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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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Keeping the Dead in Place: Old and New Patterns of Consumption

Keeping the Dead in Place: Old and New Patterns of Consumption

(p.119) 4 Keeping the Dead in Place: Old and New Patterns of Consumption
Rest in Peace

Gary Laderman

Oxford University Press

Without question, Jessica Mitford's book The American Way of Death was a turning point in the history of American funerals, leading to heightened public awareness about the costs of disposal, the need for consumer protection, and the availability of alternatives to the traditional funeral. Funeral directors strove to continue to provide the same basic ritual services they had before the publication of the book: removal of the body from home or hospital, embalming and preparing it in the funeral home, displaying the deceased in the casket before and/or during services in the chapel, and transportation to the grave. While funeral directors were initially opposed to cremation as a viable alternative to the traditional funeral because they perceived it as a threat to the financial life of their funeral homes, by the late 1970s and early 1980s they gradually incorporated cremation into their ritual practices and found ways to make this method of disposal both profitable and a source of healing.

Keywords:   Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death, funerals, funeral directors, cremation, embalming, funeral homes, ritual services

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