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A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America

ISBN: 9781421448404
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A spirited look at how funeral homes impacted American consumerism, the built environment, and national identities.

Funeral homes—those grand, aging mansions repurposed into spaces for embalming, merchandising, funeral services, and housing for the funeral director and their family—are immediately recognizable features of the American landscape, and yet the history of how these spaces emerged remains largely untold. In Preserved, Dean Lampros uses the history of this uniquely American architectural icon to explore the twentieth centurys expanding consumer landscape and reveal how buildings can help construct identities.

Across the United States, Lampros traces the funeral industrys early twentieth-century exodus from gloomy downtown undertaking parlors to outmoded Victorian houses in residential districts. As savvy retailers and accidental preservationists, funeral directors refashioned the interiors into sumptuous retail settings that stimulated consumer demand for luxury burial goods. These spaces allowed for more privacy and more parking, and they helped turn Americans away from traditional home funerals toward funeral homes instead. Moreover, by moving into neighborhoods that were once the domain of white elites, African American funeral directors uplifted their industry and altered the landscape of white supremacy.

The funeral home has tracked major changes in American culture, including an increased reliance on the automobile and the rise of consumer culture. Preserved offers an in-depth cultural history of a space that is both instantly familiar and largely misunderstood.


By: Dean G Lampros

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Pages: 384

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