You’ve likely heard crazy stories about super-morbidly obese people buried in weird make-do caskets like piano cases and shipping containers? Though rooted in fact, these tales predated modern coffins, which come in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes. So, if you lose someone who was heavy, rest assured you will be able to find a suitable oversized coffin to accommodate the need without having to hire someone to build a wooden crate.
Since the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports an estimated 36.5 million Americans are clinically obese, like most other American industries, mortuaries have responded to accommodate the growing trend (pun, intended). But some people choose odd coffin styles even when weight is not the issue. If you have ever wondered about the weirdest containers people use to dispose of their dead, you’re in luck. This post is all about the weird boxes we sometimes use to bury our dead.
The word “coffin” comes from the Old French cofin and from the Latin cophinus, which means basket. First used in the English language in 1380, early coffins were boxes or chests used to display and bury corpses. Coffins used to transport the deceased are palls, though that term can mean the cloth spread over a coffin, hearse or tomb.
Craftsmen use wood, cast iron, steel, fiberglass, glass, bamboo, wicker, wool and gold to make coffins/caskets. Ornamental trim originates from whalebone, elephant ivory or precious metals.
History of the Coffin
- Coffins have been used since ancient Egypt. Mummified bodies were placed in a container called a sarcophagus, before burial in pyramids.
- In Europe, around 700, Celts fashioned burial boxes with flat stones.
- The Civil War necessitated mass coffin production, leading to the birth of the coffin industry.
- In 1784, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II called for coffin reuse to save wood. To accommodate the request, coffin manufacturers built a trap door on the bottom which would send the body directly into a hole, while allowing the coffin to be pulled back up for repeated use. After six months, public outcry canceled the practice.
- Almond Fisk patented the first cast-iron casket in 1848, which weighed more than 300 pounds and cost $100. At the time, wooden coffins sold for $1 to $3 (equivalent to $50 today.)
- Fisk died in 1850, penniless, having mortgaged his patented rights to John G. Forbes to get loans to continue building metallic burial boxes after his factory burned to the ground.
- Cast-iron coffins were made through the 1870’s.
- Metal coffins caught on with wealthy families, with affluent purchasers opting for metal because it deterred grave robbers.
- By the 1960’s, steel casket production had grown to 50% of the market.
- By the 1970’s, nearly two-thirds of all caskets were metal.
- Today, most coffins are made from stainless steel.
Like the space capsule main character Mork uses in Mork & Mindy, the Capsula Mundi is an egg-shaped pod made of biodegradable material, where departed loved ones are placed for burial. Ashes are held in small egg-shaped urns while bodies are laid down in a fetal position in a larger pod.
Cardboard Picture Coffins
In much the same way bodies bio-degrade, so do these cardboard containers made by Creative Coffins, offering final resting places including recreations of a pea-covered cardboard container to a guitar case to a giant wine crate.
Leading the world in crazy coffin creations, Ghana artists fashion caskets shaped like airplanes, men’s dress shoes, an ear of corn, and a Bible. Custom Coffins
Personalized caskets incorporate hobbies and attitudes in shape, design, color and function. Companies such as Trey Ganem Designs offer one-of-a-kind paint jobs and customized interiors while Casket Wraps features “coffin skins” for around $700 for discerning decedents.
The creatively inclined can fashion their own casket using a raw wood and nautical rope kit from Etsy for around $600.
About Foothill Funeral & Cremation
Would you prefer a traditional service or would you like to use your memorial to laugh with the ones you leave behind? Either way, give us a call (626) 335-0615 or drop by our Glendora showroom. In Covina, our relationship with Sacred Heart Chapel is the perfect place for mourners to host funerals and memorial services in a grandiose yet intimate setting. We proudly serve the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Basin, Orange County and the Inland Empire. Working in the mortuary industry since 1996, we have worked hard to build a reputation of quality, sincerity and trust. Please allow us to help you at your time of need or in the future. Call today (626) 335-0615 or drop by our showroom.