On Oct. 30, Halloween Eve, the Tamaqua Historical Society educated and entertained a crowd of curious onlookers interested in learning more about "Death, Mourning and Burial Customs" during the Victorian Era.
About half of the attendees wore their best black mourning outfits to go along with the theme.
The lights were dimmed, signaling the start of the program, held at the Tamaqua Community Art Center, Pine Street. Society members along with about 30 others attended the free program.
In addition to the program, led by Dale Freudenberger, society president, the society also provided an exhibit of original artifacts including a circa 1800s wooden coffin, coffin candle stands, embalming materials, mourning clothing, photos of deceased with family members, Victorian mourning shadow boxes, original funeral photos from Tamaqua, name plates from horse drawn hearses, a portable home embalming table, and more.
Freudenberger spoke of the roots of many traditions used during the time of death and burial. Examples included that the use of flowers at a funeral was originally a way to disguise the smell of the rotting corpse, all mirrors in the home had to be draped with black cloth to prevent the spirit from seeing themselves, and silver dollars were used to hold the eyelids shut because it was believed that if the eyes opened and the soul looked upon one of the living family members it could beckon them to the grave as well. The thought of the coffin alarm ringing in the cemetery as a way to signal that someone had been buried alive also brought chills to the crowd.
The Tamaqua Historical Society will offer a variety of other programs in the coming months. Details will be announced as they become available.
For more information about the Tamaqua Historical Society, contact Dale Freudenberger at 610-597-6722 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.