Monday, January 11, 2010

Casket Catalogue - ca 1911

I found this amazing collection on good-old-eBay a few years ago. It is a casket catalog from the National Casket Company with a title page dated 1911.

The booklet contains a couple hundred halftone photos with the particulars on each page of the various caskets and vaults made available to the mourning public by the National Casket Company.

The biggest and best part of the collection was the hundreds of dog-eared linen-backed vintage silver-prints that accompanied the catalog itself. They seemed to be the sources for the halftone images within the catalog. Considering the overall condition, it is amazing that the two were found together. They also contain typewritten information on the back of each print, many with prices and penciled corrections.


There was only one photograph that was labeled as a child's casket. In the image below, the typewritten text from the back was copied and layered with the image to make a composite. I may use it  as a piece in my art practice, but have not come to terms with its inherent power and its relationship to the postmortem photographs in my collection. I'm thinking of making a large ink-jet print with a polymer-plate embossment of the text in letterpress over the surface of the image. This is a digital representation of how it might look.

The wonderful thing about a find like this is that it is likely unique. Like with the postmortem portraits, I inherit a lot of responsibility for how these images are used, how they are archived, and how they are disseminated. This blog is a start. I am curious as to what many of you might think. 

The Post-Mortem Portrait Archive
From my postmortem collection, I sorted through the dozen or so that included small white caskets and came up with one that is the closest to the one in the above catalog photo.

They both date to the same early 20th century period. The postmortem is in an embossed mat folder with an 11.1 cm x 16.2 cm image. The Edwardian room is likely in the USA.

1 comment:

  1. I love your website! It is really put together well. Your photos are awesome!


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