In August, we shared a selection of vintage vacation destination photographs captured by the Detroit Photographic Company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Back then, Detroit Photographic traveled the country snapping picturesque shots for postcards, prints, and albums, often employing their exclusive Photochrom process to print splashy color images in large numbers.
One thing we didn’t include in that round-up: all their photos of cemeteries. While it might seem strange to send someone a postcard of a cemetery today (or to put a photo of one in an album), many of America’s 19th century cemeteries were feats of sculpture and landscaping that provided much-needed fresh air and relaxation. It wasn’t so unusual to visit them even when you weren’t in mourning, perhaps stopping by for a stroll or a picnic. A postcard often made a nice memento of such a visit, particularly if it depicted a famous grave.
Detroit Photographic (later the Detroit Publishing Company, and just one of many companies making images of cemeteries) eventually went bankrupt. Fortunately, you can still enjoy many of its images via Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. In the spirit of the season, here are just a few of their images from some of the nation’s most picturesque cemeteries and churchyards. You'll find dozens more in their archives, if you feel like doing some of your own trick-or-treating.
St. Philip's, Charleston, South Carolina. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain
Christ Church churchyard, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain
Forest Hills, Boston, receiving tomb. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public domain
John Brown's Grave, North Elba, New York. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain
Mission of Santa Barbara. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain
St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public domain
St. Roch's Chapel and Campo Santo, New Orleans. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain
Washington's Tomb, Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain