“In the older time, it all took place at home. Drapes were brought in to reduce the light into the family’s parlor. Netting and lighting helped to hide any bodily imperfections, while fans were used to keep the air moving. Houses were even built to accommodate caskets coming in and out of the parlor through large windows.” – Bill Peoples
There once was a time when families hosted the funerals of their deceased loved ones in the living room. The embalmer’s profession was that of a travelling one, and he would visit the family to perform the embalming and the funeral right in the comfort of their own home. Now, this tradition is replaced with the funeral home, but one local museum preserves the history.
The Peoples Mortuary Museum of Marietta, Ohio is situated behind the Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home on Front Street. An unassuming and deceptively large building, most people aren’t even aware that it exists. However, once inside, visitors are transported back to the origins of funeral traditions.
Bill Peoples, the museum’s curator, offers visitors a chance to step back in time. Bill’s father used many of the instruments on display when he was a funeral director in Lowell, Ohio. He has taken special care to preserve and display the items in an intriguing and tasteful manner. Visitors can find items ranging from basket case caskets (a vintage version of closed casket) to vintage burial clothes and the impressive collection of Packards.
The museum houses four vintage funeral vehicles, one of which is horse drawn. Each one has a rich history, and several boast hand-carved features that rival any sculpture. The 1938 Packard in the museum is one of a kind car with cathedral interiors – a must-see at the museum.
Even a star lives in the museum. Get Low, a film which tells the story of a man who wants to attend his own funeral, stars well-known names such as Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black and Bill Murray. It also features Miss Henney, Peoples’ 1927 Henney, as the funeral director’s car. Bill and Miss Henney spent six weeks on the set of Get Low while filming in Atlanta, Ga. Visitors are welcome to view Miss Henney and the memorabilia from the filming.
Bill’s expert knowledge on all things mortuary makes a trip the museum an absolute delight. Tours are by appointment only, and can be scheduled by calling Cawley and Peoples Funeral Home.