Some of the things that make working at the Labor & Industry Museum in Belleville so much fun for archivist Judy Belleville and photo archivist Bob Arndt are investigating the old and odd things that show up at the museum.
Recently they have been puzzling over some items left to the museum by Bruce Meyer, of Meyer Printing, in Belleville. Judy said the items are interesting and a nice look back at how the printing industry used to work.
But stuck in the middle of their collection are two photographs that seemingly are unlinked to any of the rest of the items. One picture is of a young woman in a casket, apparently ready for viewing. The other picture is of an older man, also laid out in a casket. Both were taken by Reime Studio, formerly of 23 W. Main St. in Belleville.
Were they family? Celebrities?
“Nobody knew anything about them,” Belleville said.
So, they are hoping that some publicity will shed some light on the two people.
One is a woman in her coffin, seemingly of young adult age. She is surrounded by flowers and greenery.
One plant has a banner ending in daughter, whether daughter or granddaughter, I don’t know. In the middle of the flowers is a ribbon with a name that might be Alice. She is holding a Rosary.
There is no indication of a date or locations.
The other picture is of an older man in his coffin. On his flowers is a ribbon proclaiming him a husband.
On the lid of the coffin it says “father.”
The pictures are on display on the museum’s web site: laborandindustrymuseum.org under a tab on the left called unidentified pictures.
Belleville said they would like to identify the people in the pictures, but the photos also serve as a reminder that the museum is looking at items that concern business for the industry part of the museum. “We’re not just about labor,” she said.
The museum’s collection has several pictures relating to the funeral business, she said. It also has items such as funeral bills and details from funerals. People often were laid out in private homes and then moved to funeral parlors or churches.
“That was a tradition then, more so than now,” Belleville said.
A bill from Gundlach Funeral Home from August 1904 lists some details of a funeral, including conveying remains for $10, casket for $50, shroud for $6, hire of hearse for $8, carriage for $20, pallbearers wagon for $5 and use of plants for $2.
While flowers in abundance have always been a big part of funerals, the ability to rent some of the big plants explains why some funeral displays were so big.
And at least they didn’t have to worry about what to do with those plants post-funeral, as some do now.