The Gaslamp Society Presents:
The 2nd Annual Victorian Cemetery Picnic
Tea & Spirits with The Spirits!
The 2nd Annual Victorian Cemetery Picnic
Sunday September 29th, 2013
Day Of Contact Number: 559.307.7872
The Gaslamp Society Ambassador
Michael Chase-Tipton Butler from Chase Flowers Tower District
Mountain View Cemetery
1411 W Belmont Ave.
Fresno Ca 93728
We'll be setting up the 10x20 burgundy canopy with carpets & pillows again. If you'd like a chair to sit on, please feel free to bring your own. We will be providing hot water and a selection of teas and perhaps a few beverages of a more stimulating variety. Please bring your own tea cup and/or champagne glass along with a finger food to share. We look forward to spending a relaxing afternoon among our dearly departed.
A History of Victorian Cemetery Picnics
Romanticism of burial customs spilled into the graveyards as laws were passed in the late 1700s to maintain their upkeep. Further changes in gravestones happened again in the latter part of the 1700s when cherubs were replaced with willow and urns. This more radical change in gravestone motifs signaled the end of Puritan orthodox beliefs and the rise of “intellectual” religions such as Methodism and Unitarianism. Inscriptions changed as well, as “Here lies…” was replaced with “In memory of…” or “Sacred to the memory of…” and gravestones became less markers and more memorials.
There were changes in the stone shape too, as industrial tools made especially for stone cutting replaced hand-crafting by carvers. The Federal period came about from the move to simple designs, mostly because industrialization replaced hand-carved stones. This is shown in gravestone shapes changing from arched tops to squared shouldered. By the 1820s, the change in gravestone motifs was completely over to memorialization and America entered its Federal and then Victorian phases.
All the change eventually led to the rural cemetery movement of 1800s. There were social reasons for changes in burial customs in the nineteenth century. Up until the early 1800s, New England graveyards were places to avoid. The Puritan symbols left behind in the old burial grounds were deemed too morbid for the new, enlightened attitudes about death. Also, due to rapidly increasing population, there were issues with continued outbreaks of infectious diseases in cities because of poor public sanitation. Old graveyards became so crowded that they became a serious health hazard, with graves stacked on top of each other, or emptied and reused for newer burials. Officials voiced concerned because many graveyards were located within city limits, and they were worried about the spread of disease from the poorly kept burial sites. Another reason for distress was a resistance by churches to burying those who were never church members. It did not matter to authorities who attended church or not, their bodies had to be buried somewhere! For these reasons, authorities, governments and churches had to change their rules for burials.
The 1830s saw the rise of the landscaped cemeteries located outside of urban areas. This was known as the rural cemetery movement of which coincided with the popularity of Romanticized horticulture based on English landscape design, which presented an idealized view of nature. These new parks usually included rolling lawns, a water source such as a lake or pond, groves of trees, and recreations of picturesque architecture. All of it designed to recreate a peaceful, pastoral scene of beauty.
Rural cemeteries (also known as park or garden cemeteries) were purposely landscaped like a park for use by the general public as a place for light outdoor recreation. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, opened in 1831, was the first rural cemetery and helped ushered in a kind of “Victorian era” in American cemetery art and architecture. Before the development of parks, the public was encouraged to visit and enjoy nature, art, and contemplation, and use the cemetery for outings such as picnics, carriage rides, or an afternoon stroll. Besides being the final resting place for many citizens, these cemeteries acted as a showcase for memorial artwork and architecture, as well as serving as a natural wildlife sanctuary and arboretum.
As the country went into its “Victorian age” with rural cemeteries, designs became more elaborate and intricate, especially with the trend for Gothic Revival style, thanks to either machinery or artists. Famous artists such as Daniel Chester French designed funeral statuary with a purposeful eye toward “Art.” Barre, VT became a hotbed of funerary-based artistic activity thanks to the local granite quarries and an influx of Italian sculptors.
However, changing attitudes once again denoted changing styles in cemeteries. As the Victorian mind-set gave way to increasingly impersonal industrialization and the onslaught of World War I, elaborate cemeteries were seen as distasteful. Anything that glorified or romanticized death was looked upon with disdain. Many people regarded the mismatched collections of individual headstones, slabs and decaying fences in rural cemeteries to be aesthetically unattractive. The populace no longer wished to face death and decay, and instead wanted it out of their lives as long as possible.