Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

The Day After Halloween and Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Missouri Civil War Museum. I met and chatted with the museum’s director, Mark L. Trout, at length. He inspired me with his passion about preserving information on this crucial time in our country’s history, and he impressed me with his knowledge and plans for the museum’s future.

Here are a few of the exhibits at the Missouri Civil War Museum. (Photo – Missouri Civil War Museum  website)

This wasn’t my first trip to the museum near Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, and it certainly won’t be my last. They own many artifacts from the war, including clothing, medical instruments, weaponry, and personal effects. Prowling through the exhibits provides a fascinating trip back in time. For those interested in the Civil War, I highly recommend taking a visit. For more information, click HERE.

After leaving the museum, I headed to the monthly meeting of the Civil War Round Table of St. Louis, looking forward to the topic – the history of mourning customs in America. Paula Zalar, the presenter, filled us in on many fascinating tidbits.  According to Ms. Zalar, customs evolved based on the religious beliefs of the time. For example, early Christians hoped for a “good” death, which basically meant a lingering one with at least a moderate amount of suffering (gulp!), giving the person time to repent his/her sins and ready them spiritually for death. As time went on these beliefs were challenged (war may have had something to do with it), and the notion of a “good” death changed.

The romanticism of the latter 19th century  made symbolism increasingly important. People wanted to keep mementos of the deceased that included memorial cards, use of the deceased’s hair in jewelry or other items, and photographs taken of the deceased (some of which were posed to appear as though still alive). Symbolism in grave markers also abounded, using placement of flowers, a rendering of a broken chain, trailing ivy, and other means.

Women bore the brunt of mourning customs in the nineteenth century. Men mostly just had to wear a dark suit, but a woman who lost a husband (which happened a lot during the war) was expected to wear full deep mourning attire for at least two years. To ignore the prescribed expectations would make the widow a social outcast. (Think Scarlett O’Hara when she took her famous dance with Rhett Butler while in deep mourning.) But never fear, a woman didn’t have to wear black and a heavy veil forever. After two years, society allowed her a subdued shade of lilac.

Paula Zalar wore mourning clothes for her presentation which would have been suitable for a widow after two years. (Photo-Civil War Round Table of St. Louis)

Needless to say, mourning customs have continued to evolve, but still much of what we do now is based on early traditions. Ms. Zalar’s talk intrigued many of us enough to seek out additional information. If you’re interested in further reading, (including how Queen Victoria set the standard for mourning), you can start HERE.

Now on to an important announcement.

On October 25, the names of all my subscribers were entered in a random drawing to win a $25 Amazon gift card. The winner has been selected and, drum roll please, her name is – Sioux Roslawski! Congratulations to Sioux and have fun shopping.

If your name wasn’t chosen this time, don’t despair. I’ll be holding another giveaway soon.

Now I’m off to do a little more reading on mourning customs. How appropriate for the day after Halloween.



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  1. This is all very interesting. I love finding out the origins of things.
    And Congrats to Sioux!

  2. Pat Wahler

    November 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Marcia, there’s so much more information than what I shared. Paula Zalar was such an interesting and interactive presenter.

  3. The speakers at the Civil War Round Table have a wealth of knowledge. I’m looking forward to going to their events in 2018,

  4. Sounds fascinating, Pat. And the idea of a “good” death! I suppose I understand their reasoning, but . . . oh, my. Quick and in my sleep, please, is how I’d like to go, though not for a long time yet, I hope. Lots of interesting info here. Thanks for a great post!

    • Pat Wahler

      November 3, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Lisa, I barely scratched the surface. Many of the customs were quite bizarre, at least from today’s point-of-view, but I suppose every time period has its expectations. Who knows what mourning will look like one hundred years from now!

  5. I also love hearing about history and how today’s customs and beliefs stem from what people did in the past. Thanks for sharing. I have never been to the Civil War Museum, and I have a book set during the Civil War! I should get myself over there. 🙂

  6. Pat–First, thanks for the gift card. I WILL enjoy spending it (and probably more ;).

    Secondly, I don’t know if it’s still there, but there used to be a hair museum in St. Genevieve. There were many pieces of jewelry made out of human hair.

    I’m looking forward to next Saturday. It should be a fun day,

  7. Interesting. I hope we don’t destroy the civil war artifacts (along with monuments) in an effort to be politically correct. We also have a civil war museum locally here in Texas at White Settlement (and yes, they tried to change the name of that because it offended some people!)

    • Pat Wahler

      November 4, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Ann, our Civil War Museum actually sued the city to get possession of a monument the city planned to destroy. There was quite a tussle over the whole issue.

  8. This is so interesting, Pat, thank you for sharing. I have a house in my first novel (unpublished) that has some ties to civil war history, so I think I’ll make a trip down there to get some ideas. My dad was a huge Civil War buff, and never liked the color purple (the color itself, not the book) because he said it reminded him of death. This may be why.

    • Pat Wahler

      November 5, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Mary, I think anyone with interest in the Civil War would find the museum interesting. If you drive to the far back of the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery, there are a number of Civil War soldier tombstones.

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