Our Fascination With Hearses Throughout History
I probably became enthralled with hearses when I was a little girl. Watching them amble slowly up a hill in the old movies was fascinating to me. I also remember when I was in high school, some forty plus years ago, there was a local rock band that had an old Cadillac hearse from the early 1950’s as their band car. The name of the group was, “Flower Hill Cemetery”. I found that very intriguing, to say the least.
The first horse-drawn hearses go back to the mid nineteenth century in the U. S. Families began to choose burial places other than the church grounds. Rural cemeteries were beginning to be established on elevated land on the outskirts of town. A lot of churchyards were also becoming overcrowded. These cemeteries were also quite some distance from the church. This created the additional problem of how to transport the casket a further distance. This gave birth to the horse drawn hearse.
The two-wheeled box car was the first method used to transport the coffin. The problem with these was that they left the wooden caskets exposed to the elements. It didn’t take long for the covered hearses to come on the scene.
Enter The Motorized Funeral Coach
Motorized hearses first made their appearance around 1909 in America. They had been around in Europe for awhile longer. These hearses became more accepted by the 1920’s, as more of the horse drawn coaches were phased out.
The majority of hearses in the U. S. are Cadillac’s and Lincoln’s. Hearses are built by customizing the bodies of existing cars by elongating them, etc.
Yes, there are hearse collectors out there. I’m not the only one interested in old hearses evidently. Over three decades ago, the Professional Car Society was formed to call attention to the ornate beauty and craftsmanship that went into building these beautiful cars.
Who knows what type of hearse I will be riding in when I’m gone. I would love to be picked up in one of those old 1950’s Caddy’s, but that probably won’t be the case. It may be like the Jetson’s, and they will whisk me off to the cemetery in some kind of new Cadillac hovercraft!
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