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Rest in PeaceA Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America$
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Gary Laderman

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195183559

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195183559.001.0001

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Explaining the American Funeral, 1918–1963

Explaining the American Funeral, 1918–1963

Chapter:
(p.45) 2 Explaining the American Funeral, 1918–1963
Source:
Rest in Peace
Author(s):

Gary Laderman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195183559.003.0002

The funeral industry was generating billions of dollars for funeral directors, casket and vault manufacturers, cemetery owners, florists, embalming-chemical companies, and other burial-related businesses in the early 1960s. Receipts for funeral services rendered during the first half of the 20th century give some indication of the reach and range of transactions taking place in the name of the dead. On the other hand, receipts also misrepresent some of the details of these transactions—especially in the early decades of the century—making them highly questionable as accurate records of labor, pricing, and profit. By the middle of the century, funeral directors had become acutely aware of the need to account for their time. The escalating public attacks and calls for reform ensured that undertakers learn more sophisticated methods of detailing every step taken in the burial of the dead. One of the earliest and most important moments of public debate about the treatment of the dead in the United States occurred after World War I.

Keywords:   United States, World War I, funeral industry, funeral homes, funeral directors, dead, undertakers, funeral services, reform, burial

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