and dealers in
relation to the trend toward pictorial markers concerns the creative energy
of individual monument makers. Well before such technical advances as
20 Pictorial Headstones
photo-engraving, the lucy graph, and the computer became common instru-
ments of design, many monument makers had made great strides in the
artistic quality and detail of pictorial markers, using techniques associated
with traditional sandblast methods. The growing sophistication of their
work becomes apparent as one peruses the trade journals over the course
of the 1970s and 1980s. The procedures described by monument designers
Chuck and Beth Guest in 1984 suggest the range of possibilities that tradi-
tional techniques permitted without the latest technical advances: "polish,
which leaves the darkest color; blueing over polish, which is a little lighter
and which entails using granite dust to take the shine off the polish; blue-
ing over steeled, which entails blowing the polish off with steel shot and
then blueing it; and frosting, or steeled, which produces the lightest color
and which requires blowing the polish off with steel shot and leaving it
that way." 51 In brief, technology reinforced an artistic trend but did not
initiate it. 52
In 1982, Mike Johns, president of the American Institute of Commem-
orative Art, observed that in the American cemetery pictorial markers "are
the only thing to come along in the past 25 to 30 years that has established
itself as reflective of our times." 53 His reference to "our times" reminds us
that all the efforts of monument makers and their trade journals to promote
the new style, and the technological advances that permitted an increasingly
sophisticated expression of this style, would have counted for very little if
pictorial markers with secular themes offended the sensibilities of the gen-
eral public. Quite to the contrary, this form of memorialization was compat-
ible with several broad currents of American culture in the post-war era.
Four in particular merit attention: the resurgence of individualism, espe-
cially since the 1960s; the evolution of consumer tastes; changes in religious
perceptions; and attitudes toward death, always an important consideration
when examining funerary art. These are wide-ranging subjects that can be
treated only briefly here. 54 Moreover, future scholars may wish to amend
or add to this list. Nevertheless, even a cursory overview of these subjects,
whose importance has been recognized by scholars as well as by monument
makers themselves, offers a fresh approach to the larger task of placing the
contemporary cemetery within its cultural context.
When, as noted above, W. E. Luck spoke in 1955 about the row upon
row of meaningless stock monuments that dominated the landscape of the
modern American cemetery, his remark presaged to a remarkable degree
the architectural critic Lewis Mumford's broader indictment in 1961 of sub-
urbia with its "multitude of uniform, unidentifiable houses, lined up inflex-
ibly, at uniform distances, on uniform roads." 55 Mumford in turn echoed a
large group of academics, social commentators, philosophers, and novel-
Albert N. Hamscher 21
ists who deplored the spirit of conformity that infused American society in
the late 1940s and 1950s. To be sure, one must resist the temptation to find
what historian William Chafe called "the tyranny of mindless conformity"
in all aspects of American life. 55 Even Levittown, the archetype of suburban
complacency and conventionality, exhibited a diversity of lifestyles, politi-
cal views, and social interaction. But there can be no doubt that the impulse
to conformity could be observed in many ways: the common experience of
television that, in Chafe's words, "reinforced the conservative, celebratory
values of the dominant culture"; the "organization man" who relinquished
self-assertion in the corporate arena; the social criticism of existentialist phi-
losophers who viewed the individual as powerless, enmeshed in a network
of systems beyond his control; and so on. There was also a general sense that
conformity bred anonymity in modern life, that "people are only numbers."
The social movements of the 1960s — feminism, civil rights, protests against
the Vietnam War — and the emergence of a youth culture centered on "baby
boomers," many of whom challenged the conventional values of their par-
ents, did much to sharpen the critique of conformity and to offer in its place
a cultural ethos of individualism and self-expression, of "doing one's own
thing." There was a "hypertrophy of personhood in each one of the sixties
movements," according to historian Loren Baritz, who added that "in no oth-
er time and place has the cult of personality been so pervasive." 57 A "desire
for personal fulfillment and self-realization" remained a "core value" in the
following decades. 58 The ethic of individual gratification developed to such
an extent that some scholars have argued that since the 1960s, American cul-
ture has entered a "postmodern" phase characterized by a complete break
with the past and reduced ties to traditional social institutions. According to
sociologist Abby Collier, "The personalizing trend among the gravestones
lends empirical support to the theory that postmodern American culture is
becoming more individualistic and present-oriented." 59
The connection between change in memorial art and what monument
designer Bert Gast called a "public looking for identification in a computer-
ized society" became a recurrent theme in the trade journals from the 1960s
onward. 60 In 1969, for example, the Pitassis reminded readers of American
Art in Stone that "man is fast losing identification in every area of his life.
... A personal memorial contains a unique balm for the spirit impaled on
the impersonality of 'progress' — a balm that only we can give." 61 A decade
later, Gast, who founded the Memorial Art Correspondence School in 1973,
spoke in terms reminiscent of Mumford's and arrived at the same conclu-
sion: "Architecture and memorial art have always been closely linked," he
observed, "so we see the repetitious 'ticky-tacky' row upon row of sameness
in many housing developments, which to me is the same as the row upon
row of three-foot and three-foot, six-inch polished two or polished three
dies [surfaces above the base] that we are setting in our cemeteries." He
22 Pictorial Headstones
predicted with confidence that the "public of the eighties will seek personal
identity, and permanent value because of the increasing anonymity of our
society. Believe me, the public is tired of just being a number." 62 In 1988,
John Diannis, executive vice president of the Monument Builders of North
America, concisely summarized the convergence of public mood and in-
novation in monument design in terms that linked social observation to its
The Vietnam War brought a social upheaval to the United States,
but one of the positive results has been a strong desire on the
part of the young to be individuals. This has been accelerated
by the technology of our time which tends to reduce everyone
to a set of numbers: social security numbers, bank account
numbers, charge card numbers, zip codes, the numbers go on
and on. There is a de-personalizing effect in all of this. Almost
as if on cue, people began to respond to the memorial designers'
suggestions to "personalize" their monuments, to develop
designs and use symbols that tell something about them as the
individuals they really are. 63
What Baritz called the "hypertrophy of personhood" had found its expres-
sion in the contemporary cemetery.
The trend toward expression of individuality in the cemetery took place
in the larger framework of developments in consumer culture. To be sure, in
post-war America there have been a number of constants in the relationship
between producers and consumers: the ubiquitous presence and relentless
pace of advertising aimed at enticing the public to purchase an ever-expand-
ing array of goods; the process of what might be called "creative destruc-
tion" in capitalism that entails both the (often planned) obsolescence of cur-
rent products and the introduction of new ones; the emergence of "niche"
marketing that offers specialized products to well-defined segments of the
population (by age, sex, race, income, and other variables); the growth of
overall family income and the availability of credit that permitted the ac-
quisition of all manner of goods, and so on. 64 If forces such as these promote
innovation in the marketplace, however, they do not determine the direc-
tion of innovation. And it is this direction that enables us to link consumer
attitudes to pictorial markers.
In a study of consumer behavior, Virginia Postrel offers several insights
of interpretive value to scholars of the cemetery, even if she does not explic-
itly address trends in funerary art. Postrel has detected in recent decades
a widening of the aesthetic horizons of the general public, a broad and
growing interest in the "look and feel" of things, in "decoration and adorn-
ment," that has taken many forms — from airports decorated like Starbucks,
Albert N. Hamscher 23
and hair dye for men, and cosmetic dentistry to an expanding variety in the
texture, color, and style of clothing, jewelry, and even household fixtures.
For much of the twentieth century, she notes, "the broad public enjoyed
the expanding benefits of standardization, convenience, and mass distribu-
tion, with much less emphasis on look and feel than on other sources of
value." In the past few decades, however, "sensory appeals are everywhere,
they are incredibly personalized, and they are intensifying." The prolif-
eration of computers and sophisticated software has sustained this trend
because "aesthetic-friendly tools have simultaneously raised expectations
and encouraged stylistic plenitude," an observation that recalls monument
designer David Quiring's observation in 1991 that "average consumers are
becoming more graphically sophisticated. In the past ten years, they have
been exposed to more and more graphics through publications like USA
Today and through advertising." For Postrel, "the computer-driven democ-
ratization of design has made more people sensitive to graphic quality . . .
and once people get used to a certain level of conscientious aesthetics, they
don't want to go back." Without mentioning cemeteries, one of Postrel's
observations is especially compelling because it encapsulates the entire phe-
nomenon of pictorial markers: "Even when the general form of something
has rendered an enduring ideal — the layout of book pages, the composition
of men's suits, the structure of automobiles, the shapes of knives, forks, and
spoons — we crave variation within that classic type." Viewed in the light of
Postrel's findings, the evolution of consumer tastes towards an enhanced
appreciation of aesthetics provides yet another context for understanding
the artistic landscape of the contemporary cemetery. 65
Among monument makers, as among most producers of consumer
goods, there has been a special interest in the tastes and buying habits of the
"baby boom" generation born between 1946 and 1964 (77 million births in
the United States alone). In 1985, when the interest in pictorial headstones
was gaining momentum, "boomers" accounted for roughly one-third of the
American population. As is the case with any population cohort, boomers
exhibit a diversity of interests, lifestyles, religious and political views, levels
of education and income, and so on. But most observers would agree that, as
a group, boomers are willing to challenge tradition, to promote the expres-
sion of individualism, and to take an interest in what Postrel called "deco-
ration and adornment." Full participants in a "culture of choice," boomers
experienced the transition to what demographer Cheryl Russell has called
the "personalized economy." Unlike the industrial economy that prevailed
during much of the twentieth century — an economy "based on the produc-
tion of mass-produced products" — the personalized economy "is based on
the production of customized products for individualistic consumers" that
reflects a larger "demand for personal control." bb Since childhood, boomers
have also been in the thrall of what social critic Landon Jones has called "the
24 Pictorial Headstones
dictatorship of the new": "new products, new toys, new commercials, new
fads . . . [are] integral to the baby-boom experience." Moreover, by the sheer
weight of their numbers, boomers exerted a strong influence on the collec-
tive attitudes of the generations that came immediately before and after their
own, a phenomenon that Jones has referred to frankly as a "generational
tyranny." 67 As sociologist Wade Clark Roof has noted, "values, lifestyles,
and moral sensitivities that were once more specific to particular genera-
tions are now more widely spread throughout American culture." 68 Even if
one grants that generational differences in consumer tastes persist, the fact
remains that in the monument-making industry, boomer preferences pro-
gressively gained prominence as the generation matured. The youngsters
who during the 1950s and 1960s were the target audience for the marketing
of breakfast cereals and toys had become by the 1980s and 1990s adults who
confronted purchasing decisions in all sectors of the death care industry.
Trade journals understandably urged their readers to cultivate the boom-
ers' interest in novelty, personal control, and customization. Reviewing mar-
ket trends in 1985, journalist Lawrence Santana concluded that "while the
parents themselves may have shunned more personalized, symbolic monu-
ments, some younger people insist on them." Anticipating Postrel's thesis
by two decades, he continued that "new thoughts about art, design, fashion,
and leisure are influencing the younger monument buyers of today." Based
on her practical experience as a retailer, monument maker Carol Adams re-
ported that boomers "are willing to consider new things on memorials. The
far reaching use of etchings — from fishermen to knitting needles — is typical
of this trend." For Adams, etchings "are the epitaphs of today." 69 Fifteen
years later, articles continued to express confidence that, as grief therapist
Darci Sims remarked in 1999, "personalization will be the key to everything."
Added Lisa Carlson, executive director of Funeral and Memorial Societies of
America, "the generation that wrote its own wedding vows will want non-
traditional memorialization." 70 That boomers were generally more affluent
than previous generations also did not go unnoticed. "The Boomer group
isn't afraid to spend money," noted industry consultant Gail Beckman in
1992. "[Boomers] know what they want and are willing to pay for it." 71
A consideration of consumer behavior must also take into account the
importance of leisure activities in contemporary American life, especially
because many pictorial headstones record the interest that deceased per-
sons had in hobbies, sports, and other recreational activities. "Perhaps be-
cause of the growing necessity to work," noted Cheryl Russell, "Americans
now regard leisure time as more meaningful than their time on the job."
According to a 1992 Roper Poll, for example, 68 percent of American work-
ers viewed their leisure time as more enjoyable than their time at work; 30
percent stated that work was more important than leisure, but 38 percent
expressed the opposite view. 72 Between 1970 and 1994, personal consump-
Albert N. Hamscher 25
tion expenditures for "commercial participant amusements" — an impor-
tant category of recreational spending that includes activities ranging from
bowling, swimming, golf, and horseback riding to guided sightseeing tours
and casino gambling — rose sharply, from 7.7 billion dollars annually to 32.9
billion in "real" (inflation-adjusted) terms (1992 dollars), an increase of 327
percent. In the same period, the proportion of total individual consumption
expenditure devoted to leisure activities rose steadily from 4.3 to 8.3 per-
cent. 73 Parallel to this interest in "participatory" recreational activities has
been an equally significant enthusiasm (one might say mania) for spectator
sports, notablv team sports such as baseball, football, and basketball. "The
twentieth century in the United States was the sports century," Michael
Mandelbaum has written recently, and this public interest encompasses all
levels of athletic competition from high school to the professional ranks. 74
The images of recreational activities and equipment adorning many modern
headstones are but one expression of what Russell has called "a preference
for leisure" among Americans.
The popularity of secular themes on pictorial markers has its obverse: the
displacement of religious symbols. To be sure, one can still find headstones
that have these symbols as well as markers that are transitional in the sense
that a religious message — usually an epitaph — accompanies the secular im-
age. Nevertheless, as early as 1976, the associate editor of Monument Builder
News told her subscribers what many of them already had learned from
practical experience in the marketplace, that contemporary memorialization
"tends to lack religious impact. Little heed is paid to the passage of the soul
to eternity." A decade later, Peter Quinlan put the matter in more concrete
terms: "There isn't much interest in religious symbols today. The idea of
putting posies on a macho man's monument doesn't fit. The guy wants a
pickup truck or something that represents his lifelong interests." 75 Of course,
the varieties of religious belief and practice in recent decades have occupied
a wide spectrum ranging from adherence to traditional denominations and
doctrines, through an animated revival of "born again" evangelicalism, to
what sociologist Robert Wuthnow has called "a freewheeling and eclectic
range of spirituality." 76
One possible explanation for the proliferation of secular images on con-
temporary gravemarkers can be found in the strong resemblance to grave-
stones in ancient Greece. If many stones today exhibit a sporting motif, a
hobby, or an attachment to a cherished object of life experience, gravestones
erected in fifth- and sixth-century (BCE) Greece also show, as classicist Cecil
Bowra has observed, "a constant attempt to catch the essential nature of
a dead man as he was when alive"— a young warrior holding his spear,
an old man feeding a cicada to a dog, a young girl nursing pigeons, and
so on. Because the Greeks had only a "vague and uncertain" belief in an
afterlife, their collective view was that "if a man survives at all, his after-
26 Pictorial Headstones
world is but shadowy and bears little resemblance to the solid earth which
he left." 77 Lacking a firm conviction that existence continued after death, the
Greeks measured the value of a life by how it was lived for its own sake. The
striking similarities in gravestone design today make it tempting to see the
same causal relationship at work in our time. But this interpretation is not
completely satisfactory because numerous public opinion polls conducted
during the past fifty years have consistently shown that Americans believe
in God, in an afterlife that offers either punishment or reward, and in the
importance of religion in their daily lives. 78
But if religious sentiments in general, and a belief in the immortality
of the soul in particular, remain widespread among Americans, it can be
argued that two aspects of contemporary religious experience have reduced
the necessity to exhibit these attitudes on headstones. The first has been the
emergence of the view that God, in the words of Robert Wuthnow, "is a
friend who could be trusted to help, rather than a judge interested in coun-
seling people about their sins." In the 1950s, "congregations became com-
fortable, familiar, domestic, offering an image of God that was basically con-
gruent with the domestic tranquility of the ideal home." Belief in an afterlife
remained firm in post-war America, "but getting there was now easier." 79 In
the following decades, spiritual alternatives multiplied, Americans became
less convinced of the literal truth of the Bible, and knowledge about reli-
gious doctrines waned. 80 But the image of a benign, non-threatening Creator
persisted. Confronting stiff competition for the allegiance of believers, many
traditional churches have often responded by "peddlfing] good feelings
and easy-to-digest spirituality." 81 In this religious environment, it may be
suggested, the appearance of secular themes on headstones reflects not a
declining interest in religion, let alone a disenchantment with the search
for spiritual fulfillment, but a mood of self-assurance about one's favorable
standing in the hereafter. 82 If all is right with the Lord, so to speak, there
is little need to advertise this confidence — or to propitiate a stern, divine
taskmaster — with traditional religious symbols that for many people have
no doubt lost some of their emotional appeal. Surely, an understanding and
friendly divinity will countenance a modest expression of playfulness on
a headstone in place of images whose extensive use over many years has
rendered them banal and devoid of vitality. 83
A second aspect of contemporary religious experience that can be re-
lated to secular themes on markers — and one that returns us to the theme of
individualism in American life — has been a search for spiritual fulfillment
that is less reliant than in the past on traditional religious organizations and
their formalized sets of rules. Increasingly, religion has become yet another
vehicle for self-exploration and what Wade Roof has called a "capacious in-
dividualism." As Robert Wuthnow has observed, "Ultimately, the freedom
that triumphed in the 1960s was freedom to feel one's own feelings and
Albert N. Hamscher 27
to experience one's own sensibilities. . . . The grand narrative of religious
and philosophical traditions was replaced by personalized narratives of ex-
ploration and expression." Even within traditional congregations, "self-re-
liance and personalized views of truth are widely in evidence." For many
Americans, "ordinary work and play were sufficiently sacred to remind the
enlightened of God's kingdom," a view that likely favored the introduction
of secular themes on headstones. To be sure, during the 1970s, and continu-
ing to the present time, religious treatises and authority figures have called
for greater spiritual and moral discipline in order to curb the perceived ex-
cesses of the 1960s. But "the way in which Americans came to understand
spiritual discipline . . . scarcely detained them from many of the secular pur-
suits in which they were so actively engaged. . . . Making money, providing
good educations for one's children, and participating fully in the recreational
pleasures of an advanced industrial society are all compatible with spiritual
discipline." 84 As Wade Roof has noted, the "proliferation of popular cultural
forms" in post-war America eroded old symbolic frameworks and "new
ones catering to individual choice emerged." 85 If nontraditional images on
markers reflect the secularism that pervades modern American culture, they
are equally in harmony with recent trends in religious expression.
Because the cemetery is a site of death, headstones, like all objects of
funerary art, offer insights about prevailing views of death. These views
provide another context for understanding the growing popularity of picto-
rial headstones. Writing in 1974 and reflecting on attitudes toward death
in twentieth-century western culture, the French historian Philippe Aries
detected "a brutal revolution in traditional ideas and feelings, a revo-
lution so brutal that social observers have not failed to be struck by it.
Death, so omnipresent in the past that it was familiar, would be effaced,
would disappear." 86
In his various writings and lectures, Aries hoped to capture the essence
of this development in a memorable phrase — "forbidden death," "death de-
nied," death as a "taboo," even "the reversal of death." The interdict did
not apply to violent death — one need only recall the images of bloodletting
that appear regularly on television news and entertainment shows. Perhaps
more insidious, the curtain of denial descended on natural death, the death
that most of us will experience. The sense of anxiety that Americans have ex-
hibited toward natural death has revealed itself in many ways: a vocabulary
rich in euphemisms on the subject of death; the diminished importance of
funeral rites; uncertainty in the public at large about what constitutes proper
ritual behavior; the use of medical resources to postpone the moment of
death at great cost, even in cases of illness recognized to be irreversible; and
the shielding of children from such reminders of natural death as visiting a
dying person in extremis, viewing a corpse, or witnessing an interment. The
memorial park cemeteries, the bane of monument makers, well illustrate the
28 Pictorial Headstones
public's withdrawal from natural death. The least intrusive element in the
open, verdant lawns of the memorial parks with their markers flush to the
ground is the dead themselves.
In recent years, signs of a more positive approach to death and dying
have appeared. If the unease surrounding death is still very much with us,
some of its more depressing manifestations are beginning to recede. The
hospice movement allows people to die at home rather than in an imper-
sonal hospital setting. Physicians now speak more frankly with their seri-
ously ill patients and devote more attention to managing pain. The fear and
shame once associated with cancer have diminished, while the popularity of
"living wills" and debates about the "right to die" have brought the subjects
of death and dying to a national audience. The publication of advice for
"coping" with grief and mourning has become a cottage industry. The very
phrase "death with dignity" presumes that dying in modern times has been
distinctly undignified. 87
Personalized headstones, including those with a pictorial format, are
compatible with both developments. They exemplify "forbidden death" as
well as the public's gradual withdrawal from it, which likely accounts for
why the style, once it gained momentum, has persisted. On the one hand,
pleasant images of a life well lived remove some of the sting of death, or as
monument maker Jim Casaccia put the matter in 1978, "By showing some of
the things which that person will be remembered for, it doesn't make death
seem so drastic." 88 A visual reminder of life, not a statement about death
and its aftermath, becomes a central feature of the cemetery. The existence
of the deceased is extended backwards in time, not projected to the future.
Death cannot be entirely banished, but its presence can be muted and made
subordinate to themes that privilege living over dying. On the other hand,
by giving center stage to an individual's life and interests, a pictorial head-
stone represents an effort by ordinary people to extract their dead from the
barren anonymity of the memorial parks and, in traditional cemeteries, from
the dreary sameness of stock monuments. In this sense, the current interest
in personalization, which at root is the reappearance of a deeply ingrained
American tradition, contests the current vogue of death avoidance. Familiar
images of worldly pursuits enable the living to reconnect with the world
of the dead, thus providing another example of how the business interests
and creative energy of monument makers, technological advances, and the
direction of modern consumer culture have converged to add diversity to
the landscape of the contemporary cemetery and to make it a more inviting
and interesting place to visit.
Albert N. Hamscher 29
1 I thank James Bell of Bell Memorials in Beloit, KS, for allowing me to borrow and
consult his extensive archive of trade publications and for providing me with some
photographs. I also thank him for discussing with me the subject of personalized
markers on several occasions and for allowing me to observe production methods
first hand. Chris Carter of Individual Mausoleum in Parsons, KS, also offered me
useful insights, as did Brad Hopkins of Hopkins Granite Design Co. in Concordia,
KS. Tim Robinson of the Elberton Granite Association in Elberton, GA, was equally
helpful, and he also gave me photocopies of industry and consumer surveys relating
to monument making published in 1965, 1990, and 1995. 1 thank as well Claire Dehon
and Michael Breen, who along with Hopkins read an earlier draft of this article. The
anonymous reviewers also made some valuable suggestions.
A complete listing of pertinent works would expand a note into a small volume.
Important studies with useful bibliographies are Richard E. Meyer, ed., Ethnicity in
the American Cemetery (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular
Press, 1993); idem, ed., Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture
(Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989); Blanche Linden-Ward, Silent City on
a Hill: Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery (Columbus, OH:
Ohio State University Press, 1989); and the comprehensive study by David Charles
Sloane, The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History (Baltimore, MD: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1991). Since 1995 (Vol. XII), Markers has published an
annual bibliography that lists many historical studies.
2 The best studies of modern personalized stones are Richard E. Meyer, "Images
of Logging on Contemporary Pacific Northwest Gravemarkers," in Meyer, ed.,
Cemeteries and Gravemarkers, 61-85; and C. D. Abby Collier, "Tradition, Modernity,
and Postmodernity in Symbolism of Death, " Tlie Sociological Quarterly 44 (2003): 727-
749 (a study of Stone Mountain Cemetery in Stone Mountain, GA). The subject also
appears in J. Joseph Edgette, '"Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep . . .': Symbols and Their
Meaning on Children's Gravemarkers," Tlie Children's Folklore Review 22 (1999): 7-24;
Melissa Haveman, "A Sociohistorical Analysis of Children's Gravestones," Illness,
Crisis and Loss 7 (1999): 266-286; and Rollo K. Newson, "Motorcycles and Majorettes:
Grave Markers for Youth in Central Texas," in Francis Edward Abernathy, ed.,
Corners of Texas (Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 1993), 246-266. None
of these works offers a broad overview of the subject that includes both business
practices and large cultural structures.
3 In the notes that follow, respectively American Art in Stone (AAS), Monument Builder
Nezvs (MBN), Monumental-News Review (MNR), and Stone in America (SIA). For this
article, I consulted more than 500 issues of these publications covering the period
1950-1999. Four other trade journals — Barre Life (BL), The Elberton Graniteer (EG),
Tlie Memorial Builder (MB), and Network (N) — contain an occasional article pertinent
to this study. In order to increase the number of references for interested scholars
within the confines of a single article, I have limited citations to the volume and issue
numbers, their month and year, and page numbers; the titles of articles and their
authors can be easily retrieved in this fashion.
4 For example: AAS 59.9 (Sept. 1959): 14-17; 60.3 (Mar. 1960): 23-28.
5 For example: MBN 15.4 (Aug. 1958): 30-36; 18.1 (Jan. 1961): 9-23; 26.3 (Mar. 1969):
30 Pictorial Headstones
4-20. The theme of cemetery regulations is a perennial one in the trade journals. In
the late 1980s, for example, SIA ran a series of articles on cemetery "restrictions" in
several states. See, for example, 101.9 (Sept. 1988): 48-54 (NY); 101.10 (Oct. 1988):
52-58 (VA); 101.11 (Nov. 1988): 48-52 (UT); 101.12 (Dec. 1988): 43-47 (MO); 102:10
(Oct. 1989): 45-48 (MA). A comprehensive piece on the subject appeared in 99.1 (Jan.
6 The subject of "no-monument" cemeteries appears repeatedly in trade publications
from the 1950s through the 1970s. Examples include AAS 58.10 (Nov. 1958): 15-17;
MBN 17.7 (July 1960): 24-32; 30.9 (Sept. 1973): 37-40. Memorial parks are portrayed
not simply as a threat to monument making as a business, but also as an assault on
the appropriate demonstration of sentiment in the face of death. A recent study of the
spread and cultural meaning of this type of cemetery is Albert N. Hamscher, "'Scant
Excuse for the Headstone': The Memorial-Park Cemetery in Kansas," Kansas History:
A Journal of the Central Plains 25 (Summer 2002): 124-143, a study of broader scope
than the title implies. The essay is reprinted in Hamscher, ed., Kansas Cemeteries in
History (Manhattan, KS: KS Publishing, 2005), 81-115.
7 AAS 56.4 (Apr. 1956): 11-12.
8 For example, MBN 18.4 (Apr. 1961): 16-28.
9 An example concerning the Supreme Court of New Jersey: ibid., 16.14 (Apr. 1959):
Ibid., 10.8 (Aug. 1953): 16-17.
MB (Spring 1959), no pagination.
AAS 54.3 (Mar. 1954): 30; 55.8 (Aug. 1955): 13-14.
Ibid., 58.10 (Nov. 1958): 15-16 (Luck's italics).
14 Ibid., 60.3 (Mar. 1960): 23-28. Noted Howard Clark, the secretary-treasurer of the
American Cemetery Association: "Today, the usual practice is to carve the surname
on a memorial in letters six to eight inches high and then add simply John Brown,
1886-1956. Such an inscription means absolutely nothing to anyone outside the
family, either in this generation or succeeding generations." MBN 15.4 (Apr. 1958):
15 MBN 28.3 (Mar. 1971): 6-12; 30.3 (Mar. 1973): 36-41. Throughout the 1960s, the
Pitassis encouraged in an articulate and vigorous way innovation in monument
style, for example AAS 62.4 (Apr. 1962): 19-20; 69.4 (Oct. 1969): 6-13.
16 For examples of articles on these subjects: MNR 62.6 (June 1950): 23-65; MBN 10.8
(Aug. 1953): 12-16; AAS 54.3 (Mar. 1954): 30-31.
17 MNR 62. 8 (Aug. 1950): 22-23; 62.10 (Oct. 1950): 28-29. Some other interesting
articles in the series: 62.12 (Dec. 1950): 24-25; 65.9 (Sept. 1953): 32-33; 63.4 (Apr. 1954):
29. An article on "post-war memorial design" published in 1950 spoke of pictorial
memorials as a design approach with promise, but it limited the discussion to
"symbolic ornament and epigraphical inscriptions." Ibid., 62.6 (June 1950): 23-65.
18 MBN 11.12 (Dec. 1954): 48-53.
Albert N. Hamscher 31
19 AAS 59.1 (Jan. 1959): 43; 59.6 (June 1959): 30.
20 MBN17.5 (May I960): 22-31.
21 Ibid., 17.7 (July I960): 24-32.
22 Jerry L. Lewis and Joe N. Harris, "A Program of Research and Technical Assistance
for the Granite Industry in Elbert County Georgia," Final Report, Engineering
Experiment Station, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1965, p. 32. This manuscript
report was evidently published in 1967; a summary by the Pitassis of some of its
findings is in AAS 69 .4 (Oct. 1969): 6-13.
23 This generalization is based on close examination of photographs and paid
advertisements by granite manufacturers in the trade journals as well as personal
visits to many cemeteries over the years. An interesting article on headstones of
different colors is in MBN 21.10 (Oct. 1964): 4-13.
24 Above, nn. 21, 22.
25 SIA 97.1 (Jan. 1984): 20-22.
20 MBN 18.1 (Jan. 1961): 9-23.
27 Ibid., 26.3 (Mar. 1969): 4-20 (Yeager's italics).
- s MNR 88.5 (Mav 1974), no pagination. See also photographs from the early and
mid-1970s in MBN 30.11 (Nov. 1973): 37, and 31.2 (Feb. 1974): 24; EG 18.2 (Summer
1974): 19-20, and 21.3 (Fall 1977): 22-23.
29 MBN 33.7 (July 1976). The entire issue is devoted to "two hundred years of
30 "Personal Monuments: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Evermore," Chicago, IL,
n.d., but published in March 1978: notices in SIA (Mar. 1978): 36; EG 22.1 (Spring
31 SIA 92.5 (May 1978): 17-19.
32 Ibid., 99 A (May 1986): 19-23; 100.1 (Jan. 1987): 12-18.
3 EG 3.3 (Summer 1959): 3-9, gives a clear summary of all the major steps of
monument production — from the quarry to the showroom floor — during the early
34 To observe the progression of technique over time: MNR 86.8 (Aug. 1972): 75; SIA
92.4 (Apr. 1978): 35-36; MBN 41.8 (Aug. 1984): 34; EG 33.1 (Spring 1989): 32.
35 SIA 96.12 (Dec. 1983): 24-29; also 98.7 (July 1985): 25-35, for an article on the
growing popularity of stones of colors other than the traditional gray.
36 Ibid., 95.1 (Jan. 1982): 18-19; 98.1 (Jan. 1985): 20-22.
37 Ibid., 98.11 (Nov. 1985), and MBN 44.5 (May 1985) for commercial advertisements
(no pagination) with photographs of the system. For articles on its operation and
design potential, see EG 33.1 (Spring 1989): 33, and especially SIA 102.11 (Nov. 1989):
8-13; 105.8 (Aug. 1992): 42-49; 112.1 (Jan.-Feb. 1999): 26-29.
32 Pictorial Headstones
38 On etching: SIA 93.11 (Nov. 1980): 22-30; 98.11 (Nov. 1985): 38-43; 99.10 (Oct.
1986): 28-36; and MBN 56.6 (June 1999): 32-34. On artificial diamonds: MNR 91.5
(May 1977): 10-13; SIA 101.3 (Mar. 1988): 39-45. One article pointed out that "Most
retailers who have had success with etchings believe it is the most cost-effective
way to convey a life on stone, since it is less expensive and less time consuming
than sculpture." SIA 99.9 (Sept. 1986): 26-33. Although it is beyond the scope of this
article, note that the 1970s also ushered in an era of rapid technological change in the
quarrying of granite and the initial preparation of markers sold to retailers. See, for
example, MNR 91.5 (May 1977): 26-27; EG 21.3 (Fall 1977): 7, 25.3 (Fall 1981): 3, and
43.3 (Fall 1999): 30-37; MBN 36.5 (May 1979): 22-26 and 40.2 (Feb. 1983): 45-47; SIA
93.10 (Oct. 1980): 19-22, 99.2 (Feb. 1986): 44-46, and 112.2 (Mar. 1999): 27-30. The final
decades of the twentieth century thus witnessed technological advances in all sectors
of the monument-making industry. See the comprehensive article, "Take Advantage
of Today's Technology," in SIA 101.3 (Mar. 1988): 39-45.
19 I thank Brad Hopkins for describing to me how the laser process works. For an
early reference to laser technology and markers, see SIA 98.11 (Nov. 1985): 38-43.
At first, lasers were used to cut sandblast stencils, not to etch directly on a stone
(see MBN 44.9 [Sept. 1987]: 29). Currently, laser machinery is too expensive for most
monument makers to purchase; they generally subcontract this work to a large
enterprise. As best as I can determine, hand etching and laser etching are roughly
comparable in cost for the consumer.
40 SIA 99.5 (May 1986): 18-23. When in 2003 I asked Jim Bell of Bell Memorials in
Beloit, KS, for his view of what was responsible for the success of pictorial images on
headstones, he paused, thought long and hard, and responded "I am." His response
is an incentive to the scholar not to ignore the business dimension of a cultural
41 In SIA alone, see 92.10 (Oct. 1979): 22-23, 40-43; 95.7 (July 1982): 14-15; 97.1 (Jan.
1984): 20-22; 97.5 (May 1984): 25-27; 98.7 (July 1985): 16-19; 99.5 (May 1986): 18-23;
101.1 (Jan. 1987): 28-33; 104.4 (Apr. 1987): 47-53; 101.7 (July 1988): 42-47; and 111.1
(Jan.-Feb. 1999): 26-29.
42 MBN 41.9 (Sept. 1984): 34-36.
43 For example, SIA 93.11 (Nov. 1980): 33-29; 101.1 (Jan. 1988): 24-29.
44 Quotations from SIA 101.5 (May 1988): 12-15; MBN 45.7 (July 1988): 11-13.
45 Cremation Association of North America, www.cremationassociation.org
("statistics," then "historical statistics"). For background: Stephen Prothero, Purified
by Fire: A History of Cremation in America (Berkeley, CA: University of California
46 BL (Spring 1987): 9-12. See also SIA 101.5 (May 1988): 12-15, and MBN 90.4 (July
47 "American Attitudes and Values Affected by Death Care Services," copyright
1990 by the Allied Industries Joint Committee, pie chart (unpaginated); "1995 Study
of American Attitudes Toward Ritualization and Memorialization," copyright 1995
by the Wirthlin Group, pp. 19-21 and appendix B, fig. 28. The surveys were released
in 1991 and 1995 by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC); some
of the findings in the 1990 survey are summarized in SIA 105.8 (Aug. 1992): 34-38.
Albert N. Hamscher 33
48 SIA 98.1 (Jan. 1985): 20-25.
49 Ibid., 98.1 (Jan. 1985): 20-25; 99.5 (May 1986): 18-23; 100.4 (Apr. 1987): 47-53; 101.7
(July 1988): 42-47.
50 MBN 45.4 (Apr. 1988): 19-22, reported that the number of monument retailers
declined from ca. 6,000 in 1960 to ca. 4,300 in 1988 ( a decrease of 28 percent). On this
subject, see also SIA 96.2 (Feb. 1983): 15-21; and especially 99.12 (Dec. 1986): 52-55.
51 SIA 97.1 (Jan. 1984): 20-22; also reported in MBN 41.9 (Sept. 1984): 34-36.
52 Although I generally agree with Collier, "Tradition," 743, that "The choice of what
to have made [for a headstone] is predominantly up to the individuals making the
purchase," I trust that the foregoing pages have shown this to be an exaggeration
lacking foundation in the pertinent sources."
53 SIA 95.2 (Feb. 1982): 30-32.
54 A list of pertinent works on all these topics would require a lengthy bibliography.
In the notes that follow, I will cite a few studies that I found to be indispensable. The
notes and bibliographies in these works will lead the interested reader to additional
55 Lewis Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects
(New York, NY: HarcourC Brace and World, Inc., 1961), 509.
56 William H. Chafe, The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II (3rd edition;
New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), 121.
57 Loren Baritz, Tlie Good Life: The Meaning of Success for the American Middle Class
(New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), 294, 313.
58 These phrases are from Michael Nevin Willard, "Cutback: Skate and Punk at the
Far End of the American Century," in Beth Bailey and David Farber, eds., America in
the 70s (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 182. Willard speaks of the
1970s in particular, but his observation applies equally well to subsequent decades.
59 Collier, "Tradition," 745.
60 SIA 93.9 (Sept. 1980): 17-19.
61 AAS 69 A (Oct. 1969): 6-13.
62 MBN 37.4 (Apr. 1980): 34-36, a sentiment echoed by Mueller in 1976 (above,
63 Ibid., 45.7 (July 1988): 11-13 (my italics).
M For a recent and general overview of consumer culture, see Lizabeth Cohen, A
Consumers' Republic: Vie Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York,
NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).
65 Virginia Postrel, Tlie Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking
Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers,
2003), quotations from pp. 5, 36, 54, 55, 80. For Quiring, SIA 104.3 (Mar. 1991):
34 Pictorial Headstones
66 Cheryl Russell, The Master Trend: How the Baby Boom Generation Is Remaking America
(New York, NY: Pleneum Press, 1993), 56, 58. For Russell, individualism is the "trend
behind the trends . . . the master trend of modern times" (p. 22).
67 Landon Y. Jones, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (New
York, NY: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980), 1, 45.
68 Wade Clark Roof, Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American
Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 50.
69 SIA 98.11 (Nov. 1985): 46-49; the views of Adams are summarized by Santana.
Noted retailer Tom Rex in the same article: "Baby-boomers are more familiar with
design and art and good taste and they are applying these things to memorials."
70 Ibid., 112.2 (Mar. 1999): 17-19.
71 Ibid., 105.7 (July 1992): 28-33.
72 Russell, Tlie Master Trend, 63, and chap. 12 passim.
73 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1996, 252 (table
401): "Personal Consumption Expenditures for Recreation in Real (1992) Dollars: 1970
to 1994." For a similar table (adjusted with 1987 dollars), see the Statistical Abstract:
1995, 253 (table 403), which covers the period 1970-1993. The trend continues: the
Statistical Abstract: 2002, 749 (table 1213) reports a figure of 69.2 billion dollars in 2000;
adjusted with 1992 dollars (www.bls.gov, "inflation calculator"), real expenditure
was 56.4 billion, a 71 percent increase since 1994. Note also that over time the ranking
of this category of spending has moved from seventh to fourth place in the fifteen
categories of recreation expenditure listed in the tables.
74 Michael Mandelbaum, The Meaning of Sports: Win/ Americans Watch Baseball, Football,
and Basketball and Wliat Tliey See Wlien Tliey Do (New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2004),
75 Above, n. 29 (Mueller); SIA 98.11 (Nov. 1985): 38-43 (Quinlan).
76 Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven: Spirituality in American Since the 1950s (Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press, 1998), 53.
77 C. M. Bowra, Tlie Greek Experience (New York, NY: New American Library, 1985),
78 George Gallup Jr. and D. Michael Lindsay, Survei/ing the Religious Landscape: Trends
in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1999), especially 1-5, 9-11, 23-
79 Wuthnow, After Heaven, 29, 33.
80 These trends are amply documented in Gallup and Lindsay, Suweying the Religious
Landscape; see especially 1-5, 34-36, 45, 49.
81 Robert Wuthnow, The Crisis in the Churches: Spiritual Malaise, Financial Woe (New
York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), 240.
' 2 In this connection, for example, it is noteworthy that in a Gallup public opinion
poll conducted in 1997, 72% of respondents expressed a belief in heaven, but only
Albert N. Hamscher 35
56% in hell; 83% surmised that existence in the afterlife is a "positive experience."
In an earlier Gallup poll conducted in 1994, 77% of respondents thought that their
chances of going to heaven were excellent or good, only 20% fair or poor. Gallup and
Lindsay, Surveying the Religious Landscape, 27-30.
83 The question arises, of course, whether there is a correlation between the depth of
religious conviction on the one hand, and the interest in secular themes on the other.
Is it possible, for example, that secular themes are more appealing to "unbelievers"
than they are to "believers"? The question is difficult to explore not only because
these terms must be defined carefully, but also because religious convictions are
personal matters that are not easy to determine with assurance. One can only hope
that in the future a proper methodology will emerge to investigate the religious
convictions of purchasers of different kinds of markers. As a preliminary observation,
conversations with monument makers have convinced me that a customer's choice
of a pictorial marker with a secular image does not in and of itself indicate that the
purchaser lacks strong religious beliefs.
84 Quotations from Wuthnow, After Heaven, 78, 83, 110, 152. The developments
alluded to in this paragraph also figure prominently in Roof, Spiritual Marketplace,
85 Roof, Spiritual Marketplace, 49-50. Speaking of the 1960s and its legacy, Roof notes
that "Generally during this period a new cultural context for religion was emerging,
one in which faith was increasingly psychologized and viewed as a matter of one's
own choice and in keeping with one's own experience" (p. 65).
86 Philippe Aries, Western Attitudes toward Death and Dying from the Middle Ages to the
Present, trans. Patricia Ranum (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974),
85; see also his The Hour of Our Death, trans. Helen Weaver (New York, NY: Alfred
A. Knopf). For a list of the major works that have confirmed Aries's observation,
and in some cases anticipated it, see Hamscher, "'Scant Excuse for the Headstone,'"
137, n. 29. Although she does not cite Aries, Eileen Mueller echoed his views in the
July 1976 issue of Monument Builder News: "As death became less familiar in this
century, so it became less accepted, to the point where it is now virtually denied
both in our funeral practices and in our youth-oriented society." Baby boomers in
particular, observed retailer Lee Wright in 1985, are "less educated about death and
memorialization" (SIA 98.11 [Nov. 1985]: 47-49).
87 For an introduction to recent developments, see James Haley, ed., Death and Dying:
Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego, CA: Thomson/ Gale, 2003), which has a useful
88 SIA 92.5 (May 1978): 17-19.
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Frontispiece: Contemporary portrait of Moses Davis,
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of
Moses Davis of Nashua (Nashville), New Hampshire
On a lonely knoll in Hollis, New Hampshire, sits Pine Hill Cemetery.
It is a peaceful and lovely spot, with few visible grave plots relative to its
size. 1 Visiting there in 1992, I noticed a distinctive gravemarker made of
hard purple slate, commemorating David French, who died in 1849 (Fig.
1). It lacked any motif or decoration, atypical for a slate stone from this era.
Despite its simplicity, the stone struck me because of the signature, "M.
Davis, Nashville," at the base. 2 Further exploration of Pine Hill Cemetery
soon revealed other gravestones signed "M. Davis" exhibiting many differ-
ent forms and styles. Finding more examples in other cemeteries in Hollis
and surrounding towns made it evident that I was dealing with a local carv-
er, and "Nashville" had nothing to do with Tennessee. Historical documents
revealed the stones' maker to be Moses Davis, a 19 th -century stonecarver
and tradesman centered in Nashua, New Hampshire. 3 The quest for his
gravestones eventually took me to 435 cemeteries in New Hampshire and
Massachusetts. I have catalogued 381 signed examples of his work plus four
unsigned examples gleaned from probate research, located in 74 cemeteries
in the two states. This large number of signed works, though remarkable in
itself, is possibly augmented by at least as many unsigned. Sometimes these
are adjacent to signed works, making them much easier to attribute, but
often attribution must be made cautiously.
Taken together, the gravestones of Moses Davis exemplify the life work
of a prolific and proud artisan of the highest order, whose monuments span
the stylistic transition from the end of the neoclassical, Federalist period in
the 1840s to the height of the Victorian age in the 1880s. He appears to be the
first carver to have a workshop in Nashua. The trail of this carver leads right
up to the present day: he lends his name to the oldest continuously-operat-
ing business in Nashua, the Davis Funeral Home. Indeed, Davis may be
the only nineteenth-century gravestone carver whose name and reputation
have been cited in television advertisements!
Moses Davis's story demonstrates several trends of the gravestone craft
throughout the country during this important period. From a stylistic per-
spective, it begins at the sunset of the Federalist period, with an independent
carver comfortable with not only the declining but still popular neoclassical
slate medium and urn-and-willow motif, but also with the ascending popu-
larity of white marble used both for simple, unadorned tablets as well as
for ostentatious obelisks and other sculptural forms typical of the Victorian
period. From a commercial perspective, the evolution runs from solitary
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 1. David French, 1849, Hollis, NH.
William Lowenthal 39
craftsman to shop owner and manager utilizing hired labor for gravestone
production. He then branches out by expanding into the masonry and fu-
neral businesses. While Davis continued to produce gravestones through-
out his forty-year career, the number of stones either signed or attributable
to Moses Davis declined markedly in later decades. This most likely reflects
a decline in the signing of stones, but it also reflects the fact that Davis had
adopted an increasingly standardized style of markers and carving that is
virtually indistinguishable from competitors' works.
Moses Davis's Early Years
Born September 20, 1816, on his family's farm in Nottingham West
(now part of Hudson), New Hampshire, Moses was the youngest son of
nine children of Samuel Davis and Dorothy Ann (called Anna) Morse. The
Davis family into which he was born had its colonial roots in Essex County,
Massachusetts, in a 17th-century patriarch named James Davis (15837-1679).
Moses's grandfather, also named Samuel, moved to Pelham, New Hampshire
in the 1770s. Moses's youth was spent in farming, but at age 20 he found em-
ployment as an attendant at an insane asylum in Somerville, Massachusetts.
After three years at the asylum, he went to Manchester, Vermont, to "learn
the marble cutter's trade." 4 It is not known to whom he apprenticed him-
self, but he progressed sufficiently so that just two years later, in 1841, he
returned to New Hampshire to set up his own shop in Nashua, across the
Merrimack River from his boyhood hometown of Hudson. 5 He was then
Open for Business — The Shop's First Decade
Sited at the confluence of the Nashua and the Merrimack rivers, Nashua
in 1841 was in the midst of a population boom, having increased two-and-
a-half fold to 6054 in just a decade.^ This was no doubt due to the influence
of the textile mills that had been built in the area beginning in the 1820s. It
was just the place for an energetic young man to start a business. But why
did he settle in Nashua and not in another town? One reason may have been
close relatives living there. 7 Another reason may have been his perception
that Nashua was growing rapidly but apparently lacked a stonecarver. His
stonecarving business is the first to be documented in Nashua, and he ap-
pears to have dominated the Nashua market for several decades after he
arrived there. 8
The next year, 1842, was the first full calendar year of Moses Davis's
business career and the year he married Bethana W. Allen, daughter of
Samuel Allen of Northfield, Vermont. 9 In the same year he joined in a sim-
mering town controversy over which side of the Nashua River a new town
hall should be built on. Davis's name appears among the 476 names on a
petition to the New Hampshire General Court to solve the dispute by parti-
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
tioning the town. The petition was soon granted, and the community south
of the Nashua River retained the name "Nashua," while the portion north
of the river became chartered as "Nashville." Davis, a resident of the north
side, became a citizen of Nashville, and was so until the towns reunited
under the original Nashua name in 1853. I0 He appears in the two different
town directories for 1843." One lists Moses Davis as a "Gravestone Maker"
and refers the reader to a display advertisement (Fig. 2).
Italian aria tkrmont \S\j\U Jflarble,
NASHVILLE, N. H,
Fig. 2. Directory advertisement, 1843.
Davis must have learned well as an apprentice, as even his earliest
gravestones show the artistic sense and mastery of skills that would see
him through his long career. Almost immediately, Davis's slate and marble
gravestones began appearing in a wide area around Nashua, some as far
away as Jaffrey and Hillsborough (Fig. 3 and Appendix I). Whether this
evidence of immediate success is due to the rapid achievement of a good
reputation, advertising, or just plain hustle cannot be ascertained; it prob-
ably was a combination of all these. Of the 189 confirmed stones from this
initial decade, roughly half are slate (92) and the other half marble (97). The
slate stones represent the flower of his artisanship. The slate Davis used
for gravestones is of high quality and most frequently colored light gray
with substantial greenish-brown bands, and all are of the tablet variety in
two shapes: flat topped (Fig. 4), or with a half -circle central tympanum with
square shoulders (Fig. 5). He produced about an equal number of each type
during this decade.
Although neither stylistically unique nor groundbreaking, Davis's slate
works with their elegant designs and crisp lettering are still very pleas-
ing to the modern eye. The most significant recurring decorative element
in Davis's slate work is the urn and willow, which is found on all but the
David French stone. His use of the urn and willow reflects the widespread
adoption of this motif beginning very late in the eighteenth century. The urn
Washington \ Hillsborough/ 1
Bennington / Stoddard
Weare \ Dunbarton
s Francestowri \ \ Auburn
Marl \ Dublin "*%,
Troy \ Jaffrey
Fitzwilliam 1 Rindge [ \ Mason \<Si I Mollis
' Ipswich \ \ \ %
^ r~ ) Windham
Fig. 3. Map showing the distribution of Davis gravestones in southern
New Hampshire and adjacent counties in Massachusetts.
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 4. Thomas Taylor, 1848, Milf ord, NH, rectangular style
with willow on a raised platform.
Fig. 5. Sarah Blanchard, 1837, Milf ord, NH, with rounded tympanum
and square shoulders (note Greek columns).
44 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
and willow, collectively and individually, have been said to mark a sym-
bolic and iconographic shift away from concern over the deceased's soul
(represented by winged skulls and cherubs) to a concern with memory and
survivors' grief. Not only are the urn and willow not explicitly religious in
nature; some scholars argue they symbolize a general trend toward either
secularization or intellectualism at the end of the 18th century. The motifs
themselves, particularly the urn, are said to be an outgrowth of the adoption
of neoclassicism (the Federalist Style in America) as a design paradigm in
art, architecture, furnishings, and fashion. The paired motifs are also found
in samplers and mourning art created as girls' pastimes.
By the time Moses Davis began to carve urns and willows on his grave-
stones, circa 1840, they had been the dominant design element of New
England gravestones for fifty years, particularly so in rural areas. It has
been fairly common for gravestone scholars to dismiss the urn and willow
as derivative, undistinctive, and overly commonplace. For example, Ernest
Caulfield rather coldly described urn-and- willow markers as "the most un-
interesting gravestones ever carved." 12 Yet their very popularity proves that
they spoke to the people of the time. Moreover, when examined in detail
and considered in relation to accompanying design elements, the subtle-
ties and variations among contemporary carvers are apparent. In Early New
England Gravestone Rubbings, Edmond Vincent Gillon, Jr., includes more
than 70 illustrations of urn-and-willow gravestones that show much origi-
nality and imagination. Gillon traces the motif to as early as the first half of
the eighteenth century and states, "[t]he last important development in the
three centuries of early gravestone design was the influence of the architec-
tural motifs of the Federal and Greek Revival Periods. . . . [these appeared
as] delicate classical urns, medallions, and graceful swags, subjects which
adorned fences and mantels of the region's more elaborate buildings." This
influence led stonecutters to depict "the willow and urn on full entablatures
supported by Doric, Corinthian, Ionic, or Tuscan pilasters." 13 Though ubiq-
uitous in New England or the Northeast in general, urn-and-willow grave-
stones are found in a much wider area.
Davis always used the urn and willow together, although in a few exam-
ples the urn appears to have morphed into a pedestal-like object. Typically
his willow has at least four branches and is usually slightly leaning to the
right and straight-trunked, though it sometimes can be curved, and fairly
symmetrical. His urn is typically a little more than half the height of the tree
and is decorated with varying quantities of small incised darts. Negative
space throughout is accentuated with a lizard-skin-like scaling, which adds
a pleasing texture for contrast. On the tympanum-type stone, the willow and
urn occupy the center of the tympanum alone. Both willow and urn rest on a
stepped platform, sometimes detailed, the top of which is usually level with
the shoulders of the stone. This platform rests on another decorative panel
William Lowenthal 45
forming a plane, which often has flanking objects like bedknobs, cannon-
balls, spires, or even other urns. Below that is a panel frequently decorated
with fans or leaves. The varying combinations of secondary design elements
make Davis's slate stones delightful to the eye. Though the urn and willow
are well-known symbols, secondary elements like these have not had much
discussion in gravestone literature. 14
Davis's biographical inscription panel is often flanked by Greek col-
umns that appear to support the panels above them, or else rows of darts as
a decorative edge. The darts are formed by hollowing out the intersections
of compass-incised concentric half-circles. The lettering panel is factual and
undecorated, though it may sometimes be encased in an oval of darts. The
most common lettering is carved in evenly spaced, deep V form, in the style
printers call "thick and thin," as in Figure l. 15 The lettering for names and
dates is almost always straight, but other words such as "died" or "wife of"
may be italicized. Typically, the only decorative element below the letter-
ing panel is a continuation of the concentric half circles found on the upper
edges, without their intersections being cut out. Below that a space for an
epitaph panel usuallv appears, although more commonly this panel is blank.
All signed Davis slate stones have a slanted, serif-style signature below the
epitaph panel. There will be another style associated solely with marble
stones in later periods. Despite technically being a resident of Nashville,
Davis followed his signature with either "Nashua" or "Nashville" during
this period. Though he signed the petition to divide the towns, he apparent-
ly did not completely abandon his identification with better-known Nashua.
About a third of his signed stones have no town specified.
Davis's flat-topped stones share many of the same details as the tym-
panum stones, but there are interesting differences. Davis frequently filled
the square shoulders with fronds (Fig. 4), fans, spider-web-like details, or
smooth semi-circles (Fig. 6). The "bedknob" objects (cannonballs, obelisks,
other urns, etc.) referred to earlier are here almost always on the same plane
as the urn and willow, and usually there is no raised platform supporting
the urn and willow. Sometimes an arched border of darts mimicking the
outline of a tympanum surrounds the urn and willow (Fig. 7), and in a num-
ber of examples, the urn and willow are outlined by a complete circle.
Identifying unsigned work by Moses Davis is challenging. Davis's slate
stones closely resemble those from the same general time period carved
by John Park (1787-1848), son of the well-known carver John Park Jr., from
Groton, Massachusetts. 16 Park did not sign many stones, but there are a few
in cemeteries with Davis stones. Other Park gravestones have been identified
in probate records while I was searching for unsigned Davis slates. At first
glance, Moses Davis's and John Park's stones appear to be almost identical.
However, careful study aided by probate verification makes it possible to
identify subtle differences. Park's stones tend to have the willow fork closer
'Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
V I V V i v
I I I
S I ! wife jvf l;-V,
I v ( ■•■■■••*-.
* ^ .\u<;\ &, IS M ~ ] ;•
■^ ! tAi k&- rt?
Hi! h "ih
iVu»:* I' < ' i
i ,i n t> I h<
I i. ?. |« It I -S H" It <>
m il /t f >>i ?* 'VfX 1
Fig. 6. Betsy Colburn, 1840, Hollis, NH, with added flanking urns.
"^ TT \T^T»T
Fig. 7. Thomas Hardy, 1843, Hollis, NH.
48 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
to the base, often with a peculiar short pointed object in the center of the first
bifurcation, as if the main trunk were broken and branches sprouted from
there, as seen on the 1843 gravestone for Capt. Nathaniel Jewett (Fig. 8), pro-
bated to Park. Davis's willows almost always have a distinct main stem that
rises relatively higher before tapering into the small branches. Another dif-
ference is the color of the slate, Park's typically being darker and lacking the
green-brown hues of Davis stones. 17 But to complicate matters, at least one
Davis-signed stone has a willow like Park's (Abel Ball, 1843). In the absence
of a signature, I might have tentatively assigned this stone to Park. Park was
clearly a substantial competitor of Davis both in quantity and style of work,
but it is not known who copied whom. They certainly must have been aware
of each other, and may have utilized each other's styles without consciously
compromising their individuality.
Compared to the slates, the marble stones of Moses Davis seem plain,
even austere, in their lack of carved decoration, despite their being pro-
duced during the Victorian era with its well-known love of ornamentation.
However, while slate only took tablet form, Davis's marble monuments
have a much broader range of forms. Many marble stones, particularly the
large obelisks, are anything but modest, and probate records show the costs
of these behemoths took a huge percentage of some estates. Interestingly,
slate and marble coexisted for many years. It was a time of transition.
There are 97 confirmed Davis marble stones from the 1840s, the major-
ity being tablets. Overall, their size matches their slate counterparts, except
that some small marble stones marking children's graves are narrower than
any slate stone. Marble tablets have two main types of tops: flat or shallow
pointed. Though flat-topped tablets outnumber shallow-pointed ones in the
1840s, there is a relative increase in the latter toward the end of the decade.
Frequently the only decoration is an insignificant arrowed flourish after the
name panel. So not only was there a stylistic transition from one medium
to another, there also was a simultaneous rejection of a popular symbol
and its accompanying rich decoration to favor virtually no ornamentation.
However, a handful (five stones) feature the willow and urn carved in bas-
relief inside a circle (Fig. 9). The urn and willow are alone, though, with none
of the other visually pleasing touches found on nearly every slate stone.
Because of their rarity in Davis's work, the urn and willow on marble may
be a stylistic anomaly with no significance other than individual or familial
preference (three adjacent examples bear the Wheeler surname). Lettering
on Davis's marbles varies both in style and placement on the stone. While
the names of the deceased are almost always carved in bas-relief within one
or more panels, the panels may be arched or straight. Most other lettering
for kinship, biographical data, or epitaph, is in incised, unpaneled letters,
although sometimes the word "died" is set into a panel.
Vtu. ro.18 i*:.
Fig. 8. Capt. Nathaniel Jewett, 1843, Hollis, NH (probated to John Park).
**,■ —..'•- ' w*
'Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 9. Jonathan T. Wheeler, 1849, Hollis, NH, one of five identified
Davis urn-and-willow marble stones.
William Lowenthal 51
Overall, were it not for the signature, Davis's marble tablets could not be
assigned to him with confidence. They are virtually indistinguishable from
those of other area carvers, or from work found throughout much of the
United States in the same period. While quality is readily apparent, the lack
of uniqueness makes them much less interesting from an artistic perspec-
tive. They may instead be seen to illustrate the changing tastes of a gen-
eral public who, for whatever reasons, did not care for much decoration on
gravestones. The 1853 John Smith gravestone with shallow-pointed top (Fig.
10) shows one of Davis's typically drab marble stones. However, we should
remember that we are viewing this gravestone only after time and the ele-
ments have taken their toll. When freshly carved and polished, it may have
been considered elegant and refined.
There are ten obelisks with primary (i.e. the first person listed) dates of
deaths in the 1840s. Some of these are quite massive. Obelisks usually have a
base, and the lettering appears either on the base or the spire. It is interesting
that the urn pictured on slate stones lingers as a stylistic element in marble
as a three-dimensional finial crowning many obelisks, as on the Clark family
monument from the 1860s (Fig. 11). Besides obelisks, there are a few other
shapes which, while they share some characteristics of tablets, are tapered
or arched. They mostly appear late in the 1840s and were to take on more
importance in later periods.
Branching Out — The Shop in the 1850s
An intriguing item appears in the Nashville Selectmen's Report for the
year 1849-1850. Moses Davis is listed as being paid "$1.00 for coffin of child
(countv paupers)." This points to a new venture, one which will take on
much greater significance in the years to follow. At some time in that decade
he began to turn his attention to different, but closely related, trades.
Nashua and Nashville had continued to grow during the 1840s; by
1850 their combined population was nearly 9000, and the business of a
resourceful Moses Davis had grown as well. In Kimball & Dodge's Nashua
and Nashville Directory for the year 1850, Davis's occupation is listed first as
"grave stone cutter" and then as "dealer in coffins." lx His advertisement in
this issue explains his range of services more fully (Fig. 12). This directory
provides evidence that Davis had taken on a number of employees by 1850,
as the names of "J. E. Davis, stone cutter (home on Temple Street)," "James
H. Davis, stone cutter (home 4 Cross Street)," and "William R. Davis, stone
cutter (home 'near Lock Street')" are listed. They undoubtedly are relatives,
perhaps cousins of Moses; in fact, James is listed as residing at what was
Moses's former residence.
By 1851, a page from The Fanners' Guide- A Description of the Businesses
of Nashua and Nashville, headed "Coffins, Monuments, Grave Stones, & C,"
shows that Davis had further diversified his business:
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 10. Capt. John Smith, 1853, Goffstown, NH,
example of Davis's shallow-pointed top.
Fig. 11. Clark family urn-topped obelisk for Hiram P. Clark (d 1905),
Susan Jane Clark (1861), and Orissa A. Clark (1866), Francestown, NFL
54 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
And Dealer in Ready Made Coffins?
NASHVILLE, N. H.
Mr. DAVIS, in connection with his"*extensive means for fur-
nishing Grave Stones and Monuments of every description, has
also made arrangements with Mr. Charles Kendall for the man-
ufacture of COFFINS, which will be sold as cheap as can be
purchased elsewhere. Application may be made to Mr. Kendall
in Nashua, or to myself, as most convenient.
Fig. 12. Directory advertisement, 1850.
Thayer's Building, Near N[ashua]. & L[owell]. Depot, Main Street
The Grave Stone Manufactory of Mr. Davis is widely known
as an extensive and prosperous concern. But it may not be so
generally known that he has a very large assortment of Ready
Made Coffins, in a large Ware Room exclusively devoted to this
branch; and a very important and increasingly extensive branch
of business has it become. It is more extensive than any other in
The variety of Coffins, in size and material, is unusually large.
Black Walnut, Mahogany, Chestnut, Imitation Black Walnut,
and Stained Pine, are the principal varieties. Ready Made Grave
Clothes are always kept on hand, and Coffin Plates of various
kinds, one of which is a new pattern, neat and elegant. Mr. Davis
has always been able to meet every demand at once, and fill all
orders promptly. — Purchasers will be dealt fairly and favorably
with at this establishment, where they will find a larger variety
than is often kept in the country.
He has for a long time manufactured Monuments and Grave
Stones, and it is only necessary to say that he still furnishes
all kinds, of Italial [sic] Marble, American Marble, and Slate
Stone; and that he employs workmen of skill and experience
William Lovventhal 55
in polishing and lettering. The level of patronage he has for
a long time enjoyed is sufficient evidence of the excellence of
Several things should be noted in the description of Davis's gravestone
business. First, marble and slate are given equal mention. Second, his work-
men clearly have a substantial role in shaping, polishing, and lettering
gravestones. Although it cannot be confirmed, I think Davis worked in both
materials at the beginning, and as he added craftsmen, they took on the bulk
of the marble production ("polishing and lettering" is all there is to most
Davis marble stones).
While Davis's slate stones from the 1850s are identical to those of the
1840s, their quantity begins to decline sharply. In the 1840s there are at least
a half-dozen slate stones dated each year. For the 1850s, there are only 16
confirmed Davis slates, and these are mostly clustered in the early years of
the decade. By contrast, there are 118 confirmed marble stones from this de-
cade, including 79 tablets. The shallow-pointed tablet is now more common
than the flat-topped version; its popularity continues to rise until by the end
of the decade there are only a few flat-topped stones being produced. Like
the marble tablets of the 1840s, those of the 1850s are almost devoid of orna-
mentation. However, a few feature hands with upward-pointing fingers, or
roses (stems broken or otherwise), motifs that by the 1850s were becoming
widespread throughout the United States. In addition to tablet stones, there
are 16 obelisks dated to this period. The obelisk itself takes many forms (co-
lumnar, needle-like, large base, small base). New gravestone forms also ap-
pear in the 1850s, including some resembling tablets, but arched or capped.
All are much thicker at the base than conventional tablets. The arched stones
are Gothic in form, though there is one example from this period of a round-
ed arch. Relief-carved ornamentation appears on many arched stones, usu-
ally botanical (leaves or flowers).
The majority of Davis's marble stones from the 1850s (and all slates) are
signed with the serif-style signature. However, the signature is much less
likely than in the prior period to be followed by the name of a town. It is
possible that his business had grown to the point where he no longer needed
to identify where the shop was located. When a town name is used, Nashua
and Nashville are named interchangeably as before, but only until the two
towns reunified in 1853. After the reunification, he no longer signed with
"Nashville." A few of the gravestones from the 1850s have a new Roman
capital signature instead of the old upper-lower case script signature.
Attesting to the quality and reputation of his shop's work, two of
Nashua's most esteemed citizens were honored with substantial Davis-
signed obelisks upon their deaths (both in 1853). One is Daniel Abbot, called
the "Father of Nashua" because of his role in the founding of the Nashua
56 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Manufacturing Company. The other is Charles Gordon Atherton, a promi-
nent politician who served a term in the United States Senate and helped
nominate Franklin Pierce for the Presidency. Atherton's probate records
show an expense of $3.00 to Moses Davis as "sexton" incurred two days
after Atherton's death. 14 This is the first probate evidence for Davis perform-
ing such services. Subsequent Selectmen's Reports for the reunited towns of
Nashville and Nashua (now chartered as the City of Nashua) show small
payments to Davis for "sexton's services" for county paupers.
By 1856, a city directory lists Davis under four trade headings: Coffin
Ware House, Stone Cutters, Marble Workers, and interestingly, Coroner. The
directory for 1857-1858 lists Davis as one of two "City Sextons" and one of
three "Undertakers" in the city. He also appears as a "Private Manufacturer"
with this description:
Monument and Grave Stone Manufactory
Moses Davis, Proprietor
Manufacturer Marble Monuments
and Grave Stones of all descriptions.
Railroad Square. Employ 6 hands.
The city directory listings and advertisements show that by the close of
the 1850s Moses Davis had fully expanded into the funeral trade. Gravestone
making was still a very important function, though now it had become an
enterprise with a half-dozen or more employees. It had grown from a craft
into a business. Davis had virtually abandoned slate gravestones, and his
marble gravestones and monuments had grown increasingly substantial,
diverse in shape, and, at the same time, standardized.
Where Are The Gravestones? — The Shop in the 1860s and 1870s
Although Nashua continued to grow in the next two decades, the num-
ber of confirmed Davis stones decreases. There are only 41 confirmed grave-
stones for the 1860s, less than a third of the number confirmed in the 1850s.
For the 1870s, only 13 confirmed stones have been found. Two years of this
latter decade, 1877 and 1879, have no representation at all. It is as if Davis
had turned away from the monument business. Possibly Davis had scaled
back the production of stones, favoring other, more lucrative, enterprises.
He had frequently been the recipient of small sums from the city for his
work handling pauper burials, but now he was earning a substantial part
of his income as a supplier of construction stone material and services. For
example, the city's 13 th Report (1864-5) shows $10.50 paid to Davis for burial
services for paupers; in the same report he was paid $1,582.47 for stonework
for city buildings and lots. 20 It is likely that private construction also added
William Lowenthal 57
considerably to his income. This work may have meant he had less time and
inclination for the monument side of his business.
Another possible explanation for the apparent decline in Davis's grave-
stone production may be that he kept a steady flow of stones in production,
on a par with previous decades, but simply stopped signing them. This is
hard to prove, given the growing standardization of gravestone styles and
the paucity of probate records that might establish payment. The available
historical records suggest that gravestone making was still important. For
example, a directory advertisement from 1866 mentions "granite work"
(Fig. 13). Though by itself it is ambiguous whether this refers to monument
or construction work, an advertisement from an 1872 directory, which lists
him as "Importer and Dealer of the Famous Scotch Granites," contains a
specific reference to granite as a monument material, on an equal footing
with marble (Fig. 14). :i However, I have been unable to locate any confirmed
granite gravestones or monuments made by Davis either through careful
search for signed stones or probate sampling.
Of the relatively few confirmed stones in the 1860s and 1870s, some
interesting facts can be noted. First, only one is slate. :: The marble stones
MONUMENTS & GRAVESTONES,
A LSI i
GRANITE WORK CONE TO ORDER.
OF EVEH* QUALITY, ALWAYS ON HAND.
UAILfitOAI* «<tliAKU, MAIN ST,
NASHUA. X. II.
Fig. 13. Directory advertisement, 1866.
58 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
CITY UNDERTAKER, Manufacturer art Dealer in
Marble & Granite Monuments
TABLETS, HEADSTONES, GRANITE WORK, etc.
AND IMPORTER AND DEALER IN THE
Famous Scotch Granites.
Also, Coffins and Robes constantly on hand.
11 MAIN STREET, - - NASHUA, N. H.
Fig. 14. Directory advertisement, 1872.
show an increasing diversity of shapes. As time went on, the tablet declined,
with the flat-topped version fading first. Arched stones, both rounded and
"Gothic," began to assume greater popularity (Fig. 15). Additionally, some
gravestones resemble shields, and others look much like cross-sections of
fire hydrants. There is one example of a new style, a pierced cross (Fig. 16).
As before, there is not a lot of ornamentation on most marble stones. What
there is consists of botanical forms and the occasional hand with upward-
pointing forefinger. There is also a unique example of military motifs on
a stone for a young Hollis man who perished in the Civil War (Fig. 17).
Davis's block capitals signatures now become dominant. It is as if Moses
Davis's direct involvement in stone creation has greatly diminished, and his
personalized "signature" has been replaced by a shop mark.
The twenty-year period of the 1860s and 1870s proved to be a time of
prosperity for Davis, with several related lines of business operating simul-
taneously. Compared to other citizens of Nashua, statistics show that Davis,
now in his middle age, though not wealthy, was at least comfortable. An ar-
ticle in The Telegraph on the incomes of notable city people in 1868 reported
his income as $1,867, nowhere near that of the wealthiest men but still high
enough to make the list. 23
Fig. 15. Mary R. Duncklee, 1867, Francestown, NH,
with botanical image and relief lettering.
"Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 16. Hattie Minor, 1873, Pepperell, MA, an unusual
pierced-cross form, with morning glory, geranium, and lily decorations.
Fig. 17. Charles H. Farley, 1864, Hollis, NH, with military motifs
(muskets, cannon, saber). Farley participated in the assault on
Fort Wagner, SC, famously led by the African American
Massachusetts 54th Infantry.
62 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
The End of an Era — The Shop in the 1880s and Beyond
By the 1880s, Moses Davis's funeral business apparently exceeded his
monument trade, at least as evidenced by advertisments. In a directory
advertisement from 1883, he has adopted the more modern and perhaps
tasteful title of "Funeral Director," and he identifies himself as both "manu-
facturer" and "dealer" in monuments (Fig. 18). The latter may suggest that
by this date, at least some of his monuments were being purchased whole-
sale from suppliers. Underscoring this apparent shift in relative importance
of his trades, there are only six confirmed Davis stones from the 1880s. Of
these, only the three that date before 1888 could be his work alone, for in that
year Moses Davis's long career came to a close when he died rather sudden-
ly of a liver ailment on January 3 rd . His obituaries (see Appendix II) show
that he was "highly esteemed" in his community and provide much insight
into his business relations. One obituary includes is the intriguing comment
that his gravestones had been "sent to all parts of the United States." This
is in contrast to the evidence from confirmed stones (see Appendix I) that
shows a rather tight distribution pattern around Nashua.
COFFINS & CASKETS OF EVERY DESCRIPTION.
Also, Manufacturer of and Dealer in
MARBLE & GRANITE MONUMENTS.
Importer and Dealer in the
CELEBKATED SCOTCH GKANITES.
11 Main Street, near Railroad Square, and West Hollis
Street, corner Elm,
NASHUA, IS". IT.
Fig. 18. Directory advertisement, 1883.
William Lowenthal 63
Davis was honored with a statuesque High Victorian-style granite mon-
ument in Nashua's Edgewood Cemetery (Fig. 19). A mourning woman sags
against a cross, while below her, terse biographies of Moses and later family
members adorn all four sides. It is unsigned. The probate records for Davis's
estate do not tell us when the monument was placed or by whom, though it
is of course highly likely that it was his own shop which produced the work.
Moses's first-born son, Albert A. Davis (1845-1911), carried on his father's
business and in turn passed it to his son Harland (1874-1928). The succes-
sion of family ownership of the Davis Funeral Home continued until 1971,
when the business was sold. At some point the business moved to a stately
old home at One Lock Street in Nashua's North End, where it flourishes to
this day, justly proud of its historical roots and long-standing service to the
community. The wonderful contemporary portrait of Moses Davis (fron-
tispiece) is proudly displayed in the parlor. The present owner, Norman
E. Hall, printed a pamphlet in 1992 commemorating the 150 th continuous
year of the business. It states that the monument trade continued at least
through Harland's tenure. The Davis Funeral Home has run television ad-
vertisements which bring the reputation of Moses Davis to life in a medium
he could not have imagined in his day.
Conclusion — A "Suitable Grave Stone"
This study of the body of work of Moses Davis and its large number of
signed stones documents the work of a stonecarver who began by producing
both richly decorated and beautiful (if not original) slate tablets and plain
marble tablets, then subsequently shifted to diverse, three-dimensional mar-
ble forms. And although I have been unable to find examples of a newer me-
dium, granite, Davis presumably later created monuments of this material,
undoubtedly with the assistance of power-driven equipment. While marble
was already a fairly popular medium by the time Davis first apprenticed as
a stonecarver in the 1830s, his career saw the simultaneous demise of the
popularity of slate and the urn-and-willow motif. Thus, Davis gravestones
are an example of the shift from craft to shop and from handwork to manu-
facturing, which may describe an overall paradigm for mid-nineteenth-cen-
tury gravestone production. The story also shows how a carver capitalized
on the opportunities related to the gravestone business. Despite the sharp
decline in stones confirmed as the work of Davis during his active years, we
know that the monument business remained important, and production of
monuments may not actually have declined. Because they lack signatures or
distinctive designs, Davis's later gravestones are nearly impossible to iden-
tify. Popular taste apparently desired uniformity and did not value distinc-
The will of Nathaniel Proctor, who died in 1846 and is buried in the cem-
etery on the Hollis Town Common, includes the following passage:
'Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Fig. 19. Moses Davis, 1888, Nashua, NH.
William Lowenthal 65
"...to my son Ira Proctor [I leave] all the rest and residue of
my estate, both real and personal, and after paying all my just
debts, and the expenses of my last sickness and also that of my
wife, and expecting suitable grave stones at my grave and that
of my wife, he shall have full possession of all the residue of my
worldly property to his sole use and behaff [sic]."
We do not know how much "residue" was left to Ira, or if Ira believed
he complied with the intent of his father's last wishes, but we do know that
Nathaniel got a plain marble tablet signed "M. Davis, Nashville." Perhaps
the restraint shown in this style of stone, as in so many others of its kind,
was perfectly suitable to the taste of Nathaniel and those that survived him.
In any event, the workmanship is of high quality and the stone has sur-
vived the ravages of time, so Nathaniel Proctor still has a visible presence in
the modern world. It could be said that selecting a gravestone from Moses
Davis and his shop was always a "suitable" choice.
66 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
1 The cemetery is thought to contain many unmarked graves of child smallpox
2 Ironically, the David French stone is apparently the only signed M. Davis purple
slate, and his only slate without ornamentation or iconography of any kind. This
hard slate was occasionally used by other carvers in the region. Recently, vandals
scratched names onto its surface.
3 The only academic reference I have found for Moses Davis is in a footnote to the ar-
ticle "The Colburn Connections: Hollis, New Hampshire Stonecarvers 1780-1820" in
Theodore Chase and Laurel K. Gable, Gravestone Chronicles (1990). The footnote lists
all the previously unknown carvers they encountered while searching New England
graveyards for stones of Colburn, Ball, Wheat, and Hubbard. They included "M.
Davis, Nashua," and estimated his active years as 1830-1850. The Nashua Public
Library's "Hunt Room" collection of local historical resources proved to be the ma-
jor source of biographical data. Details about Davis's life were largely gleaned from
several newspaper obituaries as well as Nashua and Nashville city directories, the
annual reports of the two towns, Davis Family genealogies and a WPA-sponsored
oral family history. Davis appears in none of the formal town histories, even though
he was a widely-known and well-respected citizen, as his obituaries clearly state.
4 From the obituary in the Nashua Daily Gazette, January 3, 1888.
5 At the time there were active shops in Manchester, VT, belonging to Alfred Briggs.
William Chamberlin, Peter Wyman, and Truman Eggleston.
6 The 1890 census would show Nashua's population to be 19,311, more than triple
the population of 1840.
7 Gill's Nashua Director]/ of 1841 shows the names (but not occupations) of Nancy,
Sarah, and Elizabeth Davis, who collectively boarded at 12 Canal Street. As Moses
had three siblings bearing these names, there can be little doubt they were his sisters.
Subsequent directories show Nancy and Elizabeth as workers at Jackson & Co., a cot-
ton mill on the north bank of the Nashua River, literally across the street from their
residence. Perhaps, having left the farm and crossed the river to Nashua to become
"mill girls," they influenced their brother's decision to locate there. Moses himself
does not appear in the 1841 directory; he probably had not moved to town by the
time of its publication.
8 Only one carver in the Merrimack Valley comes close to, and perhaps exceeds, the
number of signed stones Davis produced. That is "B. Day" of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Day has stones in most 19 th -century cemeteries from north of Manchester, NH, to the
mouth of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, MA. Most of his work precedes Davis
but their work overlaps during the 1840s and early 1850s, after which there are no
more Day stones. Day also made the transition from slate to marble. Davis must
surely have been aware of Day. On several gravestones Davis used a style element
which Day used constantly (and may have originated): four columns supporting the
William Lowenthal 67
platform upon which the urn and willow stand. In cemeteries in both Londonderry
and Hudson, NH, Davis stones stand next to Day-signed stones, virtually copying
them, undoubtedly to give uniformity to family plots.
As described in Gravestone Chronicles, Hollis had a relatively early gravestone carv-
ing tradition. By the 1840s, however, this seems to have died out, and there are no
more identified Hollis carvers. Amherst had a carver named J. Brown, apparently
active in the 1820s and perhaps beyond. Merrimack had a carver around the same
time period named McConihe (listed as M. Conihe in Gravestone Chronicles). None of
these earlier carvers had a style that Davis utilized.
9 The couple would have three children: Albert A. (1845-1911), Anne E. (1847-1925),
and Henry H. (1851-1933).
10 A Nashville town meeting held in 1843, just one year after separation, proposed
reuniting the two towns; Davis was among the 377 "nays" that overwhelmed the 17
"yeas" and thus preserved the separation.
11 Any directories for 1842, in which he might first have appeared, are not in the
Nashua Public Library's collection.
12 Markers 1:41.
13 Early New England Gravestone Rubbings (NY: Dover, 1966), x.
14 I presented photographs of a few examples to Bert Denker of the Winterthur
Museum Library, who kindly offered to research them for me. He found no sub-
stantive relation to other craft forms. He stated: "the fan element does turn up in-
frequently in furniture, but more often cabinetmakers used shell (scallop) carving
and that, like the fans, is used in the eighteenth century, rather than the mid-nine-
teenth century" (Bert Denker, email correspondence to author, June 8, 2005). Further
searching online yielded some examples of the fan element decorating Federalist
vases. Some sources say neoclassicsm persisted until the 1850s, which would explain
the popularity of the elements in Davis's work (http://lilt.ilstu.edu/jhreid/neoclas-
sicism.htm). Others say the tradition ended earlier, which would make these ele-
ments something of an anachronism by the 1840s (http://www.artcyclopedia.com/
15 However, there is an alternate style of uniform thickness, as in Figure 3.
16 Laurel Gabel kindly provided the dates for the Park family of carvers.
17 1 catalogued all the slate stones that are definitely or potentially the work of either
man in the four cemeteries in Hollis that contain slates. Then probate was searched
for all these (of course, there were scores of other stones which did not fit the profile
of either man; a few were sampled in probate without result). The resulting distribu-
Signed: Davis (19), Park (1)
Unsigned/ probated: Davis (2), Park (2)
68 "Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
Attributed: Davis (26), Park (35).
18 1 could locate no surviving town directories for the years between 1845 and 1850,
so it is difficult to determine what was going on in Davis's career other than stone
carving, or how large his business was.
19 A receipt for this, signed by Davis, shows payment in full two months later. Davis
was not shown as performing any other funeral services, nor is there any mention of
the expense for the monument.
20 About $16,650 in year 2000 dollars.
21 While it may seem a classic case of "coals to Newcastle" to import granite into The
Granite State, the "Famous" or "Celebrated" "Scotch Granites" had a striking red-
dish hue not found locally.
22 The three late Davis slate gravestones are dated 1862, 1886, and 1888, and appear
to be reused old slates. The 1886 stone is signed with a reference to Nashville, which
had gone out of existence as a separate entity 32 years earlier. All three have their in-
scriptions enclosed in deeply recessed panels, as if the original inscription had been
carved away. Susan Swallow's stone dated 1888 even looks as if an epitaph had been
erased. Swallow's stone with a death date of May could not have been finished by
Davis himself, who died in early January.
23 This figure is about $22,000 in year 2000 dollars.
APPENDIX I: DISTRIBUTION OF MOSES DAVIS STONES
Though Moses Davis is strongly identified with Nashua, his stones can be found
throughout south-central New Hampshire, and, to a much lesser extent, the north-
ern border of east-central Massachusetts (Fig. 3). In fact, Hollis, New Hampshire,
bordering Nashua to the west, has the distinction of holding the greatest number
of Davis stones. Though less than one-fourth Nashua's size at the time he set up
shop (one-twentieth by the time of his death), Hollis was then, as now, a prosperous
communitv, with undoubtedly more discretionary wealth per capita to spend on
gravestones. There are 366 confirmed New Hampshire examples in 68 cemeteries,
in these 31 towns:
~ # of Number of
Town c , ~ . .
Londonderry 20 4
Milford 19 4
Deering 6 2
T # of Number of
Mason 3 2
Mont Vernon 3
Massachusetts has 19 confirmed examples in 8 cemeteries in 4 towns:
Count of Stones Number of Cemeteries
As to his gravestones being sent to "all parts of the United States" and Davis himself
'Suitable Grave Stones": The Workshop of Moses Davis
being "extensively known" in other states for his "business relations," no confirming
evidence has been discovered. If any Davis gravestones or monuments exist in other
cemeteries close to the area covered in this article, they are unsigned. As for other
parts of the United States, it is possible that the distant stones are unsigned. The
graph below illustrates the remarkable decline of Davis's slate gravestones relative
to marble as well as the overall decline of signed (or probated) stones.
William Lowenthal 71
APPENDIX II: OBITUARIES AND FUNERAL NOTICE
Mr. Moses Davis, the well known marble worker and city undertaker,
died this noon aged 71 years and 3 months and 14. [sic] . . . He was tak-
en sick a few weeks ago with a liver difficulty, and it was supposed he
would recover until a few days ago. He became insensible yesterday and
dropped away suddenly at last. Mr. Davis was highly esteemed as a man
and a citizen, and was honorable and high-minded in all the relations of
life. His business relations were extended over a wide territory, his monu-
ments and marble work being sent to all parts of the United States, and in
all this extensive business none will say aught against him. His death will
be regretted by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, not only in this
city and State, but in other States where he was extensively known by his
business relations. — Nashua Daily Gazette, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 1888.
During his nearly fifty years residence in Nashua he had been engaged as
a manufacturer of the best monuments in granite and marble; he was also
an undertaker. Mr. Davis was enterprising and thoroughly reliable in all
his business transactions. He gave employment to a large number of men
and was ever mindful of their best interest. He was a citizen whom the
humblest person could approach; a large hearted man who had a kind
word for everybody; who would not willingly wrong his fellowmen. He
was an old time Democrat and pretty set, but that he was honest in his
convictions no man who knew him doubted. Mr. Davis never desired of-
fice and could not be induced to serve his fellow citizens in a political
capacity. Neither was he a secret order man. In his death Nashua has lost
a good, substantial, kind hearted man who mingled with his fellowmen
on an equallry [sic]; who was unselfish and whose word was as good as a
note on the Bank of England — Nashua Daily Telegraph, Jan. 3, 1888.
Under the headline, "Funeral of the late Mr. Moses Davis," Tlie Nashua Daily Telegraph
published a report on January 7, 1888:
The obsequies of the late Mr. Moses Davis took place at the old home on
Cross street on Friday afternoon, when, among the friends and neighbors
who filled the house, were a large number of business acquaintances and
men who had known and highly regarded the deceased during his long
and honorable business career. The floral offerings of love and esteem in-
cluded a beautiful foliage wreath inscribed "Husband" from the widow;
a pillow from the children and grandchildren; wreath from Mrs. Wingate
Bixby; bouquets and cut flowers from friends and neighbors and a min-
iature sheaf of wheat from friends in Lowell. The body was enclosed in
an elegant and costly casket and the features of the departed citizen were
life like. Rev. J. A. Johnson officiated in the religious services and spoke
a feeling tribute in memoriam and words of consolation to the bereaved
friends, while the choir of the Baptist church rendered appropriate selec-
tions of music. . . The body was placed in the city receiving tomb.
'Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
»». i^» » -
f" e $
Fig. 1. Gravestone of "Leather Britches" Smith,
Merryville Cemetery, Merryville, Louisiana.
"Smith, Leather Britches — Slain": Interpreting an
Outlaw Legend Through His Gravestone
For folklorists, especially those interested in material culture, grave-
stones offer unique opportunities for study because they make a permanent
and public statement not only about the person inside the grave, but also
about the community and death itself. When searching for information con-
cerning the past, which may be elusive, variable, scant, and/ or contradicto-
ry, the gravemarker can serve as an important tool. The tombstone not only
can offer facts, data, and pronouncements of belief through its form, engrav-
ings, or material, but also can provide a focal point for collecting verbal lore.
In the case of the legend of Leather Britches Smith, a Louisiana outlaw in the
1910s, an individual marker in a Merryville, Louisiana, cemetery is a crucial
element in many variants of the same legend. Moreover, the marker serves
as a fieldwork device to initiate conversation with informants and as a nar-
rative device for informants to offer judgments and express beliefs about a
sensitive and/ or controversial subject. 1 Understanding the Leather Britches
Smith legend involves understanding the meaning of the outlaw's grave
and gravestone (Fig. 1). : An appreciation of the role of Leather Britches
Smith's grave and gravestone in his legend may suggest to other folklorists
the value of analyzing similar narratives and artifacts.
Folklorists have long been interested in material culture. In "Folkloristic
Study of the American Artifact," Henry Glassie maintains that artifacts, situ-
ated in time and place, complexly designed, and endowed with "material
tenacity," unfold history as well as the enactment of values. 3 Glassie envi-
sions objects "as the tangible record of vanished consciousness" that, when
people have control over the processes of making, exist as important cul-
tural communicative tools. 4 Cemeteries and their monuments and markers
are such tools. Made in response to uncontrollable life-events filled with
emotion and meaning, cemetery artifacts are controlled productions that
connect makers and users intimately.
Many scholars have examined the importance of the cemetery as a cultur-
al text that can be "read." In Vie Cemetery as a Cultural Manifestation: Louisiana
Necrogeography and "Louisiana Cemeteries: Manifestations of Regional and
Denominational Identity," Tadashi Nakagawa shows how the geographic
details and components of a cemetery reveal ethnic and regional influences.
Nakagawa claims that a systematic analysis of cemetery landscape elements
not only allows for an accurate classification of any one cemetery but also
provides a record of cultural identity and beliefs. 5 Richard Meyer's "Image
74 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
and Identity in Oregon's Pioneer Cemeteries," an examination of Oregon's
pioneer cemeteries and their gravemarkers' motifs and epitaphs, also finds
that cemeteries and gravemarkers communicate deep values and experienc-
es. Meyer finds that though most of Oregon early cemeteries are reflections
of "the Victorian movement in general," they "have their own unique flavor,
stemming largely from the pioneer experience" communicated through a
"chronicling of the hazards of daily life on the frontier" and documentation
of the "perils of certain occupations in a frontier region." 6
Others have examined cemeteries and gravestones as important material
reminders or historical documents that reconnect a community to its history.
To emphasize the early American gravestone's potential and purpose as a
historical document, Tom and Brenda Malloy, in "Murder in Massachusetts:
It's Written in Stone," record and describe twelve gravemarkers that provide
information concerning the deaths of the interred. 7 In "Quantrill's Three
Graves and Other Reminders of the Lawrence Massacre," Randall M. Thies
examines the significance of various markers to the communities around
them and their significance to the history of William C. Quantrill and the
Lawrence Massacre, during which Confederate raiders killed 200 men and
burned Lawrence, Kansas. According to Thies, "gravestones . . . serve as
badges of honor for the victims of the raid [and] these gravestones, and vari-
ous other markers placed throughout the town, serve as chilling reminders
of this frightening event." 8 He contends that "the Civil War continues to
impact our lives . . . through our encounter with physical reminders of the
epic event" and that "the gravestones and 'death markers' of the Lawrence
Massacre will provide mute testimony of this extraordinary event in our his-
tory, while Quantrill's multiple graves serve as sad evidence of the unique
historical importance of the man who led the raid." 9
The gravestone of Leather Britches Smith serves as the sort of "reminder"
discussed by Thies. It serves as a physical connector between teller, history,
and legend. Erected in the northwest corner of the Merry ville Cemetery,
Smith's small, square tombstone bears a simple inscription in crude letters
that look as if they were scratched out by a stick or some straight tool before
the cement was dry (Fig. 1):
The gravestone is located near the Newton family section, which contains
four large gravestones surrounded by a fence. The graves are immacu-
lately maintained and are decorated with plastic flowers. Leather Britches
Smith's small gravestone is less than half the size of even the most modest
Keaaan LeJeune 75
gravemarkers. It is a small, plain marker, which suggests that Smith was
a common person. The words "Smith, Leather Britches" do not betray the
mystery surrounding him. "Slain — 1912" obviously merely reports the year
and, vaguely, the manner of his death. The marker seems to be meant more
to perpetuate the legend of Leather Britches Smith than to pass judgment
on his life. Understanding the meaning and function of Leather Britches
Smith's burial and simple gravestone entails knowing the legend and the
historical and geographical context of the grave and its marker. An analysis
of the cemetery facilitates an understanding of the culture that produced
and maintains the legend of Leather Britches Smith. It reveals how the
culture's beliefs manifest themselves not only in the legend but also in the
outlaw's burial and grave. Legends of the outlaw's violent end and burial
relate to the local people's Christian beliefs. If we understand the design of
the entire cemetery and the position of Leather Britches' s grave in relation
to that design, we gain a better understanding of the community's view of
this man and his place in its cultural system. Moreover, the grave's specific
characteristics must be understood in terms of their cultural significance. As
a result, the cemetery in general and the grave in particular may contribute,
as much as any story might, to the entire legend and may contain important
statements concerning the community's beliefs.
A primary characteristic of the legend of Leather Britches is that the town
is split concerning how to view him. Some view him as an outlaw; others
view him as a hero. This kind of contradictory memory is not uncommon
in legends of heroic criminals. As is the case in the legends of other heroic
criminals, the legend of Leather Britches expresses a source of tension in the
community. Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, and Sam Bass, as
well as The Braswell Brothers of Tennessee, Railroad Bill of Alabama, and
other more regional outlaws, express the tension between the settled and the
frontier, or, as in this case, between the haves and have-nots. In Louisiana's
Neutral Strip (also known as The Neutral Zone or No Man's Land) and in
other frontier regions, the outlaw — a person who operates on the border of
civilization and savagery — embodies the violence of the surrounding envi-
ronment. Legends about him or her express and, thus, relieve the stress and
fear accompanying the rugged frontier life. 10
The legend of Leather Britches Smith is one of many outlaw legends
in Louisiana's "No Man's Land," so named because Spain and the United
States could not agree on its ownership after the Louisiana Purchase in
1803. Both countries removed troops from the region for approximately
twenty years until a settlement could be reached. The result was a period
of lawlessness caused by an influx of outlaws, wanted men, and opportun-
ists. Although the events involving Leather Britches Smith occurred about
76 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
eighty years later, they build on the region's frontier history. Today, the out-
law legend of Leather Britches Smith is an important part of the culture of
Merryville, Louisiana. The legend remains firmly embedded in the minds of
the community members, a few of whom were children when Smith roamed
the area. Other community members only one generation removed from
the outlaw's activity heard their grandparents, mothers, fathers, uncles, and
aunts relate their knowledge of, and tell of their encounters with, Leather
Britches Smith. Significantly, the outlaw Smith is connected to one of the
town's most significant and controversial historical events: one of the first
and most violent timber-union strikes in the country.
The legend of Leather Britches Smith comes from two main sources: the
columns of a Beaumont, Texas, reporter named Ralph Ramos and oral vari-
ants of the legend remembered by community members." Generally, com-
munity members state that Leather Britches Smith came into the Merryville
area around 1910. An outlaw escaping the law of East Texas, he became
involved in the struggle between the emerging timber union and local mill
owners. Some claim the union employed him to scare away opposition and
scare up support. When traveling through the woods and coming upon
bands of workers, Leather Britches reportedly offered reassurance and pro-
tection. According to several accounts, Smith was never without his two
Colt .45s or his Winchester .30-30. Roughly two years after Smith arrived,
the escalating tension between the two factions erupted into the Grabow
War, a violent shoot-out between the International Workers of the World
and the Grabow Mill defenders. At least one man died, and several were
wounded and arrested. Some say Leather Britches Smith was there, and at
least one informant believes he fired the first shot. Others disagree. Either
way, soon after the Grabow War occurred, Smith was killed in an ambush
and reportedly was buried at a local cemetery. Since he had entered the town
just as tension between lumber companies and labor escalated to an all-time
high and, according to some accounts, had begun to take an important role
in the strife, he became a symbol of the town's political and economic divi-
sion. Just as the community divided its allegiance between the mill owners
and the emerging union, it was (and remains) split on whether Smith was a
ruthless mercenary outlaw or a vigilant protector of the poor.
While many have written about Leather Britches Smith, the accounts of
Ralph Ramos remain some of the most popular written versions. Ramos's
legend variant appeared in a series of five Beaumont Enterprise articles from
August to November in 1972 and in his book, Rocking Texas' Cradle (1974).
Most Merryville people Ramos interviewed had something to say about
Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War. His articles, therefore, con-
tain the kernel narrative of the legend, since they describe the characteristics
of the figure and touch on the major events of the outlaw's life, including
the mysterious gravestone for the outlaw that was placed in the Merryville
Keagan LeJeune 77
Cemetery. While Ramos's articles present the figure primarily as an outlaw,
emphasizing those traits which make him dangerous and feared, they hint
at the heroic side of the figure and at the positive image of him held by some
of the community members.
Appearing August 13, 1972, the first article, "Leather Britches Smith
Didn't Fear Nothin', Folks Say," presents the account of 74-year-old Goob
Newton, known in the community as a grand storyteller. 12 Newton, who was
thirteen when Smith was around, explained that "Leather Britches got his
name from the clothing he wore, shiny worn buckskin." 13 He recalled that
Smith was a small, "easy going fellow, the sort you wouldn't think would
harm anyone in the world," yet something "told you never to cross him. He
didn't fear nothing in this world." 14 Newton said Smith was on the run from
East Texas law because he had killed his wife there. 15 Newton explained
that when he was a boy he was sometimes called to his Uncle Seab Collins's
house to read to the outlaw. "He [Leather Britches] never slept in the house
at night," Newton remembered. "He'd take his sheepskin, after I finished
reading and disappear in the woods. In the morning he'd return but never
from the same direction." 16 Newton gave a vivid description of Smith's guns
and his intimidating gun-play on the streets of Merry ville:
He'd walk into Merryville with all those guns (two .45 Colt
revolvers and a .30-30 Winchester), and no one bothered him.
He'd sit on the front row of the theater with three guns. . . . He'd
stop in the middle of the street at Merryville and shoot martins
with the six guns from either hand. And, if that wasn't enough
to impress everyone he'd then [holster the] six guns and bring
down martins with every shot from his .30-.30. 17
Newton also recalled a legendary example of one of Leather Britches' s
particularly ornery practices: "He'd walk up to a house, shoot a chicken and
pitch it to the housewife telling the lady to cook it and she would." 18 Finally,
Newton recounted the story of Smith's ambush and death, and told of how
Smith's dead body was displayed for the entire town. He also provided de-
tails about Smith's burial and grave. 14
A second article on September 13, 1972, recounts what Ramos learned
from Joe Meadows of Merryville. "Little" Ike Meadows, his father, was
there when Leather Britches died, and Joe recounts that Ike Meadows tried
to warn Smith of the posse being formed to kill him and offered him a trial
He [Smith] was seated at the end of the dining table bench [of
John Foshee's house], right next to the door, when Meadows
called out he was unarmed, wanted to palaver and stepped
"Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
through the door. Leather Britches grabbed up his rifle and .
. . was out the door and into the night. Meadows called out to
him. . . . He later told his sons, "I told him they would kill him
surely if he didn't give himself up. I tried to assure him that on
my honor I'd guard him with my life until he could get a fair
Remembering what his father had told him, Joe Meadows also described
the ambush plan and claimed that it was Ike Meadows' shot that in fact
killed Smith. 21 Ramos's article also described the headstone that marks
Smith's grave and stated that beside "that tiny headstone is a pot of artifi-
cial flowers." "Who placed the headstone?" and "Who leaves the flowers?"
Ramos asked (Fig. 2). 22
Two weeks later, another article reported information gained from Mrs.
Willis T. Grantham about Leather Britches Smith's hand in saving two non-
union men from being hanged by the union group leaving the Grabow
scene. She also told Ramos that, contrary to Joe Meadows' account, it was
Deputy Sheriff Dell Sharland's shot that killed Smith. 23 Ramos adds,
Mrs. Grantham, who was fifteen at the time of the Greybo [sic]
shootout, says "most people were glad to see Leather Britches
Fig. 2. Leather Britches Smith's grave (center), decorated with artificial
flowers, next to the fenced Newton family plot on the left.
Keagan LeJeune 79
dead. He had all the farm people terrified. Those were terrible
times. . . . Country folks couldn't do anything but what Leather
Britches told them to do." :4
Two final Ramos articles examined Smith's role throughout the union
strife and questioned his function as hero or outlaw, benefactor or murder-
er. 25 In these articles Ramos attempted to retrace Leather Britches' s past,
determine his real identity, and explain the mystery of the headstone and
flowers. At the culmination of Ramos's work on the outlaw, he reported that
Leather Britches was believed to be a man named Ben Myatt, who had killed
his wife in Texas and fled to Louisiana for safety. One article included a
portrait of Myatt "from a drawing" preserved in the wallet of an old bounty
hunter (Fig. 3). 26 According to Ramos, Smith's grave was marked and kept
up by descendants of the union men he protected.
Many of the stories I recorded about Leather Britches Smith in Merry ville
in some way connect to the work of Ralph Ramos. I began hearing narra-
tives about Smith in 1997, spent 1998-2000 conducting formal interviews,
and continue to lecture about the figure and hear additions to the legend.
In my nearly eight years of interviewing people, I have conducted formal
interviews in people's homes or at the library or other public places, and
I have had countless informal discussions with older Merryville residents
and my students about the outlaw over dinner or coffee, at basketball or
Softball games, and through email. I have noticed that the stories consist
of several important categories of information about Smith: 1) what collec-
tors of the legend have gotten wrong or not included, 2) how a particular
family's history connects to the Leather Britches Smith legend, and 3) what
past family members contributed to the area's history, specifically how they
are involved in the Leather Britches legend.
Perhaps influenced by what Ralph Ramos wrote, the stories I heard share
many general features and some specific details with Ramos's articles about
Smith. However, informants have also frequently noted Ramos's mistakes.
Many of my informants, for example Catherine Stark, known as Granny
Cat, and Robert Carmen, a forester and master logger, mentioned what they
believe Ramos got wrong. 27 One of the best examples of this readiness to
"correct" Ramos came from one of my college students, Shelly Whiddon. 28
She told me that her grandmother rejected Ramos's account of Smith:
Grandma Lizzie, which was my great-grandmother, loved him
[Ramos]. Yeah. She loved his stories. . . . Whatever he said was
the truth [She pauses enough for my recognition and then she
begins to speak right above a whisper]. Until he was talking
about Leather Britches and he wrote the businessperson's side of
it, which was [that Smith was] a horrible person who terrorized
"Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
; -^ivUv--o:- A :-i:^ui^'---.iisa^^a&rfBH»**«6e^>«*^»
Fig. 3. Drawing of Ben Myatt, a.k.a. Leather Britches Smith.
Keagan LeJeune 8 1
families. And she would drink coffee with him [Smith] in the
morning. She knew him and that was just [she stammers and
says under her breath] bullshit. And she never read anything
he ever wrote again. 29
When I first began collecting, I found that even though larger elements
of the general story remained unchanged from Ramos's accounts (which
now I find is not always the case either), informants often altered specific
aspects of the story to demonstrate skill as a storyteller, personal knowledge
of history, personal and family social status and history, or connection to the
community. Quite often, the people I interviewed complained most about
Ramos's one-sidedness and resented that he included only one viewpoint.
This complaint I found most interesting because it commented on the aspect
of the legend that intrigued me the most: Leather Britches Smith's contradic-
tory role as both criminal and protector, outlaw and hero.
As I considered newspapers, land grants, and other historical sources,
researched information on the timber industry and the unions, and con-
ducted interviews, held panel discussions, and listened to quite a few infor-
mal gab sessions, an increasingly contradictory portrait of Smith emerged.
Many of my informants depicted Smith as a ruthless bully or thug. During
a panel discussion at the Beauregard Parish Library, Gussie Townsley, 30 a
well known local folk artist, vividly recounted hearing about the notorious
I well remember — this is a tale that the old Foshees used to tell
me about. They lived close to me. They're all gone now. But
they were scared to death of Leather Britches. . . . They said that
he'd just shoot the head of a chicken off . . . and ordered them to
cook it, and then he'd sit there with that gun across his lap. 31
Later in the evening, Frank Hennigan told his version of the story, omitting
only the "gun across his lap" detail. 32
However, other informants remembered Smith as a friendly protector or
outlaw hero. For example, Robert Carmen remarked, "Now, some people
that lived down in there where he rode said that he was friendly to them."
Goob Newton's sister Ester Terry, a young child when Leather Britches was
in the area, is known as an expert in the area's history and like her brother
is a known storyteller. Her family seems to side with Leather Britches Smith
and the fledging union. In her interviews, Mrs. Terry made Smith into a
hero: "You see, Leather Britches always was for the underdog. Anywhere
in the world he was, he was for the underdog. ... So many people thought
he was wonderful because he always took up for the underdog and he al-
82 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
ways fought for the little man." She even gave the chicken-killing story a
positive spin: "Yes. Many women who cooked for him said that he was kind
and considerate." I was challenged to understand why stories might vary
to such a degree and how each narrator contributed to the variation, but
the contradictory information surrounding details about Leather Britches
Smith's life paled in comparison to contradictions in the accounts of his
death and burial.
The Death and Burial of Leather Britches Smith
An important component of the outlaw legend of Leather Britches Smith,
as well as of most other outlaw legends, is the figure's death and burial. 33
Smith's importance, characteristics, and status, and the community's respon-
sibility, emotional response, and judgment of him are all communicated in
the section of the legend connected to the cemetery and the grave itself. As
Richard Meyer explains, once the outlaw is killed, the body is observed by
the community in some way, or the funeral is heavily attended. Another
important element in the outlaw legend, according to Meyer, is that "the
outlaw-hero manages to 'live on'" in actuality or in some symbolic or su-
pernatural way. 34 Many legends claim that the "real outlaw was not in fact
murdered, executed, or whatever at such and such a time and such and such
a place." 35 Instead, the legends claim the real outlaw lives peacefully and
in anonymity elsewhere, sometimes as a result of the oppressor's laziness,
admitted futility, or simply the outlaw's prowess. The outlaw will be seen
in rare instances by people who knew him, or, years later, an old, decrepit
man will claim that he is the outlaw. According to Meyer, an outlaw may
also "live on" in "supernatural rather than natural fashion" or in the many
ballads and folklore items that carry on his name. 36 Leather Britches Smith
"lives on" through the controversy surrounding him, and the legends about
him make him an important part of many people's lives. People talk about
family members who knew him, connect their family history to his legend,
claim to be his descendants, and debate the mysteries surrounding his death
and burial. Folklorists and local historians also play an undeniable role in
Stories connected with Smith's burial, grave, and gravestone serve the
function of helping to immortalize the man and the legend. Smith's head-
stone plays an important role in extending and perpetuating the perfor-
mance of Smith's legend. The gravestone's temporal tenacity facilitates dis-
cussions of him. At fairs, high school events, dance recitals, or whatever the
community event might be when I asked about Smith, I always heard at
least something about his unusual death and burial. Many informants used
the gravestone as a narrative device or point of reference so that they could
begin their version of the legend. Some informants used the grave as proof
of Smith's existence, while others dispute the grave's authenticity and sup-
Keagan LeJeune 83
ply directions to the "actual" grave. Nearly everyone used the grave and
the figure's burial as a means of offering their judgment of Smith and his
relationship to their community.
A common belief among informants is that Smith is buried face down,
which, as Jerome S. Handler notes, traditionally has marked a person as
one who failed to adhere to cultural expectations." This prone positioning,
even if it only exists in imaginative elements of narratives, expresses the
teller's judgment of the outlaw and warns the audience of the repercussions
of outlaw life. During the panel discussion at the DeRidder Parish Library,
the same beliefs were reported again and again. "From the time I've been a
little girl," one woman said, "I always heard that he was buried face down
with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Is that true?" A few members
of the crowd nodded and stated their own similar versions. When asked
about the outlaw, one informant said, "Goob [Newton] told me one time
that they buried him face down, north-south. In case he scratched out, he'd
go to China, but the gravestone is facing east-west." Melanie Carmen also
heard the story about Smith being buried face down, but for her, Smith was
buried in the prone position "because that's where he was going." 38 One of
my students knew nothing about Leather Britches except that he was bur-
ied "turned for hell." These sorts of beliefs about his burial not only give a
glimpse of the active tradition of these tales but also reveal how Merry ville's
cultural values are revealed in this outlaw's grave.
Merryville Cemetery and Leather Britches Smith's Grave as
In addition to a considerations of stories of Leather Britches Smith's
burial, the outlaw's grave must be understood in the context of the
Merryville Cemetery. First, the legend provides the community with status
by identifying it with a celebrity outlaw and also by recalling a time when
it was one of the area's prominent lumber towns. Second, it provides com-
munity members with an opportunity to talk about a controversial topic in
a safe, less-personal manner, making it possible for individuals to express
their opinions about unions and the Grabow War without directly criticizing
another individual or family. In order to understand Smith's legend and the
community that tells it, the design of the cemetery (including the positions
of the graves as well as the cemetery's vegetation or layout of the paths) and
certain aspects of Smith's grave in particular (its location in the cemetery
and its characteristics) must be examined.
Several scholars have offered approaches for study of the cemetery it-
self. Ricardas Vidutis and Virginia A. P. Lowe read the cemetery as a cul-
tural text and establish syntactic and semantic criteria for interpreting the
cemetery. They explain that understanding begins by examining syntactic
84 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
meaning, "the cemetery's location in relation to the rest of town," and "its
internal structurings—the placement of the stones themselves." 39 The se-
mantic meaning is communicated through the materials used for the graves
and the construction of the graves themselves. "The interaction of syntactic
and semantic dimensions," they argue, reflects "the cultural system of the
community that created the cemetery." 40 Vidutis and Lowe, through their
detailed analysis, prove the cemetery to be "an enduring and continually
growing statement of the cultural concerns and events of the local commu-
nity, which itself is influenced by its inclusion in a wider cultural milieu." 41
Started in 1909 as the graveyard for an early Baptist church, the Merry ville
Cemetery is one of many cemeteries in or near this small Louisiana town of
approximately 1500 people on the Sabine River. Like most cemeteries in the
area, the small Merryville Cemetery serves primarily as a repository for the
bodies of generations of families, some of them descended from the area's
first settlers. From the highway, a small dirt road gently turns off to the
right. The cemetery occupies a prominent position near the high school and
is clearly marked by a gate announcing "Merryville Cemetery." 42 As it is
the only cemetery bearing the name of the town, it inevitably serves as a
cultural landmark. The old gully, thick brush, and trees marking the ceme-
tery's north boundary offer a stark contrast to the well-kept cemetery. Trees,
mostly longleaf pine that are reminders of the town's long history with the
lumber industry, form the back of the cemetery. The cemetery exhibits many
of the traits of North Louisiana cemeteries: below-ground burials, head and
foot markers, copings, and feet-to-east burial orientation. 43
One of the most intriguing parts of the Leather Britches Smith legend
(and I believe one of the most important since it provides a perpetual discus-
sion topic) is the debate concerning the location of Leather Britches Smith's
body and authenticity of his grave. The gravestone inscribed with "Smith,
Leather Britches, Slain — 1912" is located in an older portion of the cemetery,
a section full of family names important to the area and in the area during
the Grabow War. Some of these families were even directly involved with
Grabow and Leather Britches. Smith's gravemarker was erected much later
than 1912 (possibly as late as the 1960s) next to the family of Goob Newton,
the man who claimed that as a young boy he read to Leather Britches while
the outlaw stayed at his uncle's ranch.
Many people claim that since the gravemarker was erected much later
than Smith's 1912 death date, the marker does not mark the outlaw's ac-
tual burial site. Robert Carmen hints at this in his comments, and Catherine
Stark once told me that "Goob put a little tombstone out by the side for
Leather Britches (Fig. 4), but that's not where he is. He's over by that north
fence." She added, "They wouldn't put him in it. They just did let him be
put in it [the cemetery]. . . . He is just inside the north fence. They put him
just as close to the fence as they could get him" because "enough people. . .
Fig. 4. Entrance to the Merryville Cemetery, Merryville, Louisiana.
wanted him buried out there. It all depended on who the people were. . . .
A few liked him. But might near the whole population hated him and was
glad to see him go." According to Mrs. Stark and those who share her opin-
ion, when the outlaw was buried he was buried at the edge of or outside
the cemetery and his grave was oriented in a north-south position, rather
than the conventional east-west orientation of Christian burial yards. 44 For
Robert Carmen, Catherine Stark, and other residents who believe Smith is
buried at the edge of or outside the Merryville cemetery, Leather Britches
Smith literally remains an outlaw and outsider even in his grave.
Precise information about Leather Britches Smith's gravestone was im-
possible to obtain. A number of Merryville residents expressed the belief that
Ester Terry along with other members of the Beauregard Historical Society
sponsored the tombstone. Terry is active in the community and known for
her knowledge of history, yet when I interviewed her, she made no men-
tion of the marker being erected at a later date. No one who might have
first-hand information was willing to share any information. Ester Terry did
state frequently that the outlaw and the history of the area are something
"everyone should know about." Mrs. Terry did admit that until 2003 she
maintained the gravestone of Leather Britches and placed flowers on his
grave. During the panel discussion, Mrs. Terry explained that she refreshed
86 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
the flowers whenever she visited her father's grave and explained her fam-
ily's attention to his grave:
And your family just felt a need to take care of the grave because he
Because he had nobody else, [Mrs. Terry said].
Did he have children ?
Oh yes, he almost killed his daughter one time swinging around
and hitting her head against a post.
Was the family here in Louisiana with him?
They stayed in Fort Worth?
They were dead. He killed his wife you see.
But what about the children ?
They were in Fort Worth.
They stayed? How many children were there?
I only read about two, two girls. I don't know how many more.
Did he continue to drink in Louisiana?
If the connection between Ester Terry or her family and the gravemarker
of Leather Britches Smith remains a mystery, their motives for adopting the
plot seem clear. First, the gravestone marks an event of historical notoriety
and importance that gives status to all Merryville residents, but especially
to old families like the Newtons. The gravemarker gives the town status
or at least reminds many town members of a time when Merryville held
considerable sway in the area and was an important center of activity.
Second, Ester Terry and the Newton family gain a degree of individual and
family status by maintaining the grave. Similarly, other individuals and
their families gain status by retelling stories that connect their family to
The heroic outlaw performs specific functions in frontier regions. He
has the ability to navigate the untamed world, but he is not completely un-
civilized. It is the outlaw who may reject social standards and cross social
boundaries, especially when these transgressions are necessary. Leather
Britches Smith and other well-known tough men in the area embody the ste-
reotypical qualities of the frontiersman. Like many frontier areas, Merryville
and much of the surrounding region have developed a deeply rooted
Keagan LeJeune 87
identity out of fragments of legends, history, and lore. The heroic outlaw is
one of these sources of local identity. In order to completely understand the
legend of Leather Britches Smith, one must not only collect the recollections
and legends, but must also pay attention to the cultural expressions of belief
represented by Smith's gravestone.
Despite its lack of authenticity and provenance, the grave of Leather
Britches Smith remains culturally communicative. Because of the grave-
stone, he remains alive in a tangible, physical way, a way that also stimu-
lates talk about him. If the gravestone engenders discussion of the outlaw, it
also reconnects people to this geographic place. Stories of Leather Britches,
his death, his grave, and his actions while alive are still told in Merryville.
These stories are not static. They involve old family members and historical
events, but they also connect the past to the present. Storytellers live where
he once roamed or can show where certain events occurred. They might
have secret knowledge or corrections to old versions. They know people
who knew him, remember his actions in the context of their family's his-
tory, and place him in their account of the town's legacy, location, history,
and consciousness. Leather Britches Smith's grave is a visible reminder of
Merryville' s historical notoriety. As a tangible narrative device that sparks
the retelling of the legend, it facilitates the expression of beliefs and redirects
potentially divisive comments about family involvement in the union strife.
Finally, it is symbolic of the outlaw's contradictory function in the town's
history. Leather Britches Smith remains both man and legend, outlaw and
hero, and his grave echoes these ambiguities.
1 While a graduate student in 1998, 1 first encountered the legend of Leather Britches
Smith when my wife introduced me to Merryville High school's long-standing
history teacher, Mr. Hieronymus, at a softball game. When I explained that I was
studying folklore, he asked if I knew the legend of Leather Britches Smith. When
1 said I did not, he proceeded to give me a brief account of the outlaw's reputation
and career in Merryville. In 1999 I wrote a seminar paper on Smith for an American
folklore course. My research for this paper included interviews with my wife's
family and a moderate amount of historical research about Louisiana's No Man's
Land. Having some knowledge of the legend and the history of the region, I began
interviewing members of the community, usually in their homes. Most of the formal,
tape-recorded sessions occurred after some initial meetings. Since the legend touches
on tensions in the community, only certain members of the community appeared to
have the ability and freedom to discuss all portions of it openly. As a result, I focused
most of my attention on these tradition bearers.
2 The interviews with Catherine Stark (14 Nov. 1998) and Robert Carmen (3 October
"Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
1998) were conducted and tape-recorded in their homes in or near Merry ville. I con-
ducted and tape-recorded the interview with Shelly Whiddon (13 Dec. 1999) in my
office at McNeese State University. Gussie Townsley, Frank Hennigan, and Ester
Terry participated in a panel discussion (15 June 2000) at the Beauregard Parish
Library, which I moderated and tape-recorded, about the outlaw and other histori-
cal events of that area. Roughly thirty people attended. However, I previously in-
terviewed and tape recorded Gussie Townsley (13 October 1998) and Ester Terry
(17 Jan. 2000) in their homes.
3 Henry Glassie, "Folkloristic Study of the American Artifact: Objects and Objectives,"
inHandbook of American Folklore, ed. Richard Dorson (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1983), 377.
4 Glassie, "American Artifact," 378.
I Tadashi Nakagawa, "The Cemetery as a Cultural Manifestation: Louisiana
Necrogeography" (Ph.D. diss., Louisiana State University, 1987), and "Louisiana
Cemeteries: Manifestations of Regional and Denominational Identity/" Markers XI
6 Richard Meyer, "Image and Identity in Oregon's Pioneer Cemeteries," in Sense
of Place: American Regional Cultures, ed. Barbara Allen and Thomas J. Schlereth
(Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990), 94-95.
7 Tom Malloy and Brenda Malloy, "Murder in Massachusetts: It's Written in Stone,"
Markers XVI (1999): 210-241.
8 Randall M. Thies, "Quantrill's Three Graves and Other Reminders of the Lawrence
Massacre," Markers XVIII (2001): 1.
9 Thies, "Quantrill's Three Graves," 23.
10 Americo Paredes, "Mexican Legendary and the Rise of the Mestizo: A Survey," in
American Folk Legend: A Symposium, ed. Wayland D. Hand (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1971), 97-108; Americo Paredes, "With His Pistol in His
Hand": A Border Ballad and Its Hero (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958); and Eric
Hobsbawm, Bandits (New York: Dell, 1969).
II In Rocking Texas' Cradle (1974), Leather Britches Smith is mentioned only briefly.
One chapter, "A Preacher Recalls Violence," gives Dave Burge's memories of the
Grabow War, including his belief that Leather Britches Smith supported the union
cause. Another informant, Arch Slaydon, "knew him quite well" and "was 18 when
Leather Britches was killed in ambush at Merry ville. 'The dirty dogs didn't give the
man a chance.'" (120).
12 Newton appeared in Ramos's work as an expert wolf hunter and a person who
knew the "old ways." Newton participated in many of the more dramatic events of
the town's history.
Keagan LeJeune 89
13 Ralph Ramos, "Leather Britches Smith Didn't Fear Nothin', Folks Say," Beaumont
Enterprise Journal, 13 August 1972, 1.
14 Ramos, "Didn't Fear Nothin'," 1-2.
15 Even though much of this material appeared in local newspapers, the Beauregard
Parish Library in DeRidder has a more comprehensive collection in its vertical files.
16 Ramos, "Didn't Fear Nothin'," 2.
17 Ramos, "Didn't Fear Nothin'," 2.
18 Ramos, "Didn't Fear Nothin'," 3.
19 Ramos, "Didn't Fear Nothin'," 2-3.
20 Ralph Ramos, "The Last Violent Days of Leather Britches," Beaumont Enterprise
Journal, 13 September 1972, 2.
21 Ramos, "Last Violent Days," 2.
22 Ramos, "Last Violent Days," 3.
23 Ralph Ramos, "Leather Britches Rides Again," Beaumont Enterprise Journal, 24
September 1972, 1.
24 Ramos, "Leather Britches Rides Again," 1.
l - Ralph Ramos, "Leather Britches: Hero and Benefactor? Or Murderer?: Tale of
Horror Recalled (Leather Britches: Hero or Killer)," Beaumont Enterprise Journal, 8
October 1972, 1-3, and Ralph Ramos, "Legend of Leather Britches Unfolds," Beaumont
Enterprise Journal, 24 November 1972, 1-3.
26 This drawing appears in Ramos's "Leather Britches: Hero or Benefactor? Or
27 Catherine Stark is known to many because her ancestors helped settle the area
long ago and because she is related to a great many people. Stark often spoke of the
generosity of many local mill owners and the interesting history of the town. Robert
Carmen knows descendents of many of the area's original families, especially since
many of these families owned mills, have strong ties to the timber industry, or own a
great deal of the area's timber. Of the informants, Robert Carmen seems to offer the
greatest number of historical references and is quite cautious about any definitive
statements about the outlaw. I talked to Robert Carmen on my second interviewing
session. During the interview, he said that Ralph Ramos "claimed that his name
[Smith's] was Ben Myatt and he was from somewhere near Clarksville, Texas. But
there's no proof to that."
90 "Smith, Leather Britches — Slain"
28 Shelly is at the end of a long line of Whiddons in the area. Her grandfather was
known as a talented gunsmith, and the Whiddon family has long lived as a tight
bunch near the Sabine.
29 In all of the transcribed portions, the ellipses, unless noted otherwise, indicate
where I have consciously left out words in order to condense the material. I have
tried not to alter the meaning of the account.
30 Gussie Townsley's family, too, is an old one in the area. Her father sold produce
to the mill workers. She talked about the obstacles lumber workers faced here. One
relative, who drove a produce wagon and was not directly involved, was wounded
in the Grabow War by a stray bullet. In 1951 she watched as her husband was shot
down in cold blood as they walked down the road. She is a relative of the Foshees
mentioned in the legend.
31 Panel discussion (Frank Hennigan, Ester Terry, Gussie Townsley, and author),
June 15, 2000, DeRidder, LA, tape recording.
32 Frank Hemiigan is a respected member of the community who seems to know
a great deal about a variety of subjects concerning local history. During the panel
discussion, members of the community often asked him specific questions not only
about Leather Britches Smith but also about a lost silver mine, the region's timber
industry, and the historic role of the Sabine River.
33 See Richard Meyer, "The Outlaw: A Distinctive American Folktype," Journal of
Folklore Research 17 (1980): 94-124. In the article, Meyer outlines the common ele-
ments (he identifies twelve) of American outlaw legends. Most heroic outlaws have
been pushed from a common man's life into a life of crime, depend on ordinary
folk for support, avoid authorities until a betrayal, and then meet their end in some
34 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 110.
35 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 110.
36 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 110-111.
37 See, for example, Jerome S. Handler, "A Prone Burial from a Plantation Slave
Cemetery in Barbados West Indies: Possible Evidence for an African-type Witch
or Other Negatively Viewed Person," Historical Archaeology 30 (1996): 76-86. In his
analysis of burial mounds, Handler combines a variety of mortuary evidence, in-
cluding solitary burial, lack of goods and coffin, and, especially, prone positioning.
A woman who apparently suffered from extreme lead poisoning, who must have ex-
hibited visible signs of pain which her community would mark as bizarre, was bur-
ied in the prone position. Handler views this as evidence that she was "negatively
viewed" by her community. Handler also cites Edwin Ardener's "Coastal Bantu of
the Cameroons," Ethnographic Survey of Africa, Part 4 (London: International African
Institute, London, 1996), which describes the "Kpe and other coastal Bantu people in
Keagan LeJeune 91
the western Cameroons" (82) who practiced "a special form of witchcraft" (90) and
were "buried face downward so that if they attempt to come out of their graves they
will move in the wrong direction" (105).
38 Melanie Carmen (LeJeune) is my wife and not only introduced me to the legend
but also accompanied me during many interviewing sessions. Robert Carmen is her
39 Ricardas Vidutis and Virginia A. P. Lowe, "The Cemetery as a Cultural Context,"
Kentucky Folklore Record: A Regional Journal of Folklore and Folklife 26.3-4 (1980):
40 Vidutis and Lowe, "The Cemetery as a Cultural Context," 111.
41 Vidutis and Lowe, "The Cemetery as a Cultural Context," 112
42 Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: Vie Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1997). Tuan argues that the city, "a center of meaning, par excel-
lence" with "many highly visible symbols" is "itself a symbol," one that traditionally
symbolizes "transcendental and man-made order as against the chaotic forces of ter-
restrial and infernal nature" (172).
43 Tadashi Nakagawa's "The Cemetery as a Cultural Manifestation: Louisiana
Necrogeography," 251-267, outlines specific elements which classify Louisiana cem-
eteries under certain population groups — e.g., Protestant, Catholic, White, Black,
rural, urban, etc. According to Nakagawa, Merryville Cemetery can be classified as
North Louisiana, Protestant, and urban. All of the graves have a feet-to-east burial
orientation, which indicates that the Merryville Cemetery is Protestant. Further evi-
dence is the lack of a central cross and crucifix.
44 In "The Cemetery as a Cultural Context," Vidutis and Lowe approach certain cul-
tural details of Fulda, a German Catholic cultural area of southern Indiana, through
the arrangement of its cemetery. In this cemetery, certain sections seem designed for
certain groupings; for instance, children are located in one area. One particular sec-
tion that "lies outside the cemetery-proper" seems designed to hold bodies of "social
or moral outcasts]" and people who died an "unnatural death" (106).
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Frontispiece: Hou Tu (or Tu Ti Gong or Hou Tu Niang Niang),
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery
and Its Chinese Section
James A. Freeman
U top us, the founder, heard that people had
been continually squabbling before his
arrival.. . So he ordered that all citizens
should be free to follow their own religion.
Thomas More, Utopia 2
The political philosophy of "separate but equal" arouses suspicion in
most Americans because it can connote an unjust system that emphasizes
apartness, not equality. One nation, however, has managed to maintain the
uniqueness of its different ethnic groups while insuring fair treatment for
everyone. A temporary display in Singapore's ultra-modern Farrer Park
rapid-transit station symbolizes how this tiny island republic has united
disparate peoples. On the wall a serious warning about occasional police
inspections peeps out from behind artfully placed sakura cherry branches
strewn with red lanterns and decorated at the base with good luck dolls and
Winnie the Pooh, all emblems wishing everyone a happy lunar new year
in 2005. The admonition, written in the four major languages of English,
Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, reminds citizens in this peaceable realm that
they also live in a larger world boiling with ethnic and religious conflict. The
combination of legalism and festivity signifies the successful balance of state
uniformity and ethnic separateness that has propelled the multicultural na-
tion of Singapore into prosperity. The communal Choa Chu Kang Cemetery
illustrates on a microcosmic level the same equilibrium. It conforms to bu-
reaucratic rules while clearly preserving and even cultivating distinctive
identities of the Chinese majority, plus Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish,
and other minorities.
Like the United States, the city-state of Singapore has attracted countless
immigrants seeking a fuller life, but inclusiveness has brought problems. In
1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles seized the sparsely inhabited site (barely
11,000 residents) as a desirable location between India and China for British
East India Company interests. Ever since then, officials have taken note of
disparate populations that might collide. By 1822 Lieutenant Philip Jackson
had drawn up a rectilinear grid for the projected city, one that housed gov-
ernment offices north of the river, businesses on the south bank, and eth-
nic groups in their own sectors, with all connected to "Europe Town" by
94 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
a central highway. 1 The population boomed from 97,000 in 1871 to 228,000
in 1900. Most of the increase came from immigration. Interactive displays
at the Chinese Heritage Centre, eerily similar to displays at Ellis Island,
explain how Chinese flocked to this city at the southern tip of the Malay
Peninsula to escape poverty, repression, or war. Despite their common
hope for a new life, "the early migrants tended to group together on the
basis of lineage, clan, dialect spoken, home village, district, prefecture, prov-
ince and occupation." 2
Singapore remained a British colony until 1959. The occupiers saw the
inhabitants as "oriental," that is, simultaneously exotic, attractive, irratio-
nal, useful, dangerous, and amusing. During that century and a half, oc-
cidental interest in and respect for Asians who excelled in western activi-
ties were sadly undercut by condescension. Anecdotal evidence found on
postcards from the early 1900s illustrates the disdain for non-Europeans.
On one 1902 picture of a "Chinese Fruit Stall," "RBG" penned, "But not
very tempting"; another 1900 card that shows the Sultan of Perak has the
handwritten question, "[H]ow would you like to be face to face with these
people [?]"; a third photo from c. 1906 featuring eight Chinese women and
captioned "BEAUTIES OF THE EAST. SINGAPORE," prompted the sneer-
ing put-down, "If these are beauties Lord help the ugly ones." 3
Popular culture in the West reinforced these images of a striking but
potentially turbulent populace. Travel and fiction writers from Somerset
Maugham, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Joseph Conrad in late Victorian
times to Paul Theroux in the 1970s, radio programs, films, and folk songs
have echoed cliches about the region's potential for chaos. 4 The real-life city
certainly did go through many political upheavals. Violently occupied by
the Japanese during World War II, it was self-governed from 1959-1963; al-
lied to Malaysia as a semi-autonomous member from 1963-1965; and finally
independent from 9 August 1965. This transition from colony to self-rule
took place as riots and guerrilla warfare wracked the Malay Peninsula. The
forceful vision of Lee Kuan Yew and his socialist People's Action Party
controlled unrest in the city so that "there has been no racial violence in
Singapore since 1969." 5 In 2005 its more than four million inhabitants en-
joy prosperity and security, although neighboring countries still seethe with
unrest stemming from identity politics.
Unlike the United States, Singapore has had to preplan its growth, par-
ticularly because its land is finite. The island-state measures only twenty-five
miles by fifteen miles, making it some 15,000 times smaller than the United
States. (Sixty-two surrounding islets plus the attached recreation island of
Sentosa provide little additional space.) Already, housing and roads each
occupy 12% of the available land. The Urban Redevelopment Authority,
housed in a typically futuresque skyscraper on Maxwell Road, proudly
James A. Freeman 95
displays maps and extensive models of the city's five-, ten-, and fifty-year
building projects, transportation improvements, and land reclamation. 6
A second reason for land-use planning is the rich mix of races, languag-
es, and heritages. As of 2003, Chinese comprised 76.2%, Malay 13.8%, Indian
8%, and other 1.7%/ With roughly 6,500 inhabitants per square kilometer,
this third most densely populated country in the world (after Macau and
Monaco) might have continued to experience antagonisms common to over-
crowded sites. But Singapore progressed from ethnic separatism to coun-
trywide consensus. Since independence, popular understanding has moved
"away from the clan towards the nation-state." 8
Firm rules analogous to those in the transit station or for directing devel-
opment discourage any resurgence of prejudice. Conveyed in kindly, even
artistic ways, coercion to promote teamwork among the varied inhabitants
appears in many forms. Messages written on giant billboards, cooed from
train speakers, or flashed onto outdoor TV screens encourage everyone to
use proper grammar, eat a healthy diet, and exercise. Postage stamps from
Singapore illustrate an admirable balance of conformity that still preserves
difference. They urge citizens to practice courtesy ("Greet Neighbours,"
"Queue at Service Counters," "Help Our Elders," 1988); protect the environ-
ment (1997); and glory in the transportation system (1988) and public hous-
ing (1997). They honor Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Armenian churches,
temples, and mosques (1978) as well as religious holidays: Chinese New
Year, Thaipusam (Hindu), Hari Raya Puasa (Islam), and Christmas (1989,
1998, 2004). Other stamps honor Chinese opera singers, as well as dancers
from Malaya, India, and "other" places (probably Europe) (1990). 9
Statistics and social norms prove the wisdom of orderly expansion.
Today Singapore ranks first in the world according to various measure-
ments for its superlative transportation system, airport, health care, urban
safety, and civility. It uses more computers per capita than any country. In
January 2005, the mainland Chinese government, looking forward to host-
ing foreign guests for their Olympics and other international events, sent
specialists to inspect Singapore's dependably clean rest rooms. Inhabitants
of all backgrounds have internalized rules: they almost never litter, spit out
gum (which might jam sensors on the subway), possess firearms, tailgate in
traffic, or deal drugs (death is the penalty for having miniscule amounts).
They live in well-planned, high-rise, mixed ethnicity apartments, 83%
of which the government subsidizes. They trust that society will always
Although the state continues to add artificial acres to its area, space tak-
en up by small, scattered, or abandoned graveyards has in the past often
impeded necessary development. The final resting place for Malay royalty
at Kampong Glam ("village by the gelam tree") on Victoria Street luckily had
96 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
been abandoned before the Mass Rapid Transit tunnel was dug under it in
the 1980s. Thus the establishment of Choa Chu Kang Cemetery for all future
burials seemed consistent with the philosophy of rational land usage and
ethnic inclusiveness. The National Environment Agency set aside a total of
318 hectares (c. 766 acres) in the city's far western quadrant. The NEA cur-
rently grants 166 hectares (c. 350 acres) to different faiths, leaving almost half
of the land for expansion. It allotted these areas in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery
after calculating the percentage of people professing a certain religion and
the death rate for that religion. The method of apportioning space according
to ethnicity approximates the way the government sets quotas for people
in housing developments. 10 Chinese were allotted 86 hectares (c. 212 acres);
Muslim, 47 hectares (c. 116 acres); Christian (17 hectares, c. 42 acres); Hindu,
12 hectares (c. 30 acres). These areas, plus the tiny Jewish, Parsi, Baha'i, and
Amadiyya sections (each 1 hectare, or 2.47 acres), should provide room for
every denomination's needs during the next century (Fig. 1).
Choa Chu Kang accepted its first burials in 1946. Remains from older
burial grounds were exhumed and transported to the new facility. In 1998,
however, the government realized that with 16,000 people dying each year,
the space would not be sufficient after 2013 and so decided that existing
graves would routinely be dug up after fifteen years. Exhumations began
on November 1, 2004, to remove more than 17,000 plots in the Chinese and
800 in the Hindu divisions. These disposals have been widely announced
by the National Environment Agency via its web site, radio, and newspaper
notices. Simple request forms permit relatives to treat remains in any way
they choose. Crematories and columbaria have become crucial for those
faiths — Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian — that allow cremation; for those
that do not allow the practice — Muslim, Jewish, Parsi, and Baha'i — reinter-
rment in smaller plots will be allowed.
Choa Chu Kang Cemetery achieves the political goal of unity from di-
versity and offers an esthetic solution to the practical problems that plague
other land-poor communities (Venice, for one). 11 Wisely, those who designed
Choa Chu Kang allowed different kinship groups to dispose of their loved
ones with burial or cremation and memorialize them with culturally dis-
tinctive markers. Such millennia-old customs help bind together those who
may have lived contentedly in Singapore with people of different origins
but never wanted to forget their individual heritage.
The Chinese cemetery occupies more than half of Choa Chu Kang. This,
the largest individual division, borders Muslim grounds on the south and
a Hindu section to the southwest. The Christian, Jewish, and Parsi sections
lie across Jalan Bahar highway, southeast of the others. The variety, exu-
berance, and placement of the monuments symbolize the city's spatial and
social arrangement, singular yet interconnected, like Lieutenant Jackson's
plan. In both urban and cemetery districts, religions coexist in discrete but
James A. Freeman
1. Choa Chu Kang
2. Choa Chu Kang
3. Choa Chu Kang
4. An Li Buddhist
5. Garden of Rememberance
Fig. 1. Map of Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
contiguous areas. One scholar observes that worshippers frequent either the
Guanyin Buddhist temple or the Hindu Sri Krishna temple, just a few yards
away on Waterloo Street, but not both. I2 A glance at the contrasting markers
of adjacent groups in Choa Chu Kang emphasizes the harmonious juxtapo-
sition of different cultures.
Muslim markers originated in the desert of Arabia, but became more
elaborate over time and distance. The unused cemetery at Kampong Glam
on Victoria Street, the oldest Muslim burying ground in Singapore for both
Malay commoners and royalty, shows a simpler architecture than current
in Singapore: unadorned stone pillars a foot or so in height mark burial
spots. In Choa Chu Kang, attractive rectangular walls that often display an
appropriate verse from popular benedictions enclose more recent inhuma-
tions. The traditional pillar, which began as one marker at the head, now has
geminated into two indicating head and foot. Together they list the usual
biographical data of name, birth, and death date. The most distinctive fea-
ture, a white cloth neatly tied about each vertical marker, protects the in-
scriptions from sun and rain. The cloth resembles the headdress allotted to
hajis and hajahs, men and women who have made the requisite pilgrimage
to Mecca, and is changed at least three times a year: at the death anniver-
sary, at Ramadan, and at the Hajj Festival. Most current Muslims pay c. S$30
(US$20) per month to hire a groundskeeper who does the job. Anticipating
Allah's garden, much of the Muslim section features luxuriant plants and
trees (Fig. 2).
Muslims follow their ancient practice of burying the deceased as soon as
possible after death, preferably on the same day. Members of the same gen-
der wash the body, wrap it in a white cloth (like the kafan, or cloak worn by
pilgrims in Mecca to show that at death everyone will be equal), and deposit
it directly in the ground, at least six feet deep. (Yussuf, one informant at the
Sultan Mosque on Muscat Street, with all seriousness, claimed that women
must be buried one foot deeper because they might otherwise be tempted to
climb upward to this world and gossip.) Lying on its right side, the departed
faces Mecca and all the hope that the holy city signifies. 13
Christian markers vary from staid to imaginative. The upright head-
stones, often marble, recall the deceased by means of carved birth and death
dates, kind words about the effect of the departed on family and society,
and sometimes a photo medallion. Frequently the flat area over the coffin
encloses patches of grass, gravel, or seashells that evoke uninhabited nature.
Individual decorations like flowers, angel statuettes, pinwheels, or small
grottos, vivify the entire area. Portuguese names recall the age of explora-
James A. Freeman
Fig. 2. Muslim gravemarkers. The cloth coverings echo the headscarver
worn by pilgrims who have completed the haji.
tion; tombs built from colorful tiles would appeal to people with an Iberian
heritage (Fig. 3). Other markers display Anglo first names and Chinese fam-
ily names, proof that many have converted to the faith of the colonizers (Fig.
4). Several Chinese informants explained their relatively recent conversion
to Christianity as a movement into a new century that leaves behind much
"superstition." Their church services do not bother much about complex
theological discussions of the Trinity or the various forms of grace. Rather,
they emphasize the ideals imputed to the Christian community of first cen-
tury believers, the kononia, that, like traditional Chinese society, emphasized
personal belief and mutual kindnesses.
The Hindu section similarly houses a variety of markers. The bases of
the cement tombs are frequently decorated with colorful ceramic tiles. The
vertical marble headstones typically offer a picture of the departed, dates,
and commendatory words. As in the Christian section, visitors often place
flowers on the deck-like surfaces of the graves or let grass grow naturally
on the upper part of the platform (Figs. 5-6). Although Hindus believe in re-
birth of individual souls during almost endless cycles, their gravesites offer
relatively permanent artifacts for family and friends to recall the form of a
beloved during one incarnation.
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 3. Carvalho Christian gravemarker with
both Chinese and English inscriptions.
James A. Freeman
Fig. 4. Lan Christian gravemarker with tradional headstone
and grave covering, guarded by many angel figurines.
The Parsi and Jewish sections occupy adjacent areas at the end of a long
road east of the Christian burial grounds, close to Tengah Airbase. Walls
and locked gates isolate both except during preplanned entrances. The tiny
Parsi group — only 165 members, including children, in 2005 — commemo-
rates relatives with conventional right-angle tombs. A vertical slab usually
gives names and birth and death dates, while a horizontal slab remains un-
adorned (Fig. 7). One marker lists eleven persons, previously interred in
other superceded cemeteries, whose remains came to Choa Chu Kang in the
Originating in Persia during the third millennium BCE, many Parsis
migrated to western India in the eighth century CE to escape persecution.
Devotees of this ancient dualist faith arrived in Singapore in the early 1800s.
Although they once erected dakhmas or "Towers of Silence" (temporary
raised platforms on which the corpse was exposed to vultures and the ele-
ments so it would disintegrate naturally), concerns for city sanitation and
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 5. Mayasam Hindu gravemarker.
James A. Freeman
Fig. 6. Hindu gravemarkers.
the lack of scavenger birds changed that custom. When a Mr. Muncherjee
fell ill in 1829, an Armenian, Aristarcus Sarkies, convinced Chinese Parsis on
the mainland to purchase land for a burial ground along Shentong Way, the
banking section. In 1948, more land adjacent to the cemetery was acquired
so that the Zoroastrian community might build a bungalow for meetings
and worship services.
The main visual feature of this tranquil, tree-shaded site comes from
the subtle interplay of light and shadow on angular surfaces (Fig. 8).
Geographically close to the plain Parsi section, Jewish tombs reject orna-
mentation even more than those of the Parsis. Each horizontal deck has an
identical Star of David carved at the head. Tombs lie in precise rows with no
variation except inscriptions on six small wedge-shaped rectangular tablets
at the head. The tablets announce in Hebrew (and sometimes English) the
name, age, and death date. The Jewish section of Choa Chu Kang cemetery
improves upon the previous Jewish sites. Soon after "nine traders of the
Jewish faith" arrived in Singapore during 1830, the small group acquired
for ninety-nine years a swampy plot of land for their first burial ground in
1843. By contrast, the first Christian cemetery was granted a better tract on
Fort Canning's Government Hill. 15
This visual encyclopedia of world customs borders the Chinese portion
of the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery and highlights the openly traditional archi-
tecture encouraged by the state.
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 7. Parsi gravemarkers.
Chinese Funeral Customs
The size of the Chinese section in Choa Chu Kang, nearly two-thirds of
the total cemetery, reflects the historical impact of this majority group on
Singapore. Although "Chinese" might imply a tightly regimented group,
the long history and different backgrounds of Singapore's community have
combined customs front diverse belief systems and various locales. Today's
ceremonies acknowledge elements of Taoism's spiritualism and animism,
as well as Master Kung Fu Tzu's (Confucius') ethical and political precepts,
both of which enrich the complex system called by the shorthand word
Buddhism. (A Buddhist manual for funerals calls this accommodation "Tri-
ism." 16 ) Immigrants from separate provinces, especially along mainland
China's southeast coast, spoke different dialects but adapted their home-
land practices to the demands of a new country. The early settlers, often
male laborers and merchants, eventually married Malay women. Their chil-
dren, the Peranakans (Malay for "half-castes born in this country"), looked
back to a mother country with fading immediacy. Ceremonies for marriage
and death help the Chinese population assert affinity with a past that the
secular modern world often tries to erase. Every day part of someone's heri-
tage disappears. For example, the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus
James A. Freeman
Fig. 8. Jewish gravemarkers.
106 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
on Victoria Street, built in 1903, has been refashioned into CHIJmes, a toney
bar, restaurant, and shopping plaza ("Discover a century of resplendent liv-
ing history behind the cloistered walls," the website encourages). Likewise,
the neglected Bukit Brown Cemetery at Fort Canning Park, established in
1922 and noted as a model of feng shui, or proper geomantic placement,
was partially cleared in the 1970s and, although currently undisturbed, will
at some time be transformed for development. 17
Between death and either inhumation or cremation, Chinese tradition
prescribes a series of devotional acts. As one scholar explains, "Death causes
a person to become at first an impure, unbounded ghost, which poses con-
siderable danger to the living. Funerary ritual serves to transform that im-
pure, unsettled and dangerous spirit into a pure, settled and benevolent
ancestor." 18 In order to understand the complex significances of the Chinese
tombs in Choa Chu Kang, we should begin with these funeral customs.
At death, the deceased is washed, clothed, and laid out for public view-
ing by the eldest son (if the deceased was male) or female relative (for a
woman). Previously, seven-day wakes allowed far away mourners to travel
and pay respects. 19 Wakes could be repeated once a week for a total of forty-
nine days. However, such expensive commemorations conflict now with
modern urban life, and anyone who wishes to prolong a wake for more than
one week must obtain a government permit. At the wake, family members
provide food and drink for both visitors and for the deceased. Sometimes a
basin of water stands alongside the table, in which the departed may wash
their hands. Flowers, sweet-smelling joss sticks, and oil lamps create an at-
mosphere of generous remembrance. To determine whether the departed
has finished the meal, a relative often tosses "lips of god," two red curved
wooden objects about three inches long. If the lips rest in the inauspicious
Yang position, both surfaces flat or both curved, then the spirit has not
eaten; if they rest with one surface curved and the other flat, the affirma-
tive Yin configuration, then the living may feast. This concern for the loved
one's physical needs will replicate itself at the funeral and the gravesite or
Next a commercial undertaker puts the body in a handsome solid wood
casket, usually dark brown in color. It conveys a somber beauty even though
it will soon be lost to sight. Sweeping upward at the head, it dictates the
shape of the grave marker that also curves upward. In popular practice,
people present miniature coffins as good luck tokens. Bound with a red rib-
bon (the color of happiness), and inscribed with four antique Chinese char-
acters that predict "promotion in a government job; prosperity," the models
further link death to life, loss to gain, the departed to the living (Fig. 9). 20
The undertaker then carries the coffin to one of two locations, the graveyard
or the crematorium. A flower-crowded white hearse transports those who
choose burial to Choa Chu Kang for immediate inhumation.
James A. Freeman
Chinese Markers and Ethnic Identity
Like Egyptians and Etruscans, Chinese blur distinctions between the liv-
ing and the dead. Their inclusive philosophy accepts continuity: "as in life,
so in death; as now, so later." Funeral ceremonies and graveyard architec-
ture ease the spirit's anxiety when it crosses the limen, or threshold, from
our Yang universe to the Yin underworld. Especially in the cemetery, famil-
iar objects from everyday existence are used so that neither the survivors
nor the dead feel any undue discontinuity. The necropolis further links all
people — past, present, and yet to be.
Concern for the dead in rites and objects results from both fear and re-
spect. If those still alive neglect their forbearers, the departed may change
into angry orphan specters, returning to disturb earthly lives until propiti-
ated. One feature of Singapore home and temple architecture suggests that
unquiet revenants may attempt to invade even these sacred precincts: a
horizontal wooden bar at the bottom of the outer door frame (resembling
the barrier of watertight doors on ships) obstructs the uninvited. 21 If sur-
vivors honor their relatives, then both groups profit: the deceased will feel
Fig. 9. Model of Chinese Coffin. Inscription in Seal Script of c. 2000 years
ago saying, "Promotion [in your job]; Get rich."
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
rewarded for their kindnesses in life and will enjoy an untroubled after-
life; survivors can take pleasure in right relations with the departed. Both
outdoor tombs in the cemetery and indoor niches in columbaria replicate
familiar architectural features. The shape of these repositories, the guardian
figures near them, the ceremonies, and visual references all link the dead to
those left behind.
The Shape of Shrines for Gods in Temples
Chinese temples and houses traditionally have at least two altars, one
for the household god and one for ancestors. The shape and decoration of
outdoor tombs in Choa Chu Kang replicate in open air these interior decora-
tive practices, thus uniting family piety at temple and at home with public
display. The arrangement of Singapore's Taoist and Buddhist temples in-
fluences the appearance of outdoor tombs in the cemetery. Statues of gods
reside against a wall at the far end of a temple's main chamber. Between
them and a worshipper, two platforms, one usually oblong and the other,
closest to the communicant, square, separate holy from profane. The deities
sit in a temenos, a sacred space, often behind glass, thus reminding humans
that each being exists in a separate realm and, simultaneously, inviting the
faithful to see them. Vy vyane Loh eloquently defines the conventional altar
in Singapore: "an arrangement of sacred objects and idols for worship; a
platform for ritual, sacrifice, prayer; a place of communion for the family,
uniting past generations with the present; where commercial dealings are
undertaken with offerings, bribes and bargains struck with the appropriate
The main altar in Thian Hock Keng Temple on Telok Ayer Street dem-
onstrates the typical arrangement. On the far wall, two deities oversee their
worshippers. The larger deity is Ma Cho Po, a benevolent sea guardian
brought from Fukien in 1822. The smaller deity, Ma Zu, a popular protector
of sailors, was reputedly born Lin Mo Niang ("Silent Girl") on Mei Zhou
Island in Putian, Fujian Province, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). She
would swim out to drowning people but, sadly, could not save her own
father, although she did rescue her brother. Later, at the age of 27 in 987, she
ascended a mountain and vanished. She guides storm-tossed mariners with
a red lantern. Despite the difference in eras, consecrated figures and secular
worshippers meet easily at these multi-level temple platforms.
One expert has tentatively suggested that the three distinct areas
might originally have symbolized the three Buddhist realms of Longing,
Formlessness, and Enlightenment; he then wisely cautions that such meta-
physical subtlety, ultimately unverifiable, probably has little resonance with
ordinary worshippers, who merely recognize the tri-partite structures. 23
Whatever the reason for the design, the temple tables display the same food,
joss sticks, flowers, and lights that decorate the wake tables at home.
James A. Freeman 1 09
The typical home ancestor shrine must fit into apartments. However, the
archetypal pattern appears in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Armenian
Street. There the large ancestral shrine from Panglima Prang, which be-
longed to the wealthy Tan family between the mid-1800s-1982, consists of
three structural units, all of black lacquered wood: a vertical ancestral tablet
house at back on wall; a narrow rectangular table in front of house; and a
square offering table in front of both.
Expensive silver bowls, platters, and jugs contain offerings on the square
table and, except for their ornateness, typify the arrangement in less affluent
households. At the anniversary of the loved one's death, the family would
set out favorite foods. On the right stands an elevated washbasin with one
upright lotus, so the ancestor can wash after feasting. The stalk, bud, and
flower symbolize the gamut of human existence: from swamp muck to radi-
ant blossom. Also, the descendants would artfully place incense, candles,
flowers, and oil lamps so that the experience of dining with the beloved
would seem generous and harmonious.
The living would continually reminded themselves that they had reason
to recall the deceased. The upright tablet would have the ancestor's name
on the front (and perhaps other data on the back). His or her portrait, placed
inside the tablet house, would coexist with two wooden plaques containing
expressions of sorrow or praise for the departed. Four painted wooden pan-
els, reading from the viewer's left, read:
1. "Remember the wisdom of one's ancestors. Wealth will ensure
peace in the family."
2. "To be successful in one's career, one needs the blessings of
3. "It is one's duty to worship the ancestors."
4. "If one respects the ancestors, one's future generations will sing
In the center of both the wall and the list of moral precepts is the
motto: "Follow in the footsteps of the ancestors." 24 Flanking the shrine, two
elephants face each other, perhaps guaranteeing the same good luck that
the elephant god Ganesh offers to Hindus. (Such syncretism characterizes
Buddhism: a four-handed, elephant-headed statue sits at the right knee of a
15-meter-tall gilded Thai-looking Buddha in the Sakaya Muni Gaya Temple
on Race Course Road.) Far from oppressing viewers, such looks backward
to the departed and sideways to other people's deities comfort survivors, es-
pecially immigrants and their offspring, by reminding them of a continued
family and remembered homeland.
In Choa Chu Kang, the rows of similarly shaped, cement-sided Chinese
tombs marching resolutely to the horizon give one an initial impression of
10 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
sameness. Much like temple and domestic shrines, each tomb features an
upright marker for the deceased. This vertical slab faces a recessed, altar-like
interior ledge that rises from a slightly elevated outside pavement. Varied
images and materials individualize markers. The foot-tall vertical base be-
tween the outer ledges may show a pleasant oceanscape, appropriate for is-
land people who long ago came mostly from China's seaside provinces. The
Zhang family tomb (Fig. 10) has a rear central upright panel that provides
a photo of its patriarch, Yung Tung, and inscriptions that add his birth and
death years (1913-1987), his origin (Quemoy Island, Fukien Prefecture), and
a conventional saying of respect. The rear upright panel to the viewer's right
lists male offspring (five sons, five grandsons). The rear upright panel to
the viewer's left lists female offspring (one daughter, four daughters-in-law,
one granddaughter). The upright rectangular pillar to the viewer's right
prays, "Rest peacefully in this good land." The upright rectangular pillar to
the viewer's left wishes good luck forever to the next generation. Between
these two black pillars, a motto held by a female on the forward upright
panel to the viewer's right reads, "Return to Buddhism." A second motto
held by a second female on the forward upright panel to the viewer's left
reads, "Accept the West," probably a double reference to death and to the
fabled Shining Land of the West in Buddhist cosmology.
Another reminder of the interpenetration of this world and the next ap-
pears in front of the Dai Lin Jin family tomb (Fig. 11). Its rear central up-
right panel tells the patriarch's dates (1904-1988). A rear upright panel to
the viewer's right lists male offspring (four sons in the first generation). The
rear upright panel to the viewer's left lists female offspring (three genera-
tions). The forward pillar to the viewer's right reads, "A high tomb occu-
pies 100 blocks." The forward pillar to a viewer's left reads, "Enjoy long life
and collecting good fortune." This tomb shows how cemetery decoration
often echoes elements of earthly life. A motto on the forward longitudinal
panel reads, "Fu, Lu, Shou," the names of three personified wishes: "Good
Fortune, Polite to Emperor (= Money), Long Life." Such abstractions appear
in numerous jocular guises on everyday objects, especially on ever-present
paper offerings (Fig. 12).
The pavement before the ledge of the marker as well as the ledge itself
can hold different offerings from visitors. The Na-Na Li tomb features ex-
quisite vases, bowls, globes, and plant holders to honor the beloved mother
and please the visitor's esthetic sense (Fig. 13). A rear upright pillar to the
viewer's left reads, "Thinking of/ longing for." The forward upright pillar to
the viewer's right reads, "Full of warm feelings." The forward upright pillar
to the viewer's left reads, "Fortitude and diligence brimming over." And
the touching motto on the forward longitudinal panel reads, "Helped others
with a warm heart in her lifetime."
James A. Freeman
Fig. 10. Zhang family tomb with female
scroll-bearers (painted ceramic tiles).
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 11. Dai Lin Jin family tomb bearing gold-painted inscriptions.
James A. Freeman
Fig. 12. Images of Fu, Lu, and Shou printed on a paper
to be burned as a gift to the dead.
A common feature standing in front of many Chinese tombs is a guard-
ian. Everywhere in Singapore, one sees sentinels on exterior doors protect-
ing temples, homes, and businesses from unpleasant ghosts. Such menshen,
or entrance wardens, appear in pairs in the form of soldiers or scholars or
dragons (Fig. 14). 25 In place of these tough border sentinels, Choa Chu Kang
sometimes has five-foot, benign-looking female statues flanking the tomb
left and right, here bearing fruits (probably peaches) that signify prosper-
ity (Fig. 15). Their presence obviates the need for fear because no unworthy
person will cross over into the tomb's holy space, and the departed will have
no cause to return as the ungrateful dead.
Another guardian figure, Hou Tu, protects the earth. Pictured as a sage
with long white whiskers, a lump of gold, and a watchman's partisan, he
stands on foot-high slabs with curved tops on the viewer's right, parallel
to the tomb's long axis, ready to receive offerings (Figs. 16, frontispiece).
Visitors first propitiate him by lighting joss sticks or laying down flowers
before safely entering the tomb's consecrated territory.
Lion figures, a third familiar kind of warden, appear frequently in the
Choa Chu Kang necropolis and again associate it with the work-a-day world.
"Singapore" in Sanskrit means "Lion City" and recalls a myth about an ear-
ly settler who saw some fabulous beast. Statues and amulets of this merlion
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 13. Na-Na Li tomb.
James A. Freeman
Fig. 14. Menshen, or door
guardian, in the form of a warrior,
at Fuk Tak Chi Museum, Telok
Fig. 15. Female guardian in Choa
Chu Kang Cemetery holding good
luck fruit (peach?)
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 16. Hou Tu (or Tu Ti Gong or Hou Tu Niang Niang),
James A. Freeman 1 1 7
appear throughout town. Sometimes called Fu ("Good Luck") Dogs or Fu
Lions, the composite creatures (lion head, fuzzy back, large paws, short ca-
nine tail) traditionally bring security and fortune. Found in front of marital
beds, private homes, banks, businesses, clan community centers, shopping
complexes, and the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, these ancient animals
conform to rigid notions of position and emblem. The males stand to the
viewer's right with one paw on a globe (or sun, moon, egg, ball, skein of silk,
or orange, depending upon your informant); the female to one's left pro-
tects a cub. Two "lions" guard many tombs in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.
Only people with good intentions can pass between such vigilant creatures,
whether visiting a relative in the cemetery (Fig. 17) or simply shopping at
the Ngee Ann complex on Orchard Road (Fig. 18).
Ceremonies, too, connect homes to tombs. Even before leaving the house
to revisit the cemetery, relatives may have burned effigies of prized posses-
sions (TVs, watches, rings, letter openers) or paper money. Such conflagra-
tions are not permitted at the gravesite. One informant told me, with a shake
of the head at such "superstition," how a rich man recently spent S$1,000,000
(c. US$600,000) to burn a huge outdoor collection of make-believe valuables
(including a model Mercedes). Most people settle for offering attractively
printed Hell Money (Fig. 19). 26
Another ceremony takes place in Choa Chu Kang itself. On the festival
of Qing Ming ("Clear Bright," a reminder of 30 months of pleasant weather
during the Han Dynasty, 209 BCE-184 CE), held around 5 April (technically,
106 days after the winter solstice in the third lunar month), crowds come
to tidy up their family tombs and then dine with the departed one. They
first prepare the area by clipping stray grass, scrubbing the surfaces, and
sweeping the vicinity, which is, after all, the deceased's residence. As a final
housekeeping gesture of this Pu May ("Cultivating the Tomb") ceremony,
many visitors put colored papers on the tomb's mound to replicate the refil-
ing of a house roof.
After preparing the tomb, the living set out food, especially favorite
dishes of the dead. When a polite time has passed and the ancestor presum-
ably has dined, the visitors eat. Some devotees have foregone hot food the
day before to respect the origin of the commemorative day. According to
one legend explaining how the rite began, a tyrant in the Chou dynasty (the
first half of the first millennium) resented a subject's refusal to serve in the
army because the latter wanted to care for his parents. Enraged, the ruler
burned a forest in which the pious son resided, killing him and his mother.
Their devotion eventually affected the king, so he instituted the memorial
day that included a ban on fires, including even cooking fires. 27 Before rela-
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 17. Male fu lion in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.
In lion's left paw is a, globe (sun, moon, fruit, silk).
James A. Freeman
Fig. 18. Male fu lion in front of
Ngee Ann shopping complex, Orchard Road.
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 19. Hell Money. The inscription wishes good winds for your
sails as you set off for the Western Kingdom (to the right, according
to Chinese cartography).
tives leave the tomb, they scatter prawn and cockle shells to invite abun-
dance for descendants. 28
Those who choose cremation rather than burial are placed in a coffin and
transported from home in the white hearse to one of Singapore's three cre-
matoriums: two government facilities at Choa Chu Kang and Mandai, and a
large private one at the ornate Kong Meng San Phor Kark See ("Bright Hill
Monastery of Universal Awakening") Buddhist complex. Efficient and at-
tractive, these crematories allow those left behind to express grief and yet re-
ceive comfort from old practices. The spacious building at Bright Hill places
five ovens at a far wall and replicates the placement of home and temple
altars down to the lamps and bowls of food (Appendix I).
The state runs three columbaria for the Chinese community. One, lo-
cated on the grounds of Choa Chu Kang in the Chinese sector, from the air
resembles an open fan; a second columbarium on woody Mandai Road pro-
vides 56,000 niches in two three-story blocks; the last columbarium, Yishun,
shaped like a typical Chinese temple, provides a more traditional setting for
16,000 niches (Appendix II). 29
For members of the religions that allow cremation, other columbaria of-
fer places. A private Christian one and a new Buddhist one coexist within
walking distance on the cemetery's grounds. Jews, Muslims, Baha'is, and
Parsis, whose beliefs forbid cremation, will be exhumed after their fifteen
years and transported to smaller plots.
James A . Freeman 1 2 1
In all these columbaria, I felt that the rectilinear arrangement of the nich-
es reflects a similar experience in the Yang city. It resembles the cube-like ex-
teriors of Housing Development Board apartments for the living. Similarly,
city merchants stack boxes of tea and bins of candy in straight rows. Even
the family names appearing on one-foot square panels in the Chinatown
Heritage Centre anticipate this spatial layering. Seeing such right-angled
replication in columbaria must comfort those who associate it with life,
trade, identity, and final rest.
Tablets for Ancestors
In addition to tombs and cinerary containers, plaques honoring the de-
parted appear in both temples and commercial repositories. Handsome me-
morial tablets, some offering a photograph, identify the person by sight,
name, birth and death day. Banks of these foot-high memory aids supply
backdrops for public worship and destinations in columbaria (Fig. 20).
Singapore's Choa Chu Kang Cemetery brilliantly restricts land usage
while encouraging full honor to the departed of all faiths. It fulfills a thought-
ful social contract between government and populace that duplicates the
relationships in housing, transportation, education, and civic behavior.
Although the city-state's small size and special history may moderate other
nations' urge to copy the practice of its cemetery, still, the general combi-
nation of efficiency and respect should stimulate planners in all places to
understand how such projects can be achieved. The Chinese section in par-
ticular testifies to the possibility of uniting disparate peoples in one group.
Those whose ancestors had come from different locales and who speak dif-
ferent dialects find in Singapore an accepting society, one that values differ-
ence yet urges all citizens to discover common ideals.
I conclude by sharing my mixed responses to the cemetery. My admi-
ration of its peace, practicality, and beauty springs partly from a personal
(and, I hope, widespread) fear of intolerant violence. I interviewed police
officers at the Killiney Road Station, asking how they had guarded against
vandalism in Choa Chu Kang. After all, the Taliban had recently dynamit-
ed two ancient statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. Elsewhere in many
places, some close to Singapore, a self-excusing religiosity still commits bar-
barities as "holy" wars snuff out the lives of uncountable "others." The at-
tentive Singapore police did not know how to answer my question; the idea
of desecration had no traction in their world. I thought of Thomas More's
1616 Utopia because it imagined that in an ideal kingdom, conduct of the liv-
ing was always observed by the spirits of ancestors who continued to walk
among them. By designing, maintaining, and encouraging participation in
its cemetery, Singapore offers an inspiring counter to social pessimism. It
also denies the premise that groups of people changing from Community
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Fig. 20. Ancestor tablets at Thian Hock Keng Temple.
(tradition, cooperation, kinship identity) to Society (change, competition,
self creation) must inevitably be torn apart. Ironically, the positive ideals
of western religions, the mishpacha (biological family) of the Old Testament
and the koinonia (spiritual family) of the New Testament, find their actual
incarnation in this inspiring non-western space.
James A. Freeman 123
Cemetery researchers never labor alone. We carry with us the accumulated wis-
dom of our predecessors and coworkers. While in Singapore during January 2005, 1
profited from an extraordinary group of helpful informants. They justified the city's
reputation for friendly efficiency. May I thank them here, with the obvious under-
standing that any misstatements result from my own limitations. Two admissions: I
have not attempted to regularize the different phonetic systems for turning Chinese
sounds or family names into English. Likewise, I do not discount the element of
make-believe in the Chinese films cited below as illustrations of various funeral and
burial customs. (For example, the romantic narrative Vie Road Home takes place in
1958, when Mao allowed millions of peasants in the provinces to starve. The movie,
however, idealizes their life in the north as they make different meals each day with
no lack of ingredients.) Because cinema pictures rites and objects similar to the ones
I observed and because the originals are so far removed geographically from most
readers of Markers, I recommend viewing these motion pictures.
In addition to those named in the Notes, I gratefully add Szan Tan, Curator, Asian
Civilisations Museum/ Empress Place, who generously shared her time and expertise
in Chinese cultural history. For social support when I arrived in Singapore, I thank
my former colleagues at the University of Massachusetts/ Amherst, now resident
in Oxford, Emeritus Professor David and Mrs. Miriam Paroissien. Once returned
to Amherst, I appreciated the help of my learned colleague in Asian Languages,
Professor Zhongwei Shen, who translated several obscure inscriptions. In San Diego
during March 2005, Agnes Chua of the Chinese Heritage Museum kindly informed
me of the widespread appearance of fu lions. In South Hadley, Massachusetts, dur-
ing April 2005, Singapore physician and author Vyvyane Loh shared information
about her city during World War II in a seminar discussing her novel, cited below.
Of course, I owe much to the three reviewers of this article and to the perceptive
editor of Markers.
1 Shaping Singapore: A Pictorial Journey (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority,
2 Cheng Lim-Keak, Social Change and the Chinese in Singapore: A Socio-Economic
Geography With Special Reference to Bang Structure (Singapore: Singapore University
Press, 1985), 28.
3 Singapore Historical Postcards From the National Archives Collection (Singapore: Times
Edition, 1995), 9, 70, 71.
4 Lewis Hill, A New Checklist of English-Language Fiction Relating to Malaysia, Singapore
and Brunei (Hull, Humberside: Centre for South-East Asia Studies, University of
Hull, 1991). For fiction based upon historical data about the competing ethnic groups
before World War II, see J. G. Farrell, The Singapore Grip (London: Fontana / Collins,
1979). For an in-depth study of the collision of cultures before and during the war,
see Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia,
1941-1945 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap / Harvard, 2005). For evidence that the British
did not recognize the discontent of Chinese speakers after World War II, see Robert
E. Gamer, Vie Politics of Urban Development in Singapore (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1972), 18-35.
124 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Radio furthered the image of Singapore as a place of raucous sensuality. When
Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco detective Sam Spade tries to find a string of pearls
on one radio program, he hears that it was smuggled into the country by a wom-
an who once "danced on tables in Singapore" ("The String of Death Caper," Tlie
Adventures of Sam Spade, February 2, 1951).
Films also exploited the stereotype of a city that encouraged odd behavior. Since
the 1920s, some half a hundred movies have used Singapore in their title to connote
emotion and danger. Perhaps the best-remembered example, Tire Road to Singapore
(1940), had Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour dilute the formula with
humor. Ever since Across to Singapore (1928), which has Joan Crawford arouse the
love of two men and suffer as the good one is wrongly imprisoned for deserting her
brother in the sinister city, imprisoned, and later involved in a mutiny, the place
name guaranteed automatic fascination. No combination of odd conflicts seemed
out of place. In Road to Singapore (1931), the disgraced William Powell falls in love
with Doris Kenyon on a steamer to the city and urges her to abandon her physician
fiance in the colony. The musical Singapore Sue (1932) has Cary Grant and four sailors
captivated in the town by a Chinese girl from Brooklyn. Out of Singapore (1932) ac-
cepts the utter depravity of Noah Beery, a rascally sailor who plans to scuttle his ship,
poison the captain and possess the captain's daughter. Blonde From Singapore (1941)
has conscienceless Florence Rice try to stay out of a native prince's harem while she
bilks two pearl divers out of money with which they plan to buy a plane and join the
RAF. Singapore Woman (1941) redoes a Bette Davis movie, this time adding an Asian
curse on Brenda Marshall that a handsome rubber planter must remove. Singapore
(1947) has Ava Gardner lose her memory and abandon Fred MacMurray, who duels
with Thomas Gomez to gain stolen pearls. King Rat (1965) details the Darwinian
power struggles among Allied prisoners during World War II in Changi, the infa-
mous Japanese prison camp at the city's eastern edge. Singapore, Singapore (1968)
stars Michel Sean Flynn (son of Errol) as a CIA agent trying to find why US Marines
have been disappearing in the city. Rogue Trader (1999) follows the true career of a
British banker who arrives in Singapore and, through greedy miscalculations, de-
stroys the oldest private bank in England.
With a similar understanding that the place was synonymous with danger and dis-
tance, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, Lee Hays, and the Almanac Singers protest-
ed the start of a draft for World War II in their song "Ballad of October 16": "And
though it may mean war / We must defend Singapore" (Songs for John Doe, Almanac
Records album 102, recorded in New York City, March-April 1941).
5 Chua Beng Huat, "Singapore: Multiracial Harmony as Public Good." In Ethnicity
in Asia (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 104. The "Further read-
ing" section provides a convenient list of works that discuss Singapore's road to
multiracialism. An interesting study of how Chinese in the United States changed
old forms of grave stones and language is C. Fred Blake, "The Chinese of Valhalla
[Missouri]: Adaptation and Identity in a Midwestern American Cemetery," Markers
X (1993): 53-90.
6 Shaping a City (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, nd). An illuminating
history with many maps is Wong Tai-Chee and Yap Lian-Ho Adriel, Four Decades of
Land Use in Singapore: 1960-2000 (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2004).
7 Singapore Year Book 2004 (Singapore: Ministry of Information, 2004): 38.
James A. Freeman 125
8 Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Tan Boon Hui, "The Politics of Space: Changing Discourses
on Chinese Burial Grounds in Post-War Singapore," Journal of Historical Geography 21
(1995): 186. The article well documents how the government's Master Plan of 1958
convinced Chinese to abandon older ideas about the sacredness of individual cem-
eteries based upon narrowly defined "ties of dialect, surname or regional affinity"
(186) and replace such specific allegiances with loyalty to a larger abstraction, the
nation. The same authors update their data in "The 'Remains of the Dead': Spatial
Politics of Nation-Building in Post War Singapore," Human Ecology Review 9 (2002):
9 The Singapore Postage Stamps Catalogue 2005 (Singapore: n.p., 2005). The habit of
teaching by maxims, here aided by modern technology, recalls Confucian and Maoist
pedagogy. The prize-winning film The Road Home (Wo De Pit Qin Mu Qiti. Directed
by Zhang Yimou, 1999) shows a dutiful son in 1998 reciting such aphorisms ("One
must learn to write; One must learn arithmetic; Keep a journal faithfully; Know the
present, know the past; Know respect for your elders") in front of a grade-school
class to honor his late father, the school teacher since 1958, who led such exercises.
10 Vivien Goh, Planning and Contracts Executive, Environmental and Health
Department, National Environmental Agency, Singapore. Interviews and e-mails
during January 2005.
11 Its planners apparently never considered one possible way to preserve the vital
fiction of homogeneity: identical grave markers. The impressive hillside Kranji War
Cemetery opened in 1975. Fourteen miles north of the city, overlooking the Strait of
Johore, it honors Commonwealth soldiers from many homelands who died during
the brutal Japanese invasion of 1939-1945. 4,000 standardized white gravestones rise
up the hill to a large curved stone wall at the crest with 24,313 names engraved on
its panels. See, Introduction to the Singapore Memorial: Historical Notes and Guide to
the Regimental Panel Numbers (Singapore: Commonwealth War Graves Commission,
2004). Additional data and photos of Kranji appear at http://www.petrowilliams.
12 Michael Pve, "Rationality, Ritual and Life-Shaping Decisions in Modern Japan,"
University of Marburg Centre for Japanese Studies Occasional Papers 29 (2003): 19.
13 Alwi Bin Sheikh Alhady briefly describes these rituals in Malay Customs and
Traditions (Singapore: Donald Moore Press, 1967), 52-58. The importance of the jour-
ney to Mecca in Muslim thought is discussed in William R. Roff, "Social Science
Approaches to Understanding Religious Practice: The Special Case of the Ha))."
In Malaysia: Islam, Society and Politics, eds. Virginia Hooker and Nokani Othman
(Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2003), 37-54.
14 Russi Ghadali, President, Parsi Zoroastrian Association of Singapore, Singapore.
E-mail, February 2005. Shehrnaz Panthaky, informant, Zoroastrian Studies. E-mail,
15 Eze Nathan describes two earlier Jewish cemeteries, one on Orchard Road (1841-
1904) and the second on Thomson Road (1905-1973) in Tlie History of the Jews in
Singapore: 1830-1945 (Singapore: HERBILU, 1986), 178-86. The quotation about the
first arrivals is on 1-2.
126 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
16 A Guide to a Proper Buddhist Funeral (Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: Kopersai
Buddhisme Malaysia Berhad, nd), iii. According to the 2000 census, Chinese iden-
tify their religious affiliations as 42.5% Buddhist, 14.9% Muslim, 14.8% No Religion,
14.6% Christian, and 4% Hindu. Choong Chee Pang, "Religious Composition of
the Chinese in Singapore: Some Comments on the Census 2000." In Ethnic Chinese
in Singapore and Malaysia: A Dialogue between Tradition and Modernism, ed. Leo
Suryadinata (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 2002), 325-336. Although not men-
tioning Choa Chu Kang, the fullest guide to funeral customs is Tong Chee-Kiong,
Chinese Death Rituals in Singapore (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).
Articles on related customs appear in Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China,
eds. James L. Watson and Evelyn S. Rawski (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1988) and JoAnn Meriwether Craig, Culture Shock! Singapore (Singapore: Times Books
17 The CHIJmes website appears at www.chijmes.com. Additional data and photos of
Bukit Brown appear at http://www.spi.com.sg/haunted/ghoulish_trial/main/04.
18 Tong Chee Kiong, "Death Rituals and Ideas of Pollution Among the Chinese in
Singapore," Contributions to Southeast Asia Ethnography 9 (1990): 110. More data about
how rites change the dead from potentially hostile beings into benefactors appears
in Kuah-Pearce Khun Eng, State Society and Religious Engineering: Toward a Reformist
Buddhism in Singapore (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003), 39-49. Lee Siew-
Peng compares traditional Chinese ideas with contemporary practice in "Managing
'Face,' Hvgiene and Convenience at a Chinese Funeral in Singapore," Mortality 8
"Fiction illustrates this custom. When a best-selling mystery writer wishes to com-
municate the isolation of a lisping Malay widow, he has her explain to a Singapore
detective why her husband's body rests in a study: "Oh, I should have put him in the
living room for a proper wake, if we knew anyone here, but we don't. All our people
are dead or emigrated. . . . There wasn't any point in laying him out for wiewing.
After all, who is there to wiew him?" Nury Vittachi, "Scarlet in a Study," The Feng
Shui Detective (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2002), 35.
20 Joseph Cheng, Assistant Curator, Chinatown Heritage Centre, Singapore.
Interview, January 2005. A larger coffin, typical of China's northern plains, is so
heavy that it must be carried by 12 men in the film The Road Home. Both its top and
sides are rounded.
21 The acclaimed film Shadow Magic (Xi Xang Jing. Directed by Ann Hu, 1999) shows
these barrier sills in front of a photographer's studio, an opera house, and the palace
of the Dowager Empress in 1902 Beijing. Also, two guardian fu lions (explained be-
low), approximately five inches long, crawl up the front of an ornate still camera.
-Breaking the Tongue (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2004), 44.
23 Donald Swearer, Director, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions. Talk
at Amherst College, 1 March 2005.
James A. Freeman 127
24 The award-winning film Hong Kofig 1941 (Dang Doi Lai Ming, "Waiting for
Daybreak." Directed by Leung Po-Chih, 1984) has the resentful hustler Wong Hak
Keung (Alex Mann/ Huang King) explain his poverty by pointing to ancestor tablets.
On the left, the names of his grandfather and father; on the right, his name. "They
lost everything," he wails, "and left me nothing."
25 Menshcn were brought from China. Hong Kong 1941 shows pictures of guardians
tacked to doors of a rich rice merchant and the well-off uncle of Yip Kim Fay (Chow
Yun Fat) in pre-war Hong Kong.
26 The specimen of Hell Money pictured here wishes good winds for your boat's
sails as you set off to the Western Kingdom. Most temples contain at least one oven
in which the giver may contribute to those in the next world, symbolically provid-
ing ancestors with money to bribe officials in one of the fabled ten courts of the
underworld, territories that rival Dante's most lurid visions of the Inferno. Artists
depict them with exquisite craftsmanship in wall paintings at the Asian Civilisations
Museum/ Empress Place and with rollicking kitschiness at the Disney-like Haw Par
Villa on Pasir Panjang Road (you enter a dragon's mouth to view them). What real
fear such fire-demons-and-pain visions inspire in modern spectators cannot be de-
termined, although the tradition of easing the lot of a vagrant soul by forwarding
money still appeals to many people. Temples furnish bundles of notes and ovens of
varied shapes so one can easily forward contributions.
Again, fiction describes the practice. To celebrate the funeral of a ninety-seven-year
old refugee from Peking, an Asian American named Winnie buys, "a dozen or so
bundles of spirit money, money Great Auntie can supposedly use to bribe her way
along to Chinese heaven." Amy Tan, The Kitchen God's Wife (New York: Ivy Books,
27 The prize-winning film from Mainland China To Live (Huozhe. Directed by Zhang
Yimou, 1994) pictures the grief-stricken mother (Gong Li) visiting the earthen burial
mound of her young son and leaving a tin of dumplings. "Now you can sleep," she
28 Lai Kuan Fook, The Hennessy Book of Chinese Festivals (Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann
Asia, 1984). Goh Pei Ki, Origins of Chinese Festivals (Singapore: Asiapac, 2003). Lee
Slow Mong, Spectrum of Chinese Culture (Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: Pelanduk,
1986). Lim SK and Li Xiaoxiang, Gateway to Chinese Culture (Singapore: Asiapac,
2003). Video of Qing Ming at The Museum of Asian Civilisations/ Empress Place. A
picture of Qing Ming appears at the website of the National Archives of Singapore
www.a2o.com.sg. I have been told that the younger generation seems less eager to
participate in this thoughtful rite, but the government warnings in pamphlets, web-
sites, and posters about overcrowded highways on Qing Ming suggest an unwar-
One study shows that younger, English educated Chinese in the 1990s seemed less
committed to belonging to a particular temple, to devotion to one deity, or to partici-
pation in minor religious festivals. However, almost everyone celebrated the lunar
New Year, more than 80% visited grave sites/ columbaria, and 60% prayed to ances-
tors at home. Tong Chee Kiong, Ho Kong Chong, Lin Ting Kwong, "Traditional
128 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
Chinese Customs in Modern Singapore." In Asian Traditions and Modernization:
Perspectives From Singapore, ed. Yong Mun Cheong (Singapore: Centre for Advanced
Studies, National University of Singapore, 1992), 78-101. Tong Chee Kiong, "The
Rationalization of Religion in Singapore." The well-received film Yi Yi (A One and
a Two. Directed by Edward Yang, 1999) shows the ultra-modern apartments of '90s
Taipei. The one belonging to the main characters, a computer executive and his wife
who feels spiritually empty when her mother suffers a stroke and dies, has no altars.
Western furniture and a reproduction of a Renoir to decorate the rooms; the young
son has a "Batman & Robin" poster on his wall.
Imagining Singapore, second edition, eds. Ban Kah Choon, Anne Pakir, Tong Chee
Kiong (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2002), 290-309 uses census figures and
anecdotal evidence to argue that even in this most secular and materialistic city,
Buddhism has grown, evidence that "many Singaporeans [are] changing their reli-
gious affiliations, rather than [submitting to] a process of decline" (298).
Another fete in honor of spirits occurs in the city during the lunar calendar's seventh
month (usually August-September). Like Halloween, the Hungry Ghosts Festival
(Zhong Yuan Jie) stresses the malevolent possibilities of the ungrateful dead. To
placate them, people burn hell money, offer food, and distract them with outdoor
operas. An admired film illustrates this perennial belief: When an itinerant street
performer called the King of Masks is in jail awaiting execution in 1930s Sichuan,
he laments that in a previous life he must have been mean to Doggie, his adop-
tive daughter. Now, though, he has treated her well and thus can beg, "Burn spirit
money for me in the Ghost Festivals and you'll have done the right thing by me" (Tlie
King of Masks. Bian Lion. Directed by Tian Ming Wu, 1996). Previously, the movie
showed an episode of an opera set in Buddhist hell and we understand his fear of the
underworld creatures, here imitated by actors wearing demon and animal masks.
More data on hungry spirits can be found at
A collection of Hungry Ghosts Festival photos from 2002 appears at
http:// www. the-inncrowd.imageshungry ghosts/ index. html
The film Big Shot's Funeral (Da Wan. Directed by Feng Yiao Gang, 2001) presents both
old and new concepts of proper funeral rites. As movie director Donald Sutherland
appears to be dying in Beijing, he instructs his cameraman Yo Yo (Ge You) to put
on a "comedy funeral." Reluctant at first, Yo Yo finally succumbs to modernity and
plans to display Sutherland's body on a costly Italian bed, garbed in brand-name
sunglasses and running shoes, holding mineral water in one hand and, in his mouth,
a tea bag, while a blimp advertising an airline flies overhead and posters hawk Bad
News Beer, 666 Cigarettes, and Outback Steak House. Yo Yo's transgressive maneu-
vers cost him his sanity.
29 The honored film Wliat Time is it There? (Neibian Jidian; Ni Nei Pen Chi Tien. Directed
by Ming-Liang Tsai, 2001) shows many of the funeral customs discussed above.
Hsaio-Kang (Kang-Sheng Lee), a bored street peddler of wristwatches in current
Taipei, has to adjust to his father's death and the pious demands of his inconsolable
mother. In the columbarium, a yellow-robed Buddhist priest conducts the ceremony
to place his father's urn in its niche: Hsaio-Kang must listen to chanting and the ring-
James A. Freeman 129
ing of a bell, then bow three times. At home, Mother (Yi-Ching Lu) sets dinner for the
father as usual, propping up his picture against a wall. When Hsaio-Kang comes to
the table with its many bowls, he tastes one, and Mother tells him to bow three times.
A priest gives Mother "Yin-Yang water" (1/2 cold, 1/2 boiled), which she places
high on apartment's shelf-like altar. She will watch its level to see if the departed fa-
ther has drunk his fill. Her demands become more bizarre, although they each have
precedents in traditional practice. Hsaio-Kang catches a cockroach and drops it into
the fish tank for Fatty, a large white pet. Upset, Mother worries, "It could be your
Father's reincarnation. Didn't the priest tell you not to harm any living creature for
49 days?" Even when dining alone with the son, Mother sets a bowl for Father and
asks, "I wonder if he wants some duck." Finally, as Mother nails blankets over the
windows to darken the apartment ("He's afraid of the light"), Hsiao-Kang explodes,
130 Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and Its Chinese Section
APPENDIX I: BUDDHIST CREMATIONS
The two Buddhist cremation ceremonies I observed at Bright Hill followed an iden-
tical pattern. Family members clad in white shirts knelt behind tables heaped with
food, flowers, and lights like those in temples and homes. After bowing and praying,
they rose and followed a bald, saffron-robed Buddhist priest as he chanted and led
them clockwise around the offering counters. (Traditionally, one keeps the right side
toward the venerated object whether it is a coffin, statue, or stupa, the symbolic pil-
lar.) Accompanying his prayers, musicians beat four drums, blew a flute, and shook
cymbals, perhaps, like certain Christian practices, to frighten away evil spirits. When
the triple circuit ended, the coffin slid quickly into the furnace and the mourners,
many stoic, some sobbing openly, filed out of the building. Within two hours, the
ashes could be reclaimed and put into an urn. My gracious informant, Angela Goh-
Suresh, Corporate Affairs Director of the Dharma Propagation Division, explained
that color-coded urns, placed in different sections of the columbarium at different
heights, cost from S$3,800 (US$2,280) for a blue container to S$15,000 (US$9000) for
a silver one.
APPENDIX II: BUDDHIST COLUMBARIA
The three Buddhist columbaria that I visited encourage tranquility by different
means. The state-run columbarium at Choa Chu Kang conforms to feng shui
ideals. Trees, water, gently curving walls, well-lit interiors, and complete accessibility
invite next of kin to visit, present flowers, and meditate. Its friendly and informative
Director, Tan Kai Hee, pointed to these features and noted that the eighteen four-
story buildings house some 147,000 niches without seeming crowded.
A second columbarium, the private An Le Memorial Park, roughly a kilometer away
on the same road, likewise comforts with its surrounding greenery. Yet its grand
marble Shrine Hall chooses a different way to soothe customers. Three enormous
golden statues greet you, emphasizing the sumptuous holiness of this repository.
On the left, Di Zang Wang Pa Sa sits, a former monk who promised Buddha that
he would remain in the underworld (Di Yu) until all evildoers repented. He holds a
fireball in his hand, reminding us that he will not soon reappear on earth because he
currently helps someone's relatives. On the viewer's right, Kwan Yin, the popular
deity of mercy, sits with a vase of holy water and a willow branch to sprinkle on
those who need help (Willows grow at the entrance to this hall, yet another link
between life and afterlife.) This divinity looks delicate but has big hands because,
like angels in John Milton's Paradise Lost, s/he can be either male or female depend-
ing on the suppliant's gender. (My cordial informants, Yi Ting ["Jade Courtyard"],
Secretary of An Le, and Dawn Lim Huishan ["Wisdom"], Publicist, smiled when
they noted Kwan Yin should have a more modest robe in case he chooses to become
a she.) Serenely located between these reliable helpers, the gleaming Buddha com-
municates peace. The lotuses on which he sits insulate him from our world of crav-
ing and remind viewers that they too can rise above the stressful earth.
James A. Freeman 1 3 1
Such calm appears impervious to mutability. Flanking the three gods, two warriors
carefully watch the hall. Master Kwon, on the viewer's left, safeguards the great
hall. The sentry on the viewer's right scrutinizes all who enter. Gwan Yu (born Qie
Lan Ru Sa during the period of the Three Kingdoms in the sixth century C. E.) was
a fierce fighter before his enemies decapitated him. Like Saint Denis in Paris, Saint
Regula in Zurich, and San Miniato in Florence, he walked about without his head
until he met a sage who promised, "You killed many; when you do penance, I will
join vour head to your body." To the right of these five peacekeepers, ancestral tab-
lets in a side chapel mount up behind tables artfully set with food and joss sticks. The
10,000 square meter facility can accommodate 100,000 niches in pious luxury.
The other private columbarium, Bright Hill, connects to the crematorium via a hand-
some covered walkway. Instead of the open-air configuration of Choa Chu Kang or
the grandeur of An Le, this repository is enclosed but accessible by stairs and eleva-
tors. It varies the niche-only pattern by placing statues of Buddha or Bodhisattvas
(those who achieved enlightenment but volunteered to remain on earth) at the end
of several rows. There the Buddha or Budhisattva sits, separated from this world
by a lotus cushion, holding a pilgrim's staff in the right hand and, with the left, sig-
nifying meditation by his upturned palm mudra, or conventional hand gesture. He
keeps eternal watch over ancestors, while families visit, open the niche door, present
flowers, and address the urns. Because relatives often call upon the departed for spe-
cial favors, the presence of demi-gods encourages suppliants to believe that their re-
quests will be heard. Such conversations are apparently still felt to be two-way: In Yi
Yi, even the thoroughly secularized computer company executive Nj Jian (Nianzhen
Wu) replies to a spiritual master who says, "A purified soul helps the gods answer
prayers," "But maybe I'd anger the gods by making too many requests. If I turn to
them only for the big things I can't handle, my sincerity may impress them."
Pictures of all three columbaria appear at
Pictures of Choa Chu Kang, Mandai, and Yishun appear at
Five pictures of Choa Chu Kang appear at
Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an Unusual Nevada Gravesite
Fig. 1. Grave of Clyde Hart, Route 266, Palmetto, NV.
Richard Franeaviglia 133
Isolation and Memory:
Lessons From an Unusual Nevada Gravesite
North of Death Valley, lightly traveled state highway 266 stretches like
a roller coaster across the rugged basin-and-range topography of Esmeralda
County, Nevada. Motorists nearing a point about half a mile west of the
long-abandoned silver ore milling town of Palmetto may notice what ap-
pears to be a roadside fatality site memorial marker about one hundred feet
north of the highway. Slowing down, one can see that this memorial could
also be a religious shrine as it is prominently situated and enclosed by a
low fence. However, curious motorists who stop here and walk the short
distance uphill to this memorial soon realize that it is not a highway fatality
marker, nor is it a shrine. It is, in fact, one of the more interesting gravesites
in Nevada (Fig. 1).
This gravesite is unusual for several reasons. First, its base consists of
a rectangular pile of rocks. This technique recalls western frontier locales
where rocky soils prohibited digging deep graves, or time was scarce. Under
these circumstances, graves were shallow and rocks were piled on top of the
corpse or casket to protect it from animal predators and scavengers. The sec-
ond unusual aspect of this grave, which lies in an east-west direction essen-
tially paralleling the highway, is that it is carefully fenced (Fig. 2). Although
fencing around graves was common in Victorian-era Nevada cemeteries,
this grave is all alone. The rectangular enclosure around this gravesite is
actually two fences, both painted white. The outermost fencing is perforated
metal similar to that used for road signposts. Each post is topped by a ball
that resembles a home-made finial. This outer fence appears to date from
the 1950s. The interior fence, however, is wooden and much older — evi-
dently the original enclosure around this grave.
A look inside the enclosure reveals the third element that makes this
site so unusual — a hand-carved wooden grave marker that faces east. The
marker is of the type classified as a "tablet"; that is, a flat marker featur-
ing a curved, semi-circular top. 1 These were common in the late nineteenth
century but were also used in cemeteries in the first quarter of the twenti-
eth. The marker seems out of place by itself, and so close to a highway. A
look at the date carved into this wooden marker — 1907 — confirms that this
gravesite is nearly a century old. The name on the marker — Clyde Hart — is
accompanied by the information that he was "age 5" when he died in 1907.
With this revelation, the pathos mounts because this is not only an isolated
grave but also a child's final resting place. A cross in a circle is carved below
Clyde Hart's name, age, and date of death. Normally, a child's grave is lo-
Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an Unusual Nevada Gravesite
Fig. 2. View of fenced grave of Clyde Hart, Palmetto, NV.
cated close to the graves of other family members, but because Clyde Hart's
grave is so completely isolated, it evokes a sense of loneliness. Its desert set-
ting is a metaphor for this child's grave being so utterly deserted by family.
People who pause at Clyde Hart's grave may wonder if he had a connec-
tion to the nearby ghost town of Palmetto. A historic marker near the ruins
of Palmetto's buildings provides a tantalizing glimpse of boom and bust.
Additional research reveals that Palmetto boomed because its geographic
location in a valley between the Sylvania and Palmetto mountains, the sites
of mines whose ores were shipped to Palmetto for milling and concentra-
tion. Palmetto was one of several mining-related communities in the area,
including Sylvania and Pigeon Spring, but Palmetto had several advantages
over the others, including a dependable source of water, its central position
in this mining area, and its location on the road connecting part of western
Nevada with communities in eastern California. All these factors helped it
grow faster than the other communities.
Palmetto experienced several booms beginning in 1860, but the third
boom, which began in 1906, was short-lived. By 1907, most of the town's
residents had left for more promising areas, including the Silverpeak dis-
trict. 2 That association with boom-bust history makes Clyde Hart's grave all
Richard Francaviglia 135
the more interesting and poignant. He died at just the time when Palmetto
was beginning its rapid descent into ghost-town status. Genealogical records
provide the barest of facts: Clyde Marshall Hart and his brother Kenneth
Victor Hart (d. Jan. 12, 1907, Palmetto) apparently were the sons of Victor
Emmett and Lydia Evelyn (Pepper) Hart, originally from Humbolt County,
California. 3 The little information we have about Palmetto and Clyde Hart
helps sustain the mystery of this unfortunate young boy. One assumes that
Clyde's parents, and perhaps his siblings, buried him here during what
turned out to be the town's last boom. Although the town of Palmetto is
but a pile of rocks and a few forlorn walls today, Clyde Hart's grave stands
in stark contrast. It is, in fact, the best maintained feature in a landscape
marked by desolation.
If Clyde Hart's gravesite is so well-maintained that it contrasts with the
town's forlorn ruins, it also resonates as peculiar for a deeper reason. This
is a ghost-town site, but we sense that someone is still lavishing attention on
a site that is otherwise abandoned. Moreover, it appears that more than one
person is involved; in fact, people of varied ages continue to place items —
plastic flowers, and toys — in remembrance of the five year old who was laid
to rest here about a century ago. What are we to make of this enigmatic
gravesite, which is so isolated and yet so well-maintained?
A check of the records reveals no Hart family nearby today, although the
maintenance conceivably could represent the actions of other family mem-
bers who occasionally visit the site. A call to the Esmeralda County record-
er's office confirmed that Clyde Hart has no remaining kin here. When I
called that office, I was fortunate to make contact with Angela Hague, who
knows many of the local people. She confirmed that Clyde Hart's grave has
been maintained for several generations by unrelated people who cherish
the county's history. For many years, Steven Loncar maintained the grave,
and for the last twenty years, Nora "Tootsie" Adams and her husband, Dee
Adams, have kept this grave in fine condition. 4
This private citizen involvement in the maintenance of an unknown
person's grave may seem unusual to those not from a rural county in the
Intermountain West. One's first tendency might be to think that some gov-
ernmental agency maintains the gravesite. This, however, is not the case. In
rural Nevada, there is a high degree of independence from government, and
a paradoxical emphasis on individualism and volunteerism. Clyde Hart's
well-maintained grave could be a manifestation of the fact that Esmeralda
County is so conservative politically. It is one of those "red" counties where
a majority of the people, over 75%, voted Republican in the 2004 election. 5
Regardless of the motives of its caretakers, however, the gravesite con-
tinues to impress passersby of varied beliefs. The site — or should one say
sight? — of Clyde Hart's grave is so touching that some of them have placed
items of remembrance. The toys include a small truck, a colorful plastic
136 Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an Unusual Nevada Gravesite
biplane, and stuffed animals — for example, a pink and gray hippopotamus.
Although we commonly think of the desert as a locale whose dry air can
preserve artifacts, the elements here can be harsh, even destructive, on such
objects. Nevada's stark desert landscape basks in bright sunlight much of
the year, and the overall character of the landscape — a sagebrush, pinon
pine, and Joshua Tree high desert — is painted by nature in subtle earth and
subdued tones. The fierce Nevada sun bleaches and fades nearly everything
here, but many of the objects on Clyde Hart's grave are brightly colored —
an indicator that they were placed here in the recent past. Although the
gravesite is well maintained, the caretakers themselves do not place objects
there. According to Angela Hague, that is done by "persons unknown" who
travel the highway. Those toys just appear from time to time with no fan-
fare. As testimony to this gravesite's uniqueness, there is even a Webpage
dedicated to it on the "Ghost Town Seekers Remote Nevada" Website. 6 The
Website's authors note that "[tjhere is [sic] several toys on the grave site, one
was so new the paint was not even faded."
This gravesite reveals relatively little information about Clyde Hart, but
much more about the power of some sites to prod emotions and stimulate
memory. A closer look at the dynamics of this site reveals eight major fac-
tors worth interpreting:
1) Suggested Isolation. Whereas true isolation — a site totally away
from traveled roads — may result in oblivion, this gravesite is
located close enough to a paved but lightly traveled road to
suggest isolation but to be seen daily by travelers. Passersby
who gaze away northward from the right of way are very likely
to see the gravesite because it is within their line of sight as they
drive along highway 266 (Fig. 3).
2) Sequestered Visibility. Although the gravesite is located in a
prominent position, it is far enough off the road to suggest a
specialness. It is highly visible because its whiteness contrasts
with the more somber colored, rocky, brush-covered hillside.
That encourages curious passersby to stop. Close enough
for easy visitation, but visually separate from the roadway, it
conveys a sense of specialness.
3) Partitioned Space. The fence around the gravesite draws our
attention because it suggests that something of value inside it is
being protected. At this level of perception, the whiteness of the
fence conveys a sense of a Victorian propriety, and the double
fencing itself reinforces the impression that this is a site that is
not only private, but perhaps even sacred.
Fig. 3. Clyde Hart's grave seen from Route 266, Palmetto, NV.
4) Historical Contextuality. People who gaze into the gravesite
immediately recognize the marker as "historical" for at least
two reasons: its weathered wood suggests a historic artifact, as
does its tablet shape, which subliminally reminds one of "Boot
Hill" in the popular mind. The date 1907 confirms the viewer's
suspicion that the site is venerable — and venerated.
5) Poignant Narrative. In the simplest of phrases, "AGE 5," the
marker evokes pathos and provokes questions about untimely
loss and the unfairness associated with the death of children.
We know so much, and so little, about Clyde Hart from the
phrase. Even the modern passerby feels the loss associated
with Clyde Hart's fate, for he died so young that he was denied
the full life we all subconsciously assume is "normal."
6) Causal Ambiguity. This gravesite provides just enough
information — a male child was buried here nearly a century
ago — to start our minds racing. We assume he was an Anglo-
138 Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an Unusual Nevada Gravesite
American, as suggested by his name and by the late-Victorian
style marker and enclosure, which reinforces that identity. But
we are left with many questions: What caused Clyde Hart's
untimely death? Was it disease, or perhaps even a buckboard
accident along the road? Local legend going back generations
claims that he was bitten by a rattlesnake, but that raises even
more questions: Is the story true or apocryphal — a generic
warning to children to be careful and on the lookout for
poisonous snakes that inhabit the region?
7) Public Empathy. Clyde Hart's death raises still other questions:
Where was his family when he died? Where did they go after
he died? Where is his family today? These lingering questions
ensure that the site will continue to haunt the intellect and
tug at universal human emotions. Like the unknown soldier,
Clyde Hart becomes a public figure by virtue of his being lost to
family, but embraced by a much larger number of people who
immortalize him to ensure he will not be forgotten.
8) Generational Homage. The maintenance of Clyde Hart's grave
has become a community affair in an area where residents are
few and far between. The plastic flowers placed on the gravesite
are evidently the work of adults, but the toys suggest a sacrifice
by more recent children who have become engaged in the
process of mourning — and storytelling. As noted above, one
of the most poignant features of the site is the presence of toys;
perhaps these were placed not by adults but by children who
visit the site in the company of adults. In a sense, the children
"remember" Clyde Hart by sacrificing their own toys in his
memory. In another sense, however, they realize their own
good fortune as they ponder the meaning of his gravesite.
Located in a seemingly isolated setting but not far from a paved highway
in extreme western Nevada, the gravesite of Clyde Hart stimulates both the
senses and the intellect. On a road where travelers are primed to experi-
ence the remote West's history of pioneer-era mining towns and stunning
desert-mountain scenery that dwarfs the works of humankind, the gravesite
is evidently irresistible to some passersby. Once there, they encounter an
enigma — the grave of a child who has been left utterly alone in a seeming
wilderness. The remains of nearby Palmetto are explained in an informative
historical marker, but Clyde Hart's grave is essentially undocumented — ex-
cept for the scant biographical information carved into the wooden grave-
Richard Francavialia 139
marker. The site's poignancy is, therefore, due in part to its incompleteness
as a document of what we sense is evidently a very interesting and touching
story. It is also a function of design and positioning as a fragile artifact pre-
served in a landscape of ruin and desolation.
A step-by-step analysis of questions about this mysterious individual
gravesite reveals several very important lessons about the power of a single
gravesite to affect the human mind. My interpretation points to the neces-
sity of tension, even embedded internal conflict, as a factor in remembrance.
It also reveals why an entire cemetery that is constantly surrounded by hun-
dreds of thousands of people may be more easily forgotten, relatively speak-
ing, than one grave by which a few hundred people pass daily. Thus it is
that from even the most "empty" of places, we can learn much about the
richness of human behavior.
All photographs are by the author.
1 Richard Francaviglia, "The Cemetery as an Evolving Cultural Landscape," Annals,
Association of American Geographers 61.3 ( September 1971): 501-509.
2 Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps (1970; Las Vegas: Nevada
Publications, 1984), 412.
3 An unidentified family source, registering information through "One World Tree"
at Ancestry.com, provided birth, death, and marriage dates and locations for this
family. The family genealogy differs somewhat from the gravestone inscription,
but that is not terribly unusual. Clyde Marshall Hart therefore would have been
only 3, not the 5 years old listed on the marker. The U. S. Federal Census tracks
familv residences and provides additional information that shows that the family
returned to California shortly after the death of the two sons in Palmetto.
4 Angela Hague, personal communication with author, October 28, 2004.
? In fact, 76% of the county voted for George W. Bush, in contrast to Las Vegas
(Clark County), where John Kerry won with about 52% of the vote. Interestingly,
however, Esmeralda County is not the most politically conservative county in
Nevada, with Eureka (77%), Elko (78%), Lander (78%), and Lincoln County (77%)
casting even more conservative votes; see Website (http://network.ap.org/dynamic/
ON=POLITICS), C-SPAN 2004 General Election Results for Nevada, 2/22/05.
6 http://www.robertwynn.com/PalC.htm, October 18, 2004.
The Year's Work in Cemetery and Gravemarker
Studies: An International Bibliography
Starting with Markers XXI (2004), this annual bibliography of scholarship
begun by Richard E. Meyer in 1995 appears in a more streamlined form,
with coverage of pre-modern and non-English language titles significantly
curtailed. The bibliography still aims to provide comprehensive coverage
of the most recent English-language scholarship about gravemarkers,
cemeteries, monuments, and memorials in the modern era (i.e., post-1500).
As in the past, most marginal materials are necessarily omitted, including
entries that would fall under the heading of "death and dying" as well as
newspaper articles, book reviews, items in trade and popular magazines,
and compilations of gravemarker transcriptions. For books and articles with
vague or ambiguous titles, I have tried to include brief subject descriptions.
This year's bibliography includes items published in 2004 and 2005; items
published in 2005 after this bibliography was compiled will be included
in next year's listing. Notable this year is the growing number of heavily
illustrated cemetery books in the "Images of America" series published by
Arcadia Press. Books from self-publishing services such as iUniverse and
Authorhouse also are increasing, as computers, the Internet, and related
developments make both printing and distributing self-published books
easier and more economical.
Books, Monographs, Pamphlets, etc.
Adler, Marie- Ange d'. Le cimetiere musulman de Bobigny: lieu de memoire d'un siecle
d' immigration. Paris: Autrement, 2005.
Arrigo, Ian, and Laura A. McElroy. Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Journey through the
Cities of the Dead. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 2005.
Ashley, Peter. Lest We Forget: War Memorials. Swindon: English Heritage, 2004.
Bailey, Bob. Baseball Burial Sites. Haworth, NJ: St. lohann Press, 2004.
Bateson, Ray. Vie End: An Illustrated Guide to the Graves of Irish Writers.
Warrenstown, Kilcock, Co. Meath: Irish Graves Publications, 2004.
Beach, Darren. London's Cemeteries. London: Metro, 2005.
Belardi, Paolo. L'architettura del cimitero tra memoria e invenzione [20 th -century Italian
cemeteries]. [Perugia]: Edilprom, 2005.
Ben-Ur, A viva, and Rachel Frankel. "Remnant Stones: The lewish Cemeteries and
Synagogue of Suriname." Los Angeles, CA: Hebrew Union College Press,
Berresford, Sandra, Robert Fichter, and Robert Freidus. Italian Memorial Sculpture,
1820-1940: A Legacy of Love. London: Frances Lincoln, 2004.
Biraben, Anne. Les cimetieres militaires de France: Architecture et pax/sage. Paris:
Blair, William Alan. Cities of the Dead: Contesting the Memory of the Civil War in the
South, 1865-1914. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Book Blocks. Goodbye, Cruel World: A Book of Memorable Epitaphs. London: Book
Bower, John. Guardians of the Soul: Angels and Innocents, Mourners and Saints -
Indiana's Remarkable Cemetery Sculpture. Bloomington, IN: Studio Indiana,
Brown, Thomas J. The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with
Documents. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
Bryant, Julius. Thomas Banks, 1735-1805: Britain's First Modern Sculptor. [London]:
Soane Gallery, 2005.
Bunce, Fredrick W. Islamic Tombs in India: Tlie Iconography and Genesis of their Design.
New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 2004.
Carver, M. O. H. Sutton Hoo: A Seventh-Century Princely Burial Ground and its
Context. London: British Museum Press, 2005.
Las alidades y los muertos: cementerios de America Latina. Bogota, D.C.: Alcaldia
Mayor de Bogota: Instituto Distrital de Cultura y Turismo: Observatorio
de Cultura Urbana: Museo de Bogota, 2004.
Clark, Colin, and Reuben Davison. In Loving Memory: The Ston/ of Undercliffe
Cemetery. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2004.
Clarke, John M. London's Necropolis: A Guide to Brookwood Cemetery. Stroud, UK:
Clark-Deces, Isabelle. No One Cries for the Dead: Tamil Dirges, Rowdy Songs, and
Graveyard Petitions. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.
Curl, James Stevens. The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the Inspiration for Design
Motifs in the West. 3 rd edition, rev. & expanded. Abingdon [UK]; New
York: Routledge, 2005.
Diem, Werner. Tlie Living and the Dead in Islam: Studies in Arabic Epitaphs.
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004.
Dodson, Aidan. The Royal Tombs of Great Britain: An Illustrated History. London:
Eckert, Eva. Stones on the Prairie: Acculturation in America. Bloomington, IN: Slavica
Eckfeld, Tonia. Imperial Tombs in Tang China, 618-907: The Politics of Paradise.
London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2005.
Erickson, Jo. Engraved in Stone: Timeless Epitaphs of Celebrities, Scoundrels and
Everyday People. Toronto: MCD, 2004.
Fairer, Katie. "Death is the Great Equalizer," or Is It? [Deerfield, MA, cemeteries].
Deerfield, MA: Historic Deerfield Fellowship Program, 2004.
Francis, Doris, Leoni Kellaher, and Georgina Nophytou. The Secret Cemetery
["memorial practices of people from Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish,
Roman Catholic and Anglican faiths, as well as the unchurched"].
London: Berg Publishers, 2005.
Goodman, Fred. The Secret City: Woodlawn Cemetery and the Buried History of New
York. New York: Broadway Books, 2004.
Gould, Alice Perkins. Tlie Old Jewish Cemeteries of Newark. Bergenfield, NJ:
Grace, Kevin, and Tom White. Cincinnati Cemeteries: Tlie Queen City Underground.
Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2005.
Graham, John W. Tlie Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s: Overseas Grave
Visitations by Mothers and Widows of Fallen U.S. World War I Soldiers.
Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005.
Haley, Shawn D., and Curt Fukuda. Day of the Dead: Wlien Two Worlds Meet in
Oaxaca. New York: Berghahn Books, 2004.
Hamscher, Albert N., ed. Kansas Cemeteries in History. Manhattan, KS: KS
Hanson, Neil. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. London: Doubleday, 2005.
Haraszti, Gyorgy, and Peter Antal. Zsido siremlekek Budapesten [Jewish cemeteries of
Budapest]. Budapest, Hungary: Nemzeti Kegyeleti Bizottsag, 2004.
Healy, Clement M. North Fork Cemeteries [Long Island, NY]. Charleston, SC:
Heller, Allan M. Philadelphia Area Cemeteries. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 2005.
Hoffmann-Axthelm, Dieter. Der Grosse Jiidenhof: ein Berliner Ort und das Verhiiltnis
von Juden und Christenin der deutschen Stadt des Mittelalters. Berlin: Lukas,
Home, Ronald William, Lisa Montanarelli, and Geoffrey Link. Forgotten Faces: A
Window into Our Immigrant Past. San Francisco, CA: Personal Genesis Pub.,
Huber, Leonard Victor, Mary Louise Christovich, Peggy McDowell, et al. Neiv
Orleans Architecture, Volume III: The Cemeteries. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub.
Co., 2004, (c)2002.
Isaacs, Ronald H. Gates of Heaven: A Handbook for Unveilings and Visiting the
Cemetery. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2004.
Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and
Iconography. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2004.
Kennedy, Linda J., and Mary Jane Galer. Historic Linwood Cemeten/ [Columbus,
GA]. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.
Kenney, Kimberly A. Canton's West Lawn Cemetery. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.
Kidd, William, and Brian Murdoch. Memory and Memorials: Tlie Commemorative
Century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.
King, Gregg, Susan Kosky, Kathleen Glynn, et al. Michigan Historic Cemetery
Preservation Manual. [Lansing: Michigan State Historic Preservation
Klein, Jerry, and Jack L. Bradley. The Lost Art of Our Nation's Cemeteries. [Chillicothe,
IL: Riverbeach Pub.,] 2005.
Knoblock, Glenn A. Portsmouth [NH] Cemeteries. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2005.
Kochmann, Rachel M. Presidents: A Pictorial Guide to the Presidents' Birthplaces,
Homes, and Burial Sites. Osage, MN: Osage Publications, 2004.
Kucharsky, Danny. Sacred Ground on de la Savane: Montreal's Baron de Hirsch
Cemetery. Montreal, Can.: Vehicule Press, 2005.
Lauwers, Michel. Naissance du cimetiere: lieux sacres et terre des morts dans I'Occident
medieval. Paris: Aubier Editions, Flammarion, 2005.
Leahy, Chrostopher W., and Clare Walker Leslie. Birds and Birding at Mount Auburn
Cemetery: An Introductory Guide. [Cambridge, MA]: Friends of Mount
Auburn Cemetery, 2004.
Lichtenstein, Bea. Cemeteries of Santa Clara [CA]. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2005.
McKendry, Jennifer. Into the Silent Land: Historic Cemeteries & Graveyards in Ontario.
Kingston, ON: by the author, 2003.
Marucchi, Orazio, and Armine Willis. Christian Epigraphy: An Elementary Treatise,
with a Collection of Ancient Christian Inscriptions, Mainly of Roman Origin.
Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005 (1912).
Matthews, Samantha. Poetical Remains: Poets' Graves, Bodies, and Books in the
Nineteenth Century. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Midgley, Magdalena S. Tlie Monumental Cemeteries of Prehistoric Europe. Stroud, UK:
Morton, Marian J. Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.
Mytum, H. C. Local Traditions in Early Eighteenth-Century Commemoration: The
Headstone Memorials from Balrotheiy, Co. Dublin, and Tlieir Place in the
Evolution of Irish and British Commemorative Practice. Dublin: Royal Irish
Neff, John R. Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of
Reconciliation. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.
Newton, Marilyn. Alkali Angels: Recording Nevada's Historic Graveyards: A
Photographic Memoir. Cedarville, CA: Carmel Pub. Co., 2004.
Noy, David. Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Omengan, Dinah Elma Piluden. Death and Beyond: Death & Burial Rituals & Other
Practices & Beliefs of the Igorots ofSagada, Mountain Province, Philippines.
Quezon City: Giraffe Books, 2004.
Pearson, Lynn F. Discovering Famous Graves. Princes Risborough: Shire, 2004.
Pegasus, Joe. Vie Cemetery Book: A Visitor's Practical Guide. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse,
Pierret, Philippe. Memoires, mentalites religieuses, art funer aire: la part juive du
Cimetiere du Dieweg a Bruxelles, XlXe-XXe siecles. Paris; Dudley, MA:
Powers-Douglas, Minda. Cemeten/ Walk: A Journey into the Art, History, and Society of
the Cemeten/ and Beyond. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse Press, 2005.
Purser, Charles E., and Frank B. Powell. A Story Behind Every Stone: Vie Confederate
Section ofOakzoood Cemeten/. Wake Forest, NO Scuppernong Press, 2005.
Reed, J. D., and Maddy Miller. Stairway to Heaven: The Final Resting Places of Rock's
Legends. New York: Wenner Books, 2005.
Rees, Nigel. 7 Told You I Was Sick: A Grave Book of Curious Epitaphs. London: Cassell
Riggs, Christina. The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary
Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Robben, A. C. G. M., ed. Death, Mourning and Burial: A Cross Cultural Reader.
Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
Santino, Jack, ed. Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Scott, Ronnie. Death by Design: Tlie True Story of the Glasgow Necropolis. Edinburgh:
Black & White, 2005.
Sledge, Michael. Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military
Fallen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
Solomon, Jack, and Olivia Solomon. Gone Home: Southern Folk Gravestone Art.
Montgomery, AL: New South Books, 2004.
Sprague, Roderick. Burial Terminology: A Guide for Researchers. Lanham, MD:
AltaMira Press, 2005.
Stevens, William J. Cemeteries, Columbariums & Mausoleums of St. Catharines Ontario,
Canada. [St. Catharines, Ont.J: W. Stevens, 2004.
Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers. The Impossibility of Religious Freedom [Boca Raton,
FL, "courtroom drama ... in which a group of Catholic, Protestant,
and Jewish families unsuccessfully sought a religious exemption to city
ordinances prohibiting any vertical cemetery memorials"]. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2005.
Taylor, Mark C, and Dietrich Christian Lammerts. Grave Matters [heavily
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Turkington, Alice V. Stone Decay in the Architectural Environment. Boulder, CO:
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Vazquez Salguero, Eduardo David, and Adriana Bustos Corral. Monumentos
fiinerarios del Cementerio del Saucito, San Luis Potosi, 1889-1916 [cultural and
religious attitudes; cemetery monuments; socialization of death, sculptors,
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Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2004.
Vincent, Carol Hardy, and Pamela Baldwin. National Monuments: Issues and
Background. New York, NY: Novinka Books, 2004.
Vincent, W. T. In Search Of Gravestones Old And Curious [UK; Scotland].
Williams, Pamela. In the Midst of Angels: Photography of Sculpture from the Cemeteries
of Europe and Beyond. Don Mills, Ont.: P. Williams, 2005.
Xinran, Julia Lovell, and Esther Tyldesley. Sky Burial [funeral rites and ceremonies,
Buddhism -Tibet]. London: Chatto & Windus, 2004.
Articles in Scholarly Journals, Book Collections, etc.
Alvis, Robert E. "Hallowed Ground, Contagious Corpses, and the Moral Economy
of the Graveyard in Early Nineteenth-Century Prussia." Vie Journal of
Religion 84.2 (2004): 234-255.
Ascher, Yoni. "Manifest Humbleness: Self-Commemoration in the Time of the
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Bar, Doron. "Re-creating Jewish Sanctity in Jerusalem: Mount Zion and David's
Tomb, 948-67." Journal of Israeli History [UK] 23.2 (2004): 260-278.
Bayne, John. "Eudora Welty's Use of Tombstones and Cemeteries." Eudora Welty
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Ben-Ur, Aviva. "Still Life: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and West African Art and Form in
Suriname's Jewish Cemeteries." American Jewish History 92.1 (2005): 31-79.
Bouchard, Michel. "Graveyards: Russian Ritual and Belief Pertaining to the Dead."
Religion 34.4 (2004): 345-363.
Bradbury, O. "Byzantium in Berkshire: Fresh information on Sir Edwin Lutyens's
First Mausoleum, the Hannen Columbarium at St Mary, Wargrave,
Berkshire." Apollo 518 (2005): 72-75.
Buckley, Karen. "Mountain Park Cemetery, Alberta, Canada." AGS Quarterly 29.3
(Summer 2005): 6-8.
Cohen, M. S. "The Child at the Edge of the Cemetery: Portraiture and Symbolism in
Seder Tohorot." Conservative Judaism 57.2 (2005): 95-107.
Collins, Robert. "'Another Terrible Massacre' and the Victoria Railroad
Cemetery." Wild West 16.5 (Feb. 2004): 24-30.
Collison, Gary. "Remembering Man's Other Best Friend: U.S. Horse Graves and
Memorials in Historical Perspective." Markers XXII (2005): 70-107.
Collison, Gary. "The Year's Work in Gravemarker and Cemetery Studies: An
International Bibliography." Markers XXII (2005): 189-204.
Connell, Philip. "Death and the Author: Westminster Abbey and the Meanings of
the Literary Monument." Eighteenth-Century Studies 38.4 (2005): 557-585.
Cope, Joseph. "Death, Burial and Commemoration in Ireland, 1550 — 1650." Journal
of British Studies 44.3 (July 2005): 578-579.
Crawford, Sybil F. "Gravemarkers as Personality Revelation: A Miniature Case
Study." AGS Quarterly 29.2 (Spring 2005): 8-9.
Crawford, Sybil F. "Horace McAfee: New Mexico's Cemetery Folk Artist." AGS
Quarterly 29.2 (Spring 2005): 12-13.
Davidson, James M. "Rituals Captured in Context and Time: Charm Use in North
Dallas Freedman's Town (1869-1907), Dallas, Texas." Historical Archaeology
38.2 (2004): 22-54.
Dimitrova, Snezhana. "'Taming the Death': The Culture of Death (1915-18) and
its Remembering and Commemorating through First World War Soldier
Monuments in Bulgaria (1917-44)." Social History 30.2 (2005): 175-194.
Drinkwater, Bob. " Alpheus Longley (1785-1857) of Hatfield, Massachusetts"
[stonecarver]. AGS Quarterly 29.2 (Spring 2005): 16-17.
Drinkwater, Bob. "The Sturgis Brothers of Lee, Massachusetts" [stonecarvers]. AGS
Quarterly 29.3 (Spring 2005): 12-14.
Eigenbrod, R. "Evangeline, Hiawatha and a Jewish Cemetery: His/tories of
Interconnected and Multiple Displacements." World Literature Written in
English 40.1 (2004): 101-114.
Evener, Connie. "Portraits in Stone: They're the Ultimate in Personalization." Stone
in America 119.5 (Sept./Oct. 2005): 6-10.
Fuchs, Ron. "Sites of Memory in the Holy Land: The Design of the British War
Cemeteries in Mandate Palestine." Journal of Historical Geography 30.4 (Oct.
Goebel, Stefan. "Re-membered and Re-mobilized: The 'Sleeping Dead' in Interwar
Germany and Britain." Journal of Contemporary Histoiy [UK] 39.4 (2004):
Gustavsson, Anders. "Gravestones in Norway and Sweden Considered in Their
Symbolical Perspective: Cultural Differences between the Two Countries
during the 1990s." Arv: Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 59 (2003): 57-99.
Halevi, Leor. "The Paradox of Islamization: Tombstone Inscriptions, Qur'anic
Recitations, and the Problem of Religious Change." History of Religions 44.2
Hilal, Sandi; Charlie Koolhaas, Alessandro Petti, et al. "Living among the Dead:
Inside Cairo's Inhabited Cemeteries." Domus 880 (2005): 46-65.
Ho, Virgil Kit-yiu. "Martyrs or Ghosts? A Short Cultural History of a Tomb in
Revolutionary Canton, 1911-1970." East Asian History [Australia] 27 (2004):
Hobbs, June Hadden. "The Cowboy Cemetery of Kenton, Oklahoma." Markers XXII
Horst, Heather A. "A Pilgrimage Home: Burial and Belonging in Jamaica." Journal
of Material Culture [London] 9.1 (March 2004): 11-26.
Jagodzinska, Agnieszka. "Between Two Worlds: The Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw
as a Cultural Text (1850-1900)." Ab Imperio [Russia] 4 (2004): 133-154.
Janiak, Ann Corcoran. "The One and Only Blue-Sky Mausoleum" [Frank Lloyd
Wright design built in 2004 for Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery]. Stone in
America 199.5 (2005): 18-19, 21-22.
Jenner, Mark. "Death, Decomposition and Dechristianisation? Public Health and
Church Burial in Eighteenth-Century England." English Historical Review
120.487 (June 2005): 615-632.
Jindra, Michael. "Christianity and the Proliferation of Ancestors: Changes in
Hierarchy and Mortuary Ritual in the Cameroon Grassfields." Africa 75.3
Kimball, Jacqueline. "Gender in Texas Cemeteries" [interview with and photos by
Caroline Byrd and Rose Marie Cutting]. Stone in America 199.5 (2005):
Kimball, Jacqueline. "Luring the Living to a Garden of Graves" [Allegheny
Cemetery, Pittsburgh; interview with and photos by Elisabeth Roark].
Stone in America 199.5 (2005): 25-29.
Kloberdanz, Timothy J., photos by Bob Pierce. "'Unser Lieber Gottesacker' (Our
Dear God's Acre): An Iron-Cross Cemetery on the Northern Great Plains."
Markers XXII (2005): 160-181.
Kruger-Kahloula, Angelika. "Grave-Sticks in Schlierbach." AGS Quarterly 29.3
(Summer 2005): 16-17.
Kruger-Kahloula, Angelika: "History, Memory, and Politics Written in Stone:
Early African American Grave Inscriptions." In Braxton, Joanne M., and
Maria I. Diedrich, eds., Monuments of the Black Atlantic: Slavery and Memory
(Miinster, Germany: LIT, 2004): 91-100.
Kruger-Kahloula, Angelika. "The Jewish Cemetery in Alsbach." AGS Quarterly 29.1
(Winter 2005): 17-21.
Lai, Delin. "Searching for a Modern Chinese Monument: The Design of the Sun
Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing." Journal of the Society of Architectural
Historians 64.1 (2005): 22-55.
Lambourn, Elizabeth. "Carving and Recarving: Three Rasulid Gravestones
Revisited" [India]. New Arabian Studies 6 (2004): 10-29.
Lannoy, Jean de. "Graves of Malakula: Anthropological History and Indigenous
Christian Historiography." History and Anthropology [UK] 16.3 (2005):
Long, Christopher. "The Works of Our People': Dusan Jurkovic and the Slovak
Folk Art Revival" [Slovak architect; WWI military cemeteries]. Studies in
the Decorative Arts 12.1 (2004-05): 2-29.
Luti, Vincent F. "Eighteenth-Century Gravestone Carvers of the Upper
Narragansett Basin: George Allen." Markers XXII (2005): 108-159.
Marada, Miroslav, trans. Stephen Hattersley. "The Oldest Tombstones in the Jewish
Cemetery of Tovacov (Tobitschau)." Judaica Bohemiae [Czech Republic] 40
Martin, Susan. "Monuments in the Garden: The Garden Cemetery in Australia."
Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy 7.3 (2004): 333-352.
Mays, Vernon. "Paying Respects — An Italian Villa Informs the Design of a Virginia
Mausoleum." Architecture: The AIA Journal 93.10 (2004): 60-66.
McVey, S. J., and D. A. Surabian. "Profiling Helps Discover Prison Cemetery." Soil
Survey Horizons 46.2 (2005): 77-84.
Miksic, John. "From Megaliths to Tombstones: The Transition from Prehistory to
the Early Islamic Period in Highland West Sumatra." Indonesia and the
Malay World [London] 32.93 (July 2004): 191-210.
My turn, Harold. "Local Traditions in Early Eighteenth-Century Commemoration:
The Headstone Memorials from Balrothery, Co. Dublin, and Their Place in
the Evolution of Irish and British Commemorative Practice." Proceedings of
the Royal Irish Academy, Section C [Ireland], 104C1 (2004): 1-35.
Nwabueze, Remigius N. "The Concept of Sepulchral Rights in Canada and the
U.S. in the Age of Genomics: Hints from Iceland." Rutgers Computer &
Technology Law Journal 31.2 (2005): 217-284.
Ogden, A. R., A. Boylston, and T. Vaughan. "Tallow Hill Cemetery, Worcester:
The Importance of Detailed Study of Post-Mediaeval Graveyards." BAR
International Series (supplementary) 1383 (2005): 51-58.
Orme, Nicholas. "The Dead Beneath Our Feet" [medieval UK cemeteries]. Histon/
Today 54.2 (Feb. 2004): 19-25.
Pula, James S. "The Great Cemetery War: The Bishop of Syracuse vs. the Societies
of St. Stanislaus and Saint Casimer." Mohawk Valley History 1 (2004):
Rivard, Derek A. "Consecratio Cymiterii: The Ritual Blessing of Cemeteries in the
Central Middle Ages." Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance
Studies 35 (2004): 22-44.
Roberts, Pamela. "The Living and the Dead: Community in the Virtual Cemetery."
Omega: Journal of Death & Dying 49.1 (2004): 57-76.
Rogers, James Silas. "Elegy" [reflective work on a neglected Rosemount, Minnesota
cemetery]. Markers XXII (2005): 182-188.
Ross, Sally, photos by Deborah Trask. "Acadian Cemeteries in Nova Scotia: A
Survey." Markers XXII (2005): vi, 1-33.
Schultz, Brian. "The Archaeological Heritage of the Jerusalem Protestant Cemetery
on Mount Zion." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 136.1 (2004): 57-75.
Shay, Talia. "Who Takes Care of the Loved Ones?" Anthropological Quarterly 77.2
Sherlock, Peter. "Episcopal Tombs in Early Modern England." journal of
Ecclesiastical History 55.4 (2004): 654-680.
Shorters, I. A. "A Wasting Historical Asset? A Comparative Study of Grave
Memorials at Wootton Wawen, King's Norton and Birmingham, C. 1700-
1940." BAR British Series 366 (2004): [unknown].
Simpson, Jacqueline. "The Miller's Tomb: Facts, Gossip, and Legend." Folklore 116.2
Smith, Daniel Jordan. "Burials and Belonging in Nigeria: Rural-Urban Relations
and Social Inequality in a Contemporary African Ritual." American
Anthropologist 106.3 (Sept. 2004): 569-579.
Stevenson, Christine. "Robert Hooke, Monuments and Memory." Art History 28.1
Taragan, Hana. "The Tomb of Sayyidna ' Ali in Arsdotuuf: The Story of a Holy
Place." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 14.2 (2004): 83-102.
Tuncel, Gul. "Uskup Alaca Camii Haziresin'deki Sahideler" [folk art; Macedonia;
English summary]. Edebiyat Fakiiltesi Dergisi/Joumal of the Faculty of Fetters
22.1 (June 2005): 215-36.
Willis, Chris. "A House for the Dead: Victorian Mausolea and Graveyard Gothic."
In Sayer, Karen, and Rosemary Mitchell, eds. Victorian Gothic. Leeds,
UK: Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Trinity and All Saints College,
University of Leeds (2003): 155-65.
Wingate, J. "Over the Top: The Doughboy in World War I Memorials and Visual
Culture." American Art 19.2 (2005): 26-47.
Yoman, Elizabeth. "Je Me Souviens: About the St. Armand Slave Cemetery:
Memory, Counter-Memory and Historic Trauma." Fopia 12 (Fall 2004)
Dissertations and Theses
Archambeault, Julie Anne. "New Life for Historic Sites: Adaptive Reuse in Four
Northwest Cemeteries." M.S. thesis, University of Oregon, 2004.
Battle, Gerit. "Historic Oakland Cemetery: Reassessing its Structure and Status."
M. A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 2005.
Church, Jason Wesley. "Cemetery Fencing: Saving an Important Cultural Material
through Conservation in Savannah's Laurel Grove North Cemetery."
M.F.A. thesis, Savannah College of Art and Design, 2005.
Davidson, James Michael. "Mediating Race and Class through the Death
Experience: Power Relations and Resistance Strategies of an African-
American Community, Dallas, Texas (1869-1907)." Ph.D. diss., University
of Texas at Austin, 2004.
Dunn, Kristina Kathryn. "The Union Forever: The Development of Beaufort
National Cemetery." M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 2005.
Gill, Kristina. "Cemeteries in San Luis Obispo: What They Reveal About the City
and Its People Between 1880 and 1930." B.S. thesis, California Polytechnic
State University, 2004.
Goldberg, Idana. "Gender, Religion and the Jewish Public Sphere in Mid-
nineteenth Century America." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania,
Hoover, Rachel. "Honoring the Dead by Assisting the Living: A Study of
Cemeteries and Gravestones in the South Suburbs of Chicago." Honors
Thesis, North Central [IL] College, 2004.
Johnson, Deanda Marie. "Seeking the Living among the Dead: African American
Burial Practices in Surry County, Virginia." M.A. thesis, College of
William and Mary, 2004.
Kazmier, Lisa Ann. "A Modern Landscape: The British Way of Death in the Age of
Cremation." Ph.D. diss., Rutgers—the State University of New Jersey —
New Brunwick, 2005.
Newman, Tamera. "Contested Space in the Early Days of Bothwell, Utah: One
Community, Two Cemeteries; and Don't Throw The Baby Out with the
Dishwater!" M.S. thesis, Utah State University, 2004.
Sherrod, S. Marc. "That Great and Awful Change: Death and Protestant Practical
Theology in the American Northeast, 1700-1900." Th.D. diss., Harvard
Silvers, James R. "These Stones Cry Out': Gravestones and Death in Charleston,
South Carolina, 1700-1830." M.A. thesis, College of Charleston, 2005.
Stansberry, Donna W. "Burial Practices in Southern Appalachia." M.A.L.S. thesis,
East Tennessee State University, 2004.
Wood, Karen. "Cemetery Architecture: Unveiling an Artifice of Control Through
the Work of Carlo Scarpa and Enric Miralles and Carme Pinos." M.A.
thesis (M. Arch.), University of Washington, 2004.
Young, Sybil. "America's Rural Cemeteries: Keeping an Institution Alive." M.S.
thesis, Columbia University, 2004.
Video Tape, DVD, CD, etc.
Bredar, John B. Arlington: Field of Honor. [Arlington, Va.?]: National Geographic,
2004. DVD and VHS tape. 60 min.
Dudar, Peter, and Sally Marr. Arlington West [documentary about the "temporary
cemetery in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Oceanside, etc. . . . created every
Sunday by the Veterans For Peace until the war ends in Iraq"]. Laughing
Tears Productions, 2004. DVD. 60 min.
Gutierrez, Jacob. Seventh Annual Pilgrimage to Honor the Ancestors: Ancestor Walk
2003. [San Pedro, CA: Jacob Gutierrez], 2004. DVD.
Roberts, Paul T. Hollywood: Richmond's Garden Cemeten/. Richmond, VA: WCVE
Richmond PBS, 2004. VHS tape. 55 min.
Sebak, Rick. A Cemetery Special: A Not-Spooky Documentary Celebrating American
Cemeteries [contemporary uses of cemeteries; features AGS members;
examples: Key West, FL; Birch Hill, Fairbanks, AS; Lake View, Cleveland,
OH; Allegheny, Pittsburgh, PA; etc.] Pittsburgh, PA: WQED Multimedia,
distributed by PBS Home Video, 2005. DVD. 60 min.
Sherman, Janann, Beverly Bond, Florence Leffler, et al. Women, the March towards
Freedom [Memphis, TN; Elmwood Cemetery]. Memphis, TN: Memphis
Public Librarv and Elmwood Cemeterv, 2005. VHS tape. 29 min.
Zhang, Ke. Qing chun mu yuan [interviews with people who visit a Chongqing
cemetery that honors young students and workers killed in the early years
of the Cultural Revolution; in Mandarin with English subtitles]. [China],
2005. VHS tape. 23 min.
Gary Collison, editor of Markers since 2003, is a professor of American
studies and English at Perm State York. He has given numerous presentations
on gravemarkers at annual meetings of the American Culture Association
and the Association for Gravestone Studies and is founder and chair of the
Death in American Culture section of the Mid- Atlantic Popular/ American
Culture Association. He is researching Pennsylvania German gravemarkers
and historic cemeteries.
Richard Francaviglia, historian and geographer, has written numer-
ous books and articles about the way the American landscape has changed
through time and how this change is depicted in maps, literature, and
popular culture. He has taught at the University of Minnesota, Antioch
College, the University of Arizona, and Wittemburg University. Currently
at the University of Texas at Arlington, he is a professor of history and di-
rector of the Center for Greater Southwestern Studies and the History of
James A. Freeman, professor of English at the University of Massa-
chusetts/ Amherst, has published books on John Milton's relation to ideas
of war and to Latin poetry. His articles have investigated Hesiod, the
medieval "Vigil of Venus," Shakespeare, Swift, Tennyson, James Agee,
and Donald Duck. His most recent works have dealt with "golden age"
American radio, a history of exercise nutrition, and Joan of Arc. Markers
X contained his "Protestant Cemetery in Florence and Anglo-American
Attitudes Toward Italy."
Albert N. Hamscher is a professor of history at Kansas State University
and the author of two books as well as scholarly articles that examine judi-
cial administration and politics in seventeenth-century France. He teaches
a popular course on "death and dying in history" and regularly gives pre-
sentations about cemeteries in towns across Kansas under the auspices of
the Kansas Humanities Council. In recent years, he has also published ar-
ticles on U.S. cemeteries. His edited collection of scholarly articles, Kansas
Cemeteries in History, appeared in 2005.
Keagan LeJeune, assistant professor of folklore and English at McNeese
State University (Lake Charles, Louisiana), has been collecting the legend
of Leather Britches Smith since 1999. He lectures extensively on various as-
pects of Louisiana folklore and currently holds the position of president of
the Louisiana Folklore Society.
William Lowenthal lives surrounded by the classic graveyards of New
Hampshire and Massachusetts. He received a BA in anthropology from the
University of California, Santa Barbara, and pursued a PhD in the same at
Brandeis University. The move east gave him his first actual exposure to the
source subjects for James Deetz's famous seriation analysis, which he had
studied as an undergraduate in California, becoming the inspiration for his
subsequent longtime fascination with gravestones. He is a product manager
for Lodestar Corporation, an energy software company.
Richard E. Meyer, professor emeritus of literature and folklore at
Western Oregon University, served as editor of Markers X through XX. He
also edited Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture (1989; rpt.
1992) and Ethnicity in the American Cemetery (1993), and is co-author (with
Peggy McDowell) of The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art (1994). His
articles on cemeteries and gravemarkers have appeared in Markers XI, XII,
XVI, XX, and other publications. In 1998 he received the Harriet Merrifield
Forbes Award from AGS in recognition of his outstanding contributions to
NEW EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Blanche Linden is the author of Boston Freedom Trail (1996; 2005), Spring
Grove: Celebrating 150 Years (1995), and the well known award-winning Silent
City On a Hill: Picturesque Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn
Cemetery (1989), the revised and expanded edition of which is due out later
this year from the University of Massachusetts Press. She has a Ph.D. in
history from Harvard and has published many articles, book chapters, and
reviews on a variety of topics. Her article on "The Fencing Mania" appeared
in Markers VII.
David Charles Sloane received his Ph.D. in American history from
Syracuse University and is a professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and
Development at the University of Southern California. His studies consider
a wide range of topics, including roadside shrines, medical malls, cemeter-
ies, and hospitals. He is the author of The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in
American History (1991). A revised edition is in the works from a differ-
ent publisher. His recent work has appeared in edited collections such as
Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s (2001), Everyday America:
Cultural Landscape Studies After J. B. Jackson (2003), and Perspectives in
Vernacular Architecture (2005).
Abbot, Daniel 55
Adams, Carol 24
Adams, Dee 135
Adams, Nora "Tootsie" 135
AGS Quarterly 2
Allen, Samuel 39
American Art in Stone 9, 2 1
American Culture Association (Cemeteries and
Gravemarkers section) 2
American Institute of Commemorative Art 20
Aries, Philippe 27
Armenian 95, 101
Asian Civilisations Museum 108
Association for Gravestone Studies 2-3
Atherton, Charles Gordon 56
"baby boom" generation 23
Baha'i 96, 121
Ball, Abel 48
Baritz, Loren 21, 22
Bass, Sam 75
Beaumont Enterprise 76
Beauregard Historical Society 85
Beauregard Parish Library 8 1
Beckman, Gail 24
Billy the Kid 75
Blanchard, Sarah 43
Bowra, Cecil 25
Braswell Brothers 75
British East India Company 93
Buddhist temples 108
Bukit Brown Cemetery 104
Butler, Ruth 4
"Case Histories in Personalizing Memorials" 1
computer assisted design (CAD) 15-16
Caldwell, Tony 15
Camaino, di 3
Capitol Records 10
Carlson, Lisa 24
Carmen, Melanie 83
Carmen, Robert 79,81,84-85
Casaccia, Jim 28
Caulfield, Ernest 44
"Cemetery as a Cultural Manifestation: Louisiana
Necrogeography, The" 73
Chafe, William 20-21
Chinese 95,96,99, 103, 121
Chinese cemeteries 96, 116
Chinese funeral customs 103-104, 110
Chinese government 95
Chinese Heritage Centre 94, 121
Chinese gravemarkers 1 06- 1 07, 1 09- 1 1 6
Chinese New Year 95
Choa Chu Kang Cemetery 93-122
Christian gravemarkers 99, 100, 101
Civil War 58,61
Clark, Hiram P. 53
Clark, Orissa A. 53
Clark, Susan Jane 53
Clark family monument 51,53
Colburn, Betsy 46
Collier, Abby 21
Collins, Uncle Seab 77
columbarium 121, 130-131
Conrad, Joseph 94
Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus 1 04
Cornell University 1
Dai Lin Jin Family Tomb 1 1 2
Dai Lin Jin family tomb 1 1 1
Davis, Albert A. 63
Davis, Bethana W. (Allen) 39
Davis, D. A. (Morse) 39
Davis, Harland 63
Davis, James 39
Davis, James E. 51
Davis, James H. 51
Davis, Moses 36-65
Davis, Samuel 39
Davis, William R. 51
Davis Funeral Home 37, 63
DeRidder Parish Library 83
Diannis, John 21
Duncklee, Mary R. 59
Early Mew England Gravestone Rubbings 44
East Texas 76
Edgewood Cemetery 63
Elberton Area Redevelopment Administration 1 1
Elberton Granite Association 1 2
Ellis Island 94
Encyclopedia of New England, The 2
Esmeralda County, NV 133,135
Essex County, MA 39
Farley, Lieut. Charles H. 61
Farmers ' Guide — A Description of the
Businesses of Nashua and Nashville, The 5 1
Farrer Park rapid transit station 93
Federalist style 44
Federal Period 44
Folkoristic Study of the American Artifact 73
Fort Canning Park 104
Francestown 53, 59
French. David 37,38,40
Fu ("Good Luck") dog 1 13. 1 16, 118-1 19
Fujian Province 108
Fu lion (see Fu dog)
Funeral and Memorial Societies of America 24
Fu Tzu's (Confucius') 104
"Ghost Town Seekers Remote Nevada" Website
Gast, Bert 2 1
Gillon, Edmond Vincent, Jr. 44
Girl Scouts of America 1
Glassie, Henry 73
Grabow War 76, 83, 84, 88, 90
Granary Burial Ground, The 3
granite, Scotch 57
Grantham, Mrs. Willis T. 78
Greece, ancient 25
Greek Revival period 44
Guanyin Buddhist temple 96
Guest, Beth 20
Guest, Chuck 18,20
Hague, Angela 135,136
Hajj Festival 98
Hall, Norman E. 63
hand etching 16-18
Handler, Jerome S. 83
Handy, W. C. 11
Han Dynasty 1 1 6
Hardy, Thomas 47
Hari Raya Puasa (Islam) 95
Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award 2
Hart, Clyde 133, 134
Hell Money 116, 120
Hennigan, Mr. 81
Heritage Centre 121
Hickok, Wild Bill 75
Hill, J. B. 12
Hillsborough, NH 40
Hindu 95,96,99, 102
Hollis, NH 37, 46, 47, 49, 50, 61, 63
Hollis's Town Common, NH 63
Housing Development Board 1 2 1
Hou Tu (Earth guardian) 92
Hou Tu (guardian figure) 1 1 3
Hou Tu Niang Niang 92, 117
Hudson, NH 39
Huffaker, Ken 18
"Image and Identity in Oregon's Pioneer
India 15, 101
International Workers of the World 76
Jackson, Lieutenant 96
Jackson, Lieutenant Philip 93
James, Jesse 75
Jerry Reed 10
Jewett, Capt. Nathaniel 48, 49
Jewish gravemarkers 103,105
Jewish section 96, 103
Johns, Mike 20
Jones, Landon 23
Kampong Glam 95, 98
Kennerson, Conrad 1 1
Killiney Road police station 121-122
Kimball & Dodge s Nashua and
Nashville Director}' 5 1
King's Chapel Burying Ground 4
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See
Crematorium 1 20
Kung, Master 103
Lawrence, KS 74
Lawrence Massacre 74
"Leather Britches Smith Didn't Fear Nothin' 77
"Louisiana Cemeteries: Manifestations of
Regional and Denominational Identity" 73
laser etching 1 8
Lee Kuan Yew 94
Leland, Ernest 1 1
Loh, Vyvyane 108
Loncar, Steven 135
Louisiana 73, 75
Lowe, Virginia P. 83-84
Luck, W. E. 10,20
lucygraph 1 5
Malay Peninsula 94
Malay royal burials 95
Malay women 104
Malloy, Brenda 74
Malloy, Tom 74
Manchester, VT 39
Mandai Road Crematorium 1 20, 1 2 1
Mandelbaum, Michael 25
marble gravestones 48
Massachusetts 37, 39, 45
Mathias, Kale 11, 12
Maugham, Somerset 94
McCarthy Era 10
Meadow, Joe 78
Meadows, "Little" Ike 77
Meadows, Joe 77, 78
Mei Zhou Island 108
Memorial Art Correspondence School 21
Memorial Builder, The 10
menshen 1 1 1
Mercedes, model 1 1 6
Merrimack River 39
Merryville, LA 72-87
Merryville Cemetery 72, 74, 76, 83, 84, 85, 91
Meyer, Richard E. 7, 9, 73-74, 82, 88, 90
Minor, Hattie 60
Monumental Bronze Company 4
Monumental News-Review 9, 11, 13
Monument Builder News 9, 11, 13,25
Monument Builders of America 1 1
Monument Builders of North America 21
Monument Industry Information Bureau 13
More, Thomas 93, 122
Mount Auburn 3
Mount Auburn Cemetery 1 , 4-5
Mt. Holyoke 1
Mueller, Eileen 13
Mumford, Lewis 20
"Murder in Massachusetts: It's Written
in Stone" 78
Muslim 95,96,99, 121
Muslim burying ground 98-99
Myatt, Ben ( Leather Britches Smith) 79, 80
Na-NaLiTomb 111, 114
Nakagawa, Tadashi 73
Nashua, NH 37, 39, 45, 55, 56, 58, 64
Nashua Manufacturing Company 55
Nashua River 39, 40
Nashville, NH (see also Nashua, NH) 40. 45,
Nashville Selectmen's Report 51
National Endowment for the Humanities 2
National Environment Agency 96
Neutral Strip, LA 75
New Hampshire 37, 39
New Hampshire General Court 39
New Testament 122
Newton, Goob 77.81,83,84
Newton family 74, 86
Ngee Ann shopping complex 1 1 6
NH 42, 43, 46, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 59, 61, 64
Niang, LinMo 108
North Louisiana cemeteries 84
Nottingham West, NH 39
Old Testament 122
Palmetto, NV 134, 135, 138
Palmetto Mountains, NV 134
Panofsky, Erwin 4
Park. John (1787-1 848 ) 45, 48, 49
Park. John, Jr. 45
Parsi 96.99-100. 104. 122
Patten. William 10
People's Action Party 94
photo-engraving 14-15. 19
Pierce, Franklin 56
Pigeon Spring, NV 134
Pine Hill Cemetery 37
Pioneer America Society 2
Pitassi, Rose Marie 11-12,21
Poll, Roper 24
Postrel, Virginia 22, 24
Proctor, Ira 65
Proctor, Nathaniel 63, 65
Pu May ("Cultivating the Tomb") ceremony 1 16
Qing Ming ("Clear Bright") ceremony 1 16, 120
"QuantriU's Three Graves and Other Reminders
of the Lawrence Massacre" 74
Quantrill, William C. 74
Ouinlan, Peter 13, 18,25
Quiring, David 19,23
Raffles. Sir Thomas Stamford 93
Railroad Bill 75
Ramos, Ralph 76, 78, 79, 81, 88, 89
Reed, Jerry 10
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) 1
religious symbols 26
Robert Wuthnow 26
Rocking Texas ' Cradle 76
Rock of Ages Corporation 12,19
Roof, Wade Clark 23, 26-27
Rotundo, Barbara vi, 1-5
Russell, Cheryl 23, 24
Sabine River 84
Sakaya Muni Gaya Temple 109
Santana, Lawrence 24
Sarkies, Aristarcus 101
Selden, Arzeno 1 1
Shaker cemeteries 4
Sharland, Deputy Sheriff Dell 78
Shentong Way and burial ground 1 1
Sims, Darci 24
Singapore National Cemetery Association 1
Singapore National Environmental Agency 96
Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority 94
slate gravestones 40-56
Smith, Capt. John 51,52
Smith, Leather Britches 72-87
Sommerville, MA 39
Song Dynasty 108
South Africa 1 5
Sri Krishna temple (Hindu) 96
Stark, Catherine 79, 84-85
Stevenson, Robert Louis 94
Stone in America 9, 16
"Stone Eternal" (song) 1
Sultan Mosque 99
SUNY (State University of New York)/Albany 1
Swenson, Karl 19
Sylvania Mountains, NV 134
Syracuse University 1
"The Rural Cemetery Movement" 4
"Towers of Silence" 101
Taylor, Thomas 42
Terry, Ester 81,85-86
Texas 76, 77
Thaipusam (Hindu) 95
Theroux, Paul 94
Thian Hock Keng Temple 108
Thies, Randall M. 74
Thomas, N. W. 13
Townsley, Gussie 81
trade journals 9, 21
Tung, Yung 1 09
Tu Ti Gong 92, 1 1 7
University of Massachusetts/Boston 2
urn-and-willow design 40, 42, 44, 45
USA Today 23
Utopia (Thomas Moore) 122
Venice, Italy 96
Victoria Street 95,98, 104
Victorian era 37, 48
Vidutis, Ricardas 83-84
Vietnam War 2 1 , 22
West Virginia Cemetery Association 1
Wheeler, Jonathan T. 50
Whiddon, Shelly 79
white bronze (galvanized zinc) gravemakers 1
Wirthlin Group 19
Wuthnow, Robert 25,26
Yeager, A. B. 12
Yew, Lee Kuan 94
Yishun Columbarium 121
Zhang family tomb 109
Zoroastrian community 101
1935 BERNARD H. 1999
JHE STORM IS OVER NOW.
Obituary: Barbara Rotundo (1921-2004)
Richard E. Meyer
Pictorial Headstones: Business, Culture,
and the Expression of Individuality in the
Albert N. Hamscher
"Suitable Grave Stones'': The Workshop of
Moses Davis of Nashua, New Hampshire
"Smith, Leather Britches - Slain":
Interpreting an Outlaw Legend through
Singapore's Multicultural Cemetery and
Its Chinese Section
Isolation and Memory: Lessons from an
Unusual Nevada Gravesite
The Year's Work in Cemetery and
Gravemarker Studies: An International
Compiled by Gary Collison