The First Funeral Homes

Published: November 8, 2020

Funeral homes in the United States, including Marion, Ohio, started in ways that most people might not expect.

According to,  funeral homes, or parlors have been around for nearly as long as we've been a country. The oldest funeral home which started as a cabinet manufacturer by Anthony Hay, who made coffins as side line business, began in 1759 in Williamsburg Virginia. Hay turned the company over to Benjamin Bucktrout in the late 1700's. Over the years, they evolved into a full-service funeral home and the Bucktrout Funeral Home continues in operation today.

Before the 1860's there were a variety of methods used to prevent decomposition. But after the Civil War, embalming became the preferred method. President Lincoln's travelling funeral, which featured his embalmed body, made this method more acceptable to the general public. As embalming became more popular so did the funeral home.

In 1890 there were 9,891 funeral directors. As people began to see importance of what many viewed as the "modern funeral", and more people accepted the practice of moving a funeral from the home "funeral parlour" to a professional setting. Directors long no longer had to preserve the body in the home but now in their own facilities. Which created need for transportation from hospitals or homes and other additional tasks. Many funeral home owners lived on site and employed their family members to perform duties.

In the 1900's funerals in the U.S., were becoming a big business. By 1920 there were 24,469 funeral homes, much like the modern ones we know today. The business become more professional with the creation of several trade organizations such as National Funeral Directors Association. Now "undertakers" could get proper training in current industry standards and trends, like the growing use of embalming. Additional services began to grow in the around the industry such as casket manufacturing, life insurance, and florists.

As cremation became a growing trend in the U.S., many funeral homes created their own facilities or contracted with crematoriums. Emphasizing the necessity of the viewing and embalming before cremation.

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