Mourning Customs

In the 19th century death was a very large part of everyday life.  Three of every 20 children died before their first birthday.  The life expectancy was 42 years.  This was due to a number of things.  Epidemics, bad medicine, bad water, lack of medical care.

Victorian rules of etiquette were very strict and governed every phase of their lives and rules that pertained to death had a strict social Code

Most often when someone died everyone in the family household including any servants would go into deep mourning. The curtains would be drawn and the clocks stopped at the exact time of death and. The mirrors would be draped so that the spirit of the deceased could not become trapped in the glass. The body was sat with by family members and household servants.  Some graves were watched over to prevent grave robbers from digging them up.  Some caskets has strings to a bell on the top of the graves in case the person was not really dead so they could ring the alarm.

Many funerals were grand events. The carpenters were summoned and the coffins were intricately carved and decorated with gilding. The Hearse and teams of horses were decorated with ostrich plumes.  The horses may be draped in black or sometimes dyed black. The funeral party would return to the home for food and drink after the services. If the deceased was a child the coffin was white with white accents.

The seamstress was ordered to make the clothes for the deep mourning period, women would wear only black of a dull fabric so light would not reflect it. Lace or other decorations were not used. (Unless you were Scarlett O'Hara).  Men also wore black suits with a black arm band.  The family as a whole wore black during mourning including the children whose garments would be trimmed in black.

Mouring times varied depending on the relationship to the deceased.

A widow mourned her husband 2 years. First year all black clothing, (crepe cloth) jewelry was forbidden and she was held to a very limited social life. After a year she had passed she continued to wear black but now could wear black silk and some jewelry. 

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Margie Daniels , Millie Stewart  and   Davine Cambpell  County Managers

Last date updated 04/10/2006

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