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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Convertible Coffin: 1925

Convertible Coffin: 1925

Washington, D.C., or vicinity circa 1925. "No. 89 -- Cemetery picture -- No name." One last look around topside. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Orthodox Priest

I've forwarded this post to, with hopes that somebody may be able to identify the priest, and from there possibly be able to identify who were the people in the pictures.

Changing Mores

Funny how people's attitudes change. The comments on here show that post-mortem photography is considered macabre by todays standards, yet when this picture was taken it was still acceptable. I myself have taken pictures of many family members and close friends in their caskets, although I would not feel right if they were displayed.
A photo of a recently deceased celebrity on a tabloid cover caused a minor uproar, but a century ago the same picture would likely have been run on the front page of respectable newspapers.
As for the guy in the box, he looks dead tired.

Orthodox cross

Greek, to be more precise, I believe.
Russian/Slavonic rite has been the three-barred cross for a long time, and the Maltese cross has in-tapered ends, compared to the square ends of the Greek cross.

Family heritage

Studying the clergyman I am going to guess Eastern Orthodox Christians: The beard was not common in the 1920's but orthodox would accept it; the collar does not seem to be Roman rite; and the cross on the priest's stole seems to fit the Eastern tradition.

The camera can play tricks.

He looks a lot older in person.

The photographer

accomplished what the embalmer could not!

Someone Say Something Nice About The Departed

OK, he never looked so good.

AntonioB almost nailed it: I

AntonioB almost nailed it: I worked with press photographers who made money on the side shooting funerals like this. They were taken for the people left behind in "the old country," wherever that might be. Most commonly they were shot in a hall, with everyone seated around the casket. Pro tip: without fail, all those sitting would have their hands on their knees, clearly showing that they had all (or most) of their fingers, to calm those "back home" that the dangerous factories where they worked hadn't gotten them - yet.

The faces

Looks like a funeral in my familia. Although mine were Northern Italians. These look to be Sicilian.

Isn't there supposed to be a hole?

Or do we just push it into the ground?


He's packed in there very nicely. It could be a long, rough trip, and he won't get damaged.


I'm guessing that it was a very warm day seeing as how the makeup is melting off the corpse.

Takes Me Back

One of my favorite regulars on the Ed Sullivan show was
Senor Wences. For some reason this shot reminded me of him. 's alright? 's alright.

Finally It Can Be Said

No doubt at all that at least one guy in this photo is dead today.


I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd get up and look at a little Shorpy. Geez! What a nightcap...won't sleep now....what was that noise?????

Most are looking at the Photographer

probably because it beats looking at the creepy dead guy!

No words

I have no words for how disturbing this is. Possibly it's because I dislike open coffins, but this is freaky.

Poor embalming job (if any!)

Gah. The guy's left eye and mouth appear to be slightly open. Last look around is right!

Also, from the pic, I thought it was a reusable coffin with a door at the bottom that would let the dearly departed slip out into an open hole like they do for burials at sea.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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