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If you died over 200 years ago in America, your family would wash and dress your body and place it in a bed surrounded by candles to dampen the smell of decomposition. Before the body's putrefaction advanced too far, the local carpenter would make a simple pine casket, and everyone would gather at the cemetery (or your own backyard, if you were a landowner) for a few words before returning you to the earth. What is most fascinating is how the founding of the modern multi-billion dollar death industry can essentially be traced back to President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral and his embrace of embalming. During the Civil war, most bodies were left where they fell, decomposing in fields and trenches all over the South, or rolled into mass graves. Some wealthy northern families were willing to pay to have the bodies of deceased soldiers returned to them. But before the invention of refrigeration, this often became a mess, as the heat and humidity would cause the body to decompose in a matter of a couple of days. In 1862, the president would have his 11 year old son (and favorite son), Willie, undergo the embalming process which let them keep the body in the White House longer and allowed them to grieve for their son. When the president was assassinated a few years later, the same doctor embalmed Lincoln in preparation for

a "funeral train" that paraded his body back to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Nothing like this had happened for any president previously, or since, and the funeral procession left an lasting effect on those who attended it. Most visitors waited in line for hours to parade by Lincoln's open casket. At every major city the body was actually removed from the train and laid in state in whatever important building was available.

While we do not have statistics on the increase in embalmings during this time, there is ample evidence that the Civil War had a profound effect on how Americans treated death. Families could no longer bury their

own. Death was becoming professionalized, its mechanisms increasingly out of the hands of typical Americans. And as a result, the cost of burying the dead soared. Hence, the American funeral industry was born, with embalming as its cornerstone, as families ceded control of their loved ones' bodies to a funeral director. #history #AmericanHistory

Look at the open second-floor window

between shutters in this photograph, and you will see two little boys. One of them is future President Theodore Roosevelt looking down from his grandfather’s mansion.

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