Frazer Blog

A history of funerals in the United States

by | Jul 12, 2016 | Funeral Profession

An elderly woman wearing black and sitting at a table

Funeral service in the United States is constantly in flux.

Today, there are tons of different ways for families and friends to honor their dead, and more options are just beyond the horizon. But how did we get to this point?

Early America

In early America, families cared for their own dead. All of the preparation, dressing, and setting up for a funeral was done in the family’s home, with help from a group of women in the community who had the responsibility of helping with such matters.

When parlors became popular, this is where most families held their funerals. Parlors were rooms that were traditionally filled with a family’s finest possessions and kept clean at all times, making them ideal locations for honoring the dead.

Homes that were grander typically had a death door placed off of the parlor for the removal of a deceased family member, as it was considered improper to remove a body through a door the living entered.

Caskets were typically built by the family themselves or purchased at the general store, and the deceased was buried in the family cemetery.

Mid 1800s

During the Civil War, funeral customs began to change. Because so many men were dying far from home, embalming came into practice so that bodies could be returned to the home of the family for a funeral and burial.

With the growth in popularity of embalming came the trend of modern funerals, since embalming allowed for more options when it came to funeral services by keeping bodies fresher for longer periods of time.

It was then that funeral homes and funeral directors, also called undertakers and morticians, started appearing all over the U.S.

Late 1800s and Early 1900s

In 1882, the National Funeral Directors Association was formed, ushering in a new era of professional morticians. The same year, the first school of mortuary science in the U.S. opened in Cincinnati, Ohio — the Cincinnati School of Embalming, now known as the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

At the beginning of the 20th century, funeral homes and funeral directors flourished and formed the funeral profession as it is today.


The history of funeral homes and traditions is a rich one. Today, funeral directors still do much of the same as what they’ve been doing for the last 100 years, though advances in the profession have improved the ways that morticians care for the body as well as the ways that families can remember their dead.

But big changes are on the horizon — new trends are everywhere, especially when it comes to having environmentally-friendly funerals. Families today want to have more options than ever before when it comes to honoring their loved ones.

So, what does the future hold for funeral homes and morticians? Let us know what you think is the next big thing in the comments below.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Sign up for our newsletter and get tips, trends, news, and more sent directly to your inbox!

Pin It on Pinterest