Horse-drawn hearses date all the way back until the 17th century. Although the vehicle was originally used for transportation, they eventually evolved into becoming an icon for funerals.
Here is a look into the history of the horse-drawn hearse and how it evolved into the vehicles that we use today.
How Did It Begin?
A harrow is referenced to in plowing, and is used to level land. The word “hearse” originates from the term. Early prototypes had spikes for holding candles and were made of a metal or wooden framework.
These frameworks stand over what’s called a bier, which is what held the casket. These are still around today but are made of aluminum and have wheels.
A Look At Early Hearses
In the 17th century it was the biers that had later evolved into what was known as horse-drawn carriages or hearses. Later in the 19th century is where wood was used instead of the metal framework.
Wood allowed the carriages to have a more intricate design. They were often carved with doves, flowers, scrolls, and other icons involving religion and passing on.
Sometimes, depending on the wealth of the deceased, velvet drapes hung from the sides. Expensive wood such as mahogany was used for the carriage.
Motorized hearses weren’t introduced until around the 20th century when horse-drawn carriages started to lose their popularity. Around the time of the 1920’s, motorized vehicles became more common within society.
With acceptance came the need of style changes and customizations. Landau and limousine styles started to gain popularity around this time. The styles developed during these times still have influence on some of the hearses used today.
For example, the landu-style of hearse began to have S-shaped bars on the side of the vehicle. For some reason, this design stuck and some hearses still have these marks today.
Other alternatives in funeral transportation that tried to catch on was trolley carts and subway trains. These carried not only the casket, but the attendees of the funeral to the cemetery. For better or worse, it just didn’t work out as well as a motorized hearse did.
Hearses In Today’s History
In our current time we have had a variety of hearse designs circulate our market. Even medium-sized vans have been converted to transport caskets. Although, Landau style of hearse transportation still remains popular to this day.
As our world and technology keep evolving who knows what we’ll see in our future. All we know is that we can learn from our past. If you would like to see hearse artifacts from the past, you can come learn a lot over at our collection.