Mourning Clothing Customs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USpaP7ru5Wg

An informative five minute video about mourning observances in the Victorian era.

The mourning of Queen Victoria and preparation for burial practices.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WDtFC6eKr0&feature=related  Part II may be access to the right side of the video.  Running time for both, 1bout 17 minutes.

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At Death’s Door

Our mailbox today has an interesting comment from Jackie:

“Can you tell me what they call the window/door that was used to move the dead body from the home? I have heard it called “death’s door” hence the expression of one being at death’s door. There is some superstition about moving the dead through the front door.”

REPLY

I am aware of some superstitions surrounding the removal of a body from the home. The deceased was always taken out feet first in the coffin so that the dead could not look back at its home and the spirit remain inside the house.  Many houses of the mid-to-late Victorian period have a special niche called a “coffin corner” cut into the stairwell so that the coffin could make the turn in the flight of stairs by fitting the head of the coffin into this little niche shelf.  Some old homes also have a showcase window in the front of the house, a sort of bay window where the deceased could lie in state for people to pass by on the street and pay their respects.

The expression “at death’s door” is applied to someone so ill as to be at the very brink of death. In funeral statuary in cemeteries, a door is often used as the symbol for passing through the portal from Life to another state.  Arches, windows, and portals carry the same meaning.  Sometimes in remote rural homes, a door was used to lay the body upon when carrying it downstairs (as most died in upstairs bedrooms).  Boards made of wide planks of wood or caned surfaces were used as “cooling boards” to lay out the body during autopsy or embalming before placing the deceased in a casket or coffin. Please write and tell us if you have more information on this expression!

The Ivy Arch

There are several postcards of Oak Grove, made during the golden age of postcards from 1900-1920 when every prominent beauty spot and building or structure was fodder for the photographer’s camera. A penny postcard was the way to keep in touch with friends and family while traveling or on vacation and there are hundreds postcards of Fall River scenes available on Ebay and through dealers in ephemera.

The postcard above was postdated 1910 and shows ivy-covered walls and archway at Oak Grove. The ivy obscures the magnificent iron work of the gates as well as the inscription.  There is a photograph of Oak Grove taken in 1890 which also shows the ivy growing on the gates, so it is likely this is how the Prospect Street entry looked at the time of the Borden funeral on August 6, 1892.

Below are two cards with no dates, showing the arch with and without ivy.  All postcards shown here were purchased on Ebay. 

Arch today: 

The Kelly/Hart Connection

Lydia and Abraham Hart gravestones

Banker, Abraham Hart, was one of the last people to see Andrew Borden alive on the morning of August 4th 1892 when Andrew stopped by the bank near City Hall.  Mr. Hart would later tell police that Mr. Borden looked weak and feeble that morning.  The Bordens had been suffering from an unknown illness since Tuesday evening after supper.  Abraham Hart would also be one of the Borden pallbearers on the morning of Saturday, August 6th at the short service at #92 Second Street and procession to Oak Grove Cemetery.

Dr. Michael Kelly, the Borden’s next door neighbor to the south was away on August 4th but Dr. Kelly’s wife, Mary Caroline Cantwell Kelly was the last (but one) to see Andrew Borden alive as he entered his front door moments before his murder.  Mrs. Kelly was expecting a baby at the time and was on her way to the dentist.  Mrs. Kelly’s second child, Mary Philomena married the grandson of Abraham Hart, Bertrand K. Hart.  Both are buried in the Gifford/Hart plot at Oak Grove, directly across the path from the Rev. Augustus Buck, Lizzie’s minister and champion throughout her ordeal.  All are together for eternity in a fascinating entertwining of personalities who had Lizzie Borden in common.

Bertrand and Philomena Kelly Hart

The Rev. Augustus Buck of the Central Congregational Church

Mailbox- The Borden Marker

Elaine Kessell

(edit)

I am finally in the process of doing my family tree. My great grandfather’s name was Nicholas Kessell and I have always known he was a stonecutter in Fall River Mass in the mid to late 1800′s as he past on in 1904 of “stone consumption”. I came across a book “The Fall River Directory of 1882 and notice an ad in there for Kessell and Lawson, a stonecutting company. I can only guess that my great grandfather was in that partnership. My question is, if there is anyway you could find out if he was all involved in the cutting of the Borden tombstone in 1892? I have been intrigued all my life, but now am very curious.
Thank you,
Elaine Kessell
There is never any information about stonecutters.

 Thanks for your email. Sorry to say, the Borden stone was ordered from a Westerly, R.I. carver.  Westerly was a hub for this sort of work and still today has a few remaining carving studios. Buzzi’s is still in business (Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In fame is in that family) The Borden stone was installed in January of 1894 and is made of Westerly blue granite.  Fall River also had some great carvers and a rosy-colored granite.

The custom of Maidens’ Garlands

In the mailbox today we received a query about Maidens’ Garlands- a custom which seems to have originated, or else was extremely popular in 19th century Great Britain.  When a maiden lady passed away, especially a very young, unmarried girl, it was a custom for young Funeral-Garland-Matlockladies of the parish to construct garlands which were solemnly carried before the casket by two maidens on the way to the cemetery.  These garlands were constructed of white paper, and after the cemetery service were hung in the church.  Also crowns of white living flowers were made which would be borne to the grave by maidens in flowing white dresses, generally processing in pairs.  Statuary in Oak Grove frequently makes use of the symbolism of a crown of rosebuds, lilies, and garland swags for the grave markers of maidens.

bramley

A Maiden’s Garland still hanging in a church in England

maiden