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.
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.
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.