General

The Interesting History of Coffins and Caskets

Coffin word has come from old French word “cofin” and also from Latin word “cophinus”. This word was first time used in English language since 1380. Usually, coffin is used as box or chest in order to display or bury the corpse.

People in Egypt has been using coffin when they used to mummify the dead body before burying them under a pyramid. In Europe however this trend started around 700. Most of the people used to bury the dead body wrapped in shroud or in wooden box.

The word casket was usually used in the North America which has 4 sides with rectangular shape while coffin is hexagonal shape having 6 sides.

During the period of civil war in America plenty of coffins were needed in order to transport dead body and hence mass production of coffin began and casket industry developed coffins for sale.

These coffins or gaskets were made from cast iron, wood, steel, glass, fiberglass and bamboo, wool and sometime of gold too. Various ornamental carvings were also made and ivory or other precious metals were used.

In the year 1784, the Roman emperor Joseph II who declared that to save wood, reusable coffins are to be used. Coffins used to have trap door at the bottom of it from where dead body will be dropped in the hole and you can again pull out the coffin for reuse for another dead body.

However due to public protest this law was soon cancelled within 6 months.

From 1850 to 1870, caskets were made of cast iron which was shaped like sarcophagus and it was weighing over 300 pounds that was costing very high while wooden coffins were available at much cheaper price.

Almond Fisk is the person who patented this type of coffins made of cast iron.  However, his coffin manufacturing unit was burned down by people. When Fisk died, he was penniless and he had mortgaged his patent to Mr. John G. Forbes.

Forbes and also his family again rebuilt the manufacturing facility and continued with manufacturing metallic caskets till 1888 after changing the name of the company.

Metallic coffins were popular with wealthy people as they wanted to deter away grave robbers. In the year 1885, the burial of General Ulysses S. Grant was done in an iron made casket which was built in New York.

During the year 1700 to 1800 there was a fear of being buried alive as cholera epidemic was rampant during this period. Therefore, many people were buried while they were alive thinking that they will not survive.

Therefore, safety coffin was created where bell was provided so that in case the buried person survives then he or she can send signal that the person is still alive.

During 20th century wooden casket remained the norm however during 1960, production of steel gasket grew by 50%. By 1970 almost all caskets were made of metal. Even bronze and copper metals too were used for making casket.

Nowadays, caskets are available in many different types and shapes that one can choose for their beloved deceased person.

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