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The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883
When George Washington died in 1799, towns throughout the country commemorated the event with solemn processions featuring empty coffins. In contrast, after Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865, his body was transported around the North and displayed for more than two weeks, for by then corpses could be autopsied, drained of their blood, and beautified for the benefit of mourne ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published January 11th 1999 by Yale University Press
(first published November 27th 1996)
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Each October, I'm asked to give tours at several historic cemeteries here in CT. The Sacred Remains is the book I use most for fact checking and for answers to questions that visitors sometimes ask that I can't answer. Meticulously researched and documented, the book opens with an account of the many funerals of George Washington (GW's "invisible corpse"), with emphasis on how the extravagant, nationwide expressions of mourning affected Protestant American burial traditions and attitudes toward ...more
Fascinating to learn how much, and in some ways how little, our attitudes toward death have changed. And to understand that practices that currently seem so outrageous -- like embalming -- we can blame on war. (In this case, the Civil War.)
Gary Laderman is the Professor of American Religious History and Cultures at Emory University. He received his B.A. in psychology from California State University, Northridge, and his M.A. and Ph. D. from the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. He also spent a year in Paris, France, as a graduate student, studying at the Center for Critical Studies and the Sorbon ...moreMore about Gary Laderman