Are coffin corners in Victorian homes a hoax? Historians say yes, but the history of the Galloway House suggests otherwise.
The latest additions to the coffin screw collection
I obsessively stalk ebay for coffin screws. Well, funerary items in general. There are a few Holy Grail items, several of them coffin plaques (such as the Sad Hour) that I am incomplete without. But there’s something about coffin screws that makes the dark crevices of my brain tingle.
In the Victorian era, coffin screws represented the last act before committing the dearly departed to the dirt. Short of the actual burial, there is nothing more final than manually screwing down the lid and sealing the deceased inside a wooden box.
This is not a practice used in modern funerals, of course, except in at least one culture – the Maori of New Zealand.
“We used similar screws to secure the lid on my fathers coffin in 2014,” one commenter wrote in response to my post about the history of coffin screws. “On the day of the funeral we placed the lid on the coffin and we all helped screw down the lid. This is very common practice in the New Zealand Maori culture which my brother in law is and we accepted it as quite normal.”
Interestingly, that comment and post were referenced in an ebay listing for coffin screws. So that makes me something of an authority on funerary hardware, right? An authority on an obscure niche that no one is interested in…but it’s better than nothing. I’ll take it. Even if I’m really just an obsessed collector with little actual knowledge on the subject.
I stumbled onto that listing recently while on the usual hunt for coffin screws, which resulted in the new additions pictured above. Here’s some of the other coffin hardware in the collection:
Cast iron coffin screws from Australia
Victorian era silver plated coffin screws and escutcheons
Coffin screws from Stolts, Russel & Co. c.1880
I’ve got my eye on a few more right now. Stay tuned.
Victorian cast iron grave monument in Greenville, Alabama’s Magnolia Cemetery.
While searching for catfish photos yesterday, I somehow stumbled upon this photo of an amazing, rusted iron grave monument on the blog Deep Fried Kudzu. This particular grave is in Magnolia Cemetery, but the post states many more iron monuments can be found in Greenville’s Pioneer Cemetery.
I’ve never stumbled upon anything like this while wondering the cemeteries here in Wisconsin, so I did some digging. A page on RootsWeb explaining types of headstones has this to say about iron monuments:
Iron grave markers and decorations were popular during the Victorian era in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, often being produced by specialist foundries or the local blacksmith. Many cast iron headstones have lasted for generations while wrought ironwork often only survives in a rusted or eroded state.
The Alabama Historical Commission published A Guide to Common Alabama Grave Markers (PDF) which says:
Fences, sometimes incorporating funerary motifs such as inverted torches, draped urns, weeping willow trees and reclining lambs, are the most common cast iron features in cemeteries. Grave markers and above-ground tombs were occasionally made of cast iron.
More graves and graveshelters from Alabama right here.
Historian and Morbid Anatomy Museum Instructor Karen Bachman discusses the origins of the strange and romantic art of Victorian hair work.
Art historian and master jeweler Karen Bachman discusses the history of Victorian hair work for the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
With it’s origins in the religious relics and reliquaries of dead saints, the art of memorial hair work in the 18th and 19th centuries became a popular way to honor and remember loved ones. Locks of hair from the deceased was woven into jewelry, chains and intricate works of art.
Vintage promotional photo for a Victorian-era spiritualist.