History of the Funeral Industry

Funerals and burial rituals have been practiced for centuries. From mummification in the ancient Egyptian times to the extremely regimented practices of Muslims across the world, burial rituals differ greatly across the world’s societal bounds. The American funeral industry was never really established until after the civil war. Before the civil war, families would bury the bodies of relatives themselves. Messing with the natural course of decomposition by embalming the body was frowned upon during colonial times, but eventually began to gain popularity (Laderman).
Although the practice of embalming corpses of the dead has been practiced for centuries, the U.S. began embalming the bodies of dead soldiers to prevent them from decomposing on the trip home. The person in charge of arranging and performing the embalming process was then known as an “undertaker” (funeralwise.com). After the war, the popularity of undertakers began to skyrocket; thus, forming an industry. The rapid spread of embalming practices and urbanization in the early twentieth century led to undertakers starting up funeral homes. Instead of the undertaker traveling to the home of the deceased, bodies were transported to the funeral home to be embalmed – relieving the families of having to deal with the logistics of death (Laderman).
Although funeral directors, originally called “undertakers,” are well regarded professionals, the funeral industry has continually been tarnished by bad press, economic factors, and ugly controversies (Laderman). The most prevalent attack has been economic. Society has always considered the profession as a “swindlers paradise” because funeral homes often take advantage of grieving families by outrageously pricing their services. This is a constant uphill battle facing funeral directors of our day.

The funeral industry has increasingly adapted to consumer demands, developing ways to cohere to the traditions of various societal groups. Although many ethnic/societal groups have specific funeral directors to take car of their dead, the rapidly emerging industry has become more ethnicity friendly and can adapt to any burial practice desired (funeralwise.com). This industry is looking at facing an economic boom as we reach the end of our “baby-boomer” generation, and they have come up with a plethora of creative ideas in order to cater their future.

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