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Cemeteries Gravemarkers

Richard Meyer

Publication Year: 1992

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

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

To write a foreword to this collection of essays on cemeteries and grave markers is rather daunting, since the excellent introduction serves this purpose quite well. On the other hand, the introduction permits a certain freedom which I shall now indulge by touching on several subjects that otherwise, for better...

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pp. xv

The essays in this volume first saw life at a conference sponsored by the "Cemeteries and Gravemarkers" Section of the American Culture Association. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Western Oregon State College for a faculty development grant which assisted me in forming the Section initially, and also to Ray and...

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Introduction: "So Witty as to Speak"

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pp. 1-6

In 1693, inspired by one of his not infrequent visits to a local burial ground, the powerful Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather was moved to comment that "the stones in this wilderness are already grown so witty as to speak .... "1 Though Mather had a most immediate context for his remark—the unrestrainedly laudatory...

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Icon and Epitaph

The monuments in our cemeteries speak to us in many ways—through their shape, their size, their composition (type of material), and even their positioning with regard to one another and the cemetery site as a whole. But of all their voices, it is the visual and verbal images they bear upon their faces which, be it...

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1. Innocents in a Wordly World: Victorian Children's Gravemarkers

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pp. 11-29

Victorian Americans lived in an era marked by rapid change. Technological advances, urbanization, expansive entrepreneurship, and a swelling population seemed to move society ahead at unheard-of rates. But as the rewards of civilization and the profits of business multiplied, concern rose over the consequences of...

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2. The Bigham Carvers of the Carolina Piedmont: Stone Images of an Emerging Sense of American Identity

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pp. 31-59

In downtown Charlotte, North Carolina is located a small cemetery surrounded by tall buildings. The Old Settlers Cemetery, as it is called, contains several gravestones relocated from surrounding sites overtaken by construction—the city's slow pace has changed dramatically from the years when the textile...

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3. Images of Logging on a Contemporary Pacific Northwest Gravemarkers

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pp. 61-85

It is a commonly held belief, even amongst many of those who have devoted considerable energy to the study of cemeteries and gravemarkers, that the contemporary American cemetery is a place devoid of any significant degree of interest. The general image is that of a bland, featureless conglomeration...

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4. The Epitaph and Personality Revelation

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pp. 87-102

Scholars from many fields, and perhaps most particularly those engaged in folkloristic and other approaches to the study of material objects, have recognized for some time that memorials erected to honor the dead serve an important and often complex function within the society which creates them. Furthermore...

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Origins and Influences

There is, to be sure, an element of dynamic evolution in American cemeteries. They reflect changing cultural realities, and they take on distinctive flavors relating to regionalism, ethnicity, religious influence, and a whole host of other factors. They also allow for considerable personal innovation, as can be attested...

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5. The Upland South Folk Cemetery Complex: Some Suggestions of Origin

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pp. 107-136

Few landscape features are as enduring as a burial ground. Although they disappear from the landscape through both neglect and intentional destruction, cemeteries, once sited, usually remain relatively resistant to change. There is a fascination with these holy grounds, containing as they do the mortal remains...

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6. J. N. B. de Pouilly and French Sources of Revival Style Design in New Orleans Cemetery Architecture

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pp. 137-158

To many modern visitors who travel to New Orleans and tour the city's early cemeteries, the rich variety of above-ground tomb types and materials creates an opulent impression of a veritable city of the dead. The visual sensation is often enhanced by somewhat romantic associations of the early cemeteries with...

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Ethnicity and Regionalism

American cemetery and gravemarker study affords fascinating opportunities to observe different aspects of ethnicity through the material records of death left by various groups. These may range from distinctive types of markers, such as the metal cruciforms favored by certain German and Russian groups or the...

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7. The Afro-American Section of Newport, Rhode Island's Common Burying Ground

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pp. 164-196

The Common Burying Ground of Newport, Rhode Island, has now been a place of general and particular fascination for centuries. Since 1650 the life of the city has moved along Thames Street and up Farewell to celebrate communal sorrow at the graveyard. This is not a garden cemetery, a place for casual strolling...

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8. Navajo, Mormon, Zuni Graves: Navajo, Mormon, Zuni Ways

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pp. 197-215

The Navajo have a phrase they use frequently, which they translate into English as "the Navajo Way," and they say it in English as in Navajo: all in capital letters and underlined. They apparently use this term to refer to their core complex of traditional beliefs and values which make them Navajo and which...

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9. San Fernando Cemetery: Decorations of Love and Loss in a Mexican-American Community

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pp. 217-236

For many families in mourning, there exist few social rituals which provide a means for both the expression of grief and continuing love for family members. Grave decoration is one of the few widely practiced activities which offers a framework for such expression. Even when tending to a grave is primarily...

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10. Western Pennsylvania Cemeteries in Transition: A Model for Subregional Analysis

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pp. 237-257

This essay is the result of a long-term research project which has made intensive use of the cemetery landscape to reconstruct an aspect of the cultural history of the western one-third of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It seems probable that the evolution of the cemetery and its transitional processes...

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Business and Pleasure

There is an economic side to American cemeteries and gravemarkers, often overlooked by those of us who spend the bulk of our time pondering the origins of symbols and ritual practices or larger landscape features. Stonecarvers—today we would call them monument dealers or "memorialists"—have always...

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11. Monumental Bronze: A Representative American Company

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pp. 263-291

Studies in the material culture of nineteenth-century America usually concern artifacts that have become obsolete because they no longer fulfill a need or because alternative products are cheaper and/or more efficient. Often such artifacts had a long history of folk use that predated industrial mass production...

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12. Strange but Genteel Pleasure Grounds: Tourist and Leisure Uses of Nineteenth-Century Rural Cemeteries

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pp. 293-328

When Cincinnatians opened their newspapers one early fall day in 1867, they must not have been surprised to read of "grave charges of conviviality in the cemetery." They knew that Spring Grove, like the other "rural" or garden cemeteries founded on the peripheries of American cities from 1831 into the 1860s...


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pp. 329-339


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pp. 341-342


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pp. 343-347

E-ISBN-13: 9780874213232
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874211603

Publication Year: 1992