Waco, Texas, circa 1890: Cabinet card; vignette of a deceased boy. A second cabinet card showing the boy posed on his mother’s lap, alongside his father and older brother is available here (Thanatos Archive subscription is required. Not yet a member? Memberships available here ).
May 1869 letter from Sarah “Gussie” Bridgens to her friend Jennie Tubbs, informing her of Sarah’s sister, Anna’s, death. Anna was born in 1839 and just celebrated her 30th birthday in April. She died of consumption.
North Oyster Bay
May 31st, 1869
My Dear Friend Jennie,
I sit down to write you a letter, a very sad one for me to write and I think a sad one for you to read. My dear sister Anna after a lingering and very painful sickness of fourteen months has been taken by God’s will to himself. He saw fit that she should at last have rest from all her agony and trouble.
She died on the 18th day of May, at a quarter past six in the morning. No one knew what she suffered but herself. she was laid out most beautifully. Miss Susie Youngs brought beautiful white flowers of all kinds. She look just like May (?). She died very easy, her breath grew weaker and weaker, and at last her spirit left its frail body and resigned itself to God who gave it.
She passed away from this sinful earth amid the tears and sobs of father, mother, sisters and brother, and all her kind friends. We accompanied her body to “Greenwood”, that blessed city of the dead. We left her amidst the beautiful birds and flowers. Mother says all we can do now is to prepare to meet her in Heaven.
Dear Jennie I need not tell you how I feel, there is a vacancy which it will take time to fill. I can hardly realize it at present.
Your Bereaved Friend,
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Dramatic post mortem scene and accompanying poem, from a series of memorial and mourning themed postcards printed in England, in 1909.
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Real photo postcard showing two of the three triplets (two girls, one boy) who died on September 11, 1911. The reason that only two were photographed is unclear, but these were possibly the two girls photographed together, or, the third child had not yet died.
Photo #2 is the house that the triplets died and were photographed in, taken 44 years later!
Rare and interesting druggist’s receipt, dated November 22, 1894, for a sale of borate of soda to Fairplay, Colorado coroner William B. Fowler, to be used “To paint with face of corpse”.
Nineteenth Century morticians like Mr. Fowler would often coat the faces of the deceased with this mixture in order to help prevent discoloration and the formation of bacteria / mold. Families of the deceased, who very commonly held wakes at the family home, would use a similar technique, covering their dead loved one’s face with a cloth that had been soaked in a mixture of baking soda and water; the cloth would remain in place whenever the body was not being viewed.
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