By Megan E Springate
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Additional resources for Coffin hardware in nineteenth century America
44 SAFETY AND SECURITY COF F INS 45 Other safety coffins contained ropes leading through tubes to bells that could be rung, air holes, and smelling tubes that would allow passers-by to determine if putrefaction had begun (Bondeson 2001:119-120). 2). 3). 3. Improved Burial-Case, “…so that, should a person be interred ere life is extinct, he can, on recovery to consciousness, ascend from the grave and the coffin by the ladder; or, if not able to,… ring the bell, thereby giving an alarm, and thus save himself from premature burial and death” (United States Patent Office 1868).
Fueled by published accounts of premature burial, even the traditional wake, wherein the body of the deceased remained under surveillance in the home for up to three days following death (Laderman 1996:31), was not always considered sufficient to be certain that death had occurred. The widespread fear of being buried alive had flourished at least since in the 1740s, Megan E. Springate, “Safety and Security Coffins“ in Coffin Hardware in Nineteenth-century America, pp. 43-50. © 2015 Left Coast Press, Inc.
T. Merchant, a pamphleteer, lamented that “persons of ordinary rank may for the value of fifty pounds make as great a figure as the nobility and gentry did formerly” (in Fritz 1994-95:246). Despite these protestations, more and more people, including the elite, bypassed the College of Arms and employed the services of undertakers. By the early eighteenth century, the meaning of funeral display in England had shifted. Formerly an indicator of rank managed by the Heralds of the College of Arms, it became an indicator of wealth, in which the undertaker served as both manager and supplier, charging whatever he determined the market would bear (Fritz 1994-95:247-248).
Coffin hardware in nineteenth century America by Megan E Springate