History of Funeral Homes in America

During the aftermath of the American Civil War, the funeral industry emerged. Before funeral homes emerged, family and friends took care of their dead. They prepared and dressed their dead in the confines of the family’s home. The wakes of loved ones were usually held at home. The dead were buried on family property. Eventually though,mortuaries have become trusted establishments, a source of support and comfort for people who are mourning the death of a loved one, close friend or relative.

Funeral-HomesThe oldest recorded funeral home was established in 1759 in Virginia. Cabinet-maker Anthony Hay made coffins his sideline and it grew from there, evolving into a full service funeral home. The company that grew from that venture still serves Americans today.

Embalming became the most acceptable method of preserving a body, which probably started when President Abraham Lincoln’s embalmed bodywas carried around the country after the civil war. Many families from Northern America who had loved ones that died in battlefields in the South sought specialists to preserve the bodies so that decomposition wouldn’t be a problem during the long journey home.

One of the early pioneers in the field of embalming was physician Dr. AugusteRenouard. His methods of preserving the dead laid the foundation for most present-day embalming procedures. Embalming has become a standard practice in the entire country. As embalming became more popular, so did funeral homes.The first mortuaries were family-owned, and traditionally, many owners lived on site and employed their family members to do duties. This made it a true family business. At around this time, the family graveyards on private properties moved towards the cemeteries. Because of a huge number of deaths in the American civil wars, the government also established national military cemeteries to honor the fallen soldiers.

By the 1900s, funerals emerged as big businesses. Due to the growing number of mortuaries in the country, the service became more professional. Undertakers and funeral directors became the go-to people for taking care of the dead. Several trade organizations were set-up, such as the National Funeral Directors Association. These organizations took care of accreditation, training, and setting industry standards. Licensing boards for funeral homes were also established. Other businesses that are related to funeral home services also flourished, such as flower shops, casket manufacturers, automobile companies, cemeteries, and life insurance providers.

By the end of the twentieth century, the funeral industry was generating billions of dollars annually. It has become a financially viable business. Various religious and ethnic segments had their own mortuaries that serve their dead.

One of the emerging trends in the funeral industry is cremation. It is a growing trend, and because of this, funeral homes have made their own crematoriums or partnered with known crematoriums. Mortuaries also had viewing and cremation packages for family and friends. Cemeteries established columbaria. This growing industry also spawned stylized urn makers.

Currently, funeral businessesorganize everything from organizing wakes, transporting the dead, preparing the deceased for burial, as well as selling caskets and other related merchandise.

Another important trend in the industry is the onslaught of multinational corporations buying off small, independent, family-owned funeral homes.From being mainly about funeral home businesses that were passed down to the family for generations, the industry has become capitalist-driven. The baby boomers are an aging generation, and this big population is a truly a huge market for the funeral industry. Big corporations are cashing in on the trend. This new model for the funeral home is changing the landscape of 21st century funeral industry. Rest assured though, that the industry will continue to evolve and things will change once more – eventually.

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