Funeral Home & Mortuary History
Funeral homes, or parlors have been around for nearly as long as we've been a
country. The oldest funeral home which started as a cabinet manufacturer by
Anthony Hay, who made coffins as side line business, began in 1759 in
Williamsburg Virginia. Hay turned the company over to Benjamin Bucktrout in the
late 1700's. Over the years, they evolved into a full service funeral home and the
Bucktrout Funeral Home continues in operation today.
History of the Funeral Home
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In 1890 there were 9,891 funeral directors. As people began to see importance of
what many viewed as the "modern funeral", and more people accepted the practice
of moving a funeral from the home "funeral parlour" to a professional setting.
Directors long no longer had to preserve the body in the home but now in their
own facilities. Which created need for transportation from hospitals or homes and
other additional tasks. Many funeral home owners lived on site and employed their
family members to perform duties.
Before the 1860's there were a variety of
methods used to prevent decomposition. But after
the Civil War, embalming became the preferred
method. President Lincoln's travelling funeral,
which featured his embalmed body, made this
method more acceptable to the general public. As
embalming became more popular so did the
In the 1900's funerals in the U.S., were becoming a big business. By 1920 there
were 24,469 funeral homes, much like the modern ones we know today. The
business become more professional with the creation of several trade organizations
such as National Funeral Directors Association. Now "undertakers" could get
proper training in current industry standards and trends, like the growing use of
embalming. Additional services began to grow in the around the industry such as
casket manufacturing, life insurance, and florists.
As cremation became a growing trend in the U.S., many funeral homes created
their own facilities or contracted with crematoriums. Emphasizing the necessity of
the viewing and embalming before cremation.
people to have
open and frank
their EOL Plans.
Corporate Funeral Homes
In the 21st century a new model is emerging. While most funeral homes are still
family owned and operated, a growing number are owned by large corporations.
The funeral conglomerates purchase family owned businesses, keep the local name
and hire the owner back as a manager. This gives the appearance to the public that
nothing has changed. This alters the focus of the funeral home from being a locally
owned family business, to a cog in a profit and stock return driven corporation.