Monday, April 17, 2006

Not All Men Are Cremated Equal

The New York Times today examines the growing demand for ostentatious mausoleums in some affluent communities.

Some mausoleums echo the temple of the goddess Fortuna Virilis in Rome. Some are hefty, rusticated stone barns. Some have more square footage than a good-size Manhattan studio apartment, their interiors fitted out with hand-knotted carpets, upholstered benches and nooks for the display of memorabilia. In late 2004, a Southern California family ordered a mausoleum with room for 12 coffins, 20 cremation niches and a patterned marble vestibule. [Link]
The Hartford Courant explores the other end of the funereal spectrum: the burial of indigents in Connecticut over the years.
Hartford undertakers were steaming under their high collars in 1904 when an East Hartford funeral director underbid them for a contract to inter the capital city's destitute. The city's charity board was paying $6.50 to bury an infant, $10 for children up to age 12 and $15 for adults. More important, the funeral parlor that held the city contract also took donations from friends and relatives. Competition was fierce.

"At times," The Courant reported in 1899, "the police have been bothered by rival undertakers scrambling for a body found in the river, or in cases where the medical examiner has been called. " [Link]

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