Category Archives: Cemetery postcard

Vintage postcards from my collection featuring old graveyards.

Cemetery of the Week #150: Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

War DogHartsdale Pet Cemetery
75 North Central Park Avenue
Hartsdale, New York 10530
Telephone: (914) 949-2583
Founded: 1896
Size: under 4 acres
Number of interments: between 80,000 and 100,000

Until the 1890s, people who had a pet die in New York City either buried it in their gardens (if they had one) or in public parks.  Out of health considerations, the city banned the burial of animals within its city limits in 1896.

After that, since it was illegal to bury animals in human graveyards, the only option when a pet died was to put the body out with the trash.

In 1896, one of the clients of New York City veterinarian Dr. Samuel K. Johnson was distraught at the thought of discarding their beloved dog that way.  Johnson allowed the dog’s burial  in his apple orchard. The idea became so popular, that Johnson eventually dedicated three acres of his land as a graveyard.

Johnson invited people to bring their deceased pets to his office on Manhattan’s 25th Street, where they could purchase a zinc-lined casket. Then they would travel 25 miles by train to the quiet village of Hartsdale in Westchester County, where Johnson’s apple orchard was filling with monuments and flower arrangements.

Hartsdale postcard

Vintage postcard of Hartsdale Dog Cemetery, circa 1927

In the early days, pet owners cared for their own cemetery plots, enclosing them with wrought-iron fences and adorning them with sculptures. When they died, moved away, or lost interest, the plots became dilapidated. That led to the incorporation of the cemetery. A full-time caretaker moved into a cottage on the property.

Monuments range from standard headstones to portrait sculptures, stone doghouses and cat baskets, and much more. The oldest surviving monument dates to 1899. It remembers Dotty, fourteen-year-old pet of E. M. Dodge.

Animals buried in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery vary from cats and dogs to horses, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, iguanas, snakes,and parakeets. One of the most exotic animals in the cemetery is a lion named Goldfleck. Princess Lwoff Parlaghy was a Hungarian artist who bought the lion cub from Ringling Brothers Circus and took him to live with her at the Plaza Hotel. After his death, he received a wake at the hotel and was buried in Hartsdale in 1912.

During World War I, thousands of dogs were trained to find wounded soldiers. The service dogs were given a monument at Hartsdale: a ten-ton boulder of granite from Barre, Vermont, topped with a bronze statue of a kerchief-wearing dog with a dented helmet at his feet. The cost of the monument was raised by donations. Police, fire, and weapons detection dogs are also buried at the cemetery. Among them are dogs who retrieved bodies after the Oklahoma City Bombing and one who worked in the World Trade Center ruins.

Although the practice of interring humans and animals together is illegal, more that 700 pet owners have chosen to have their ashes interred with their animal companions. Several of them shares gravestones with their pets.

Useful links:

Hartsdale’s website:

On Atlas Obscura:

On Quigley’s Cabinent:

My review of the Hartsdale book:

My review of Permanent New Yorkers

Another resource for grieving pet owners:


Cemetery Postcards

Giza pyramids001Today has been crazed and I ended up away from my desk, so no Cemetery of the Week tonight.  Instead, I offer up my latest obsession, my Cemetery Postcards tumblr.

Here’s the link:

It will collect the postcards I’ve got scattered throughout this blog and feature more from my collection, along with such information as I’ve been able to figure out from the notes and stamps and images on them.  I think it will be a fun.

If you’re on tumblr, stop over and say hi.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Vintage postcard from my collection.

Vintage postcard from my collection.

The photo prompt for this week was lunchtime: not an easy topic to illustrate on a blog about cemeteries. I usually shy away from photographing strangers when I see them in graveyards, in order to respect their privacy. I have seen people picnicking from time to time: everything from sitting in folding lawn chairs and hoisting bottles of beer in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills to seated on a quilt and chiming their wine glasses together in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.

People used to picnic in graveyards all the time. Once cemeteries ceased to be burial grounds right in the heart of town, it took time and effort to reach them, especially in the days before paved roads. If you went to visit your relatives, you packed a lunch and intended to set a spell.

I have a couple of vintage postcards of picnickers, but my favorite doesn’t show any people. It’s labeled “Summerhouse, Prairie River Cemetery, Centreville, Michigan.” The summerhouse is basically a thatch-roofed pavilion with rough straight trees holding up a conical roof. Welcoming bent-wood benches wait inside.

Summerhouses were common in cemeteries — usually in the south, I believe — where a visitor would want some respite from the sun. Often they had enough room that you could erect a rough table and spread out your feast.

If you type Prairie River Cemetery into Google, only one by that name comes up. Centreville, Michigan, despite its name, lies in the southwest corner of the state, between Kalamazoo and Elkhart, Indiana, not too far from the shores of Lake Michigan. Google maps shows Centreville surrounded by farms even now.

Findagrave has a list of graves in the cemetery, but no historical overview for it. The USGW has a list of cemetery photographs, but the interface is clunky and frustrating. I don’t know if the summerhouse still stands.

My favorite part of the postcard is the message written in spidery cursive on the back: “Dear Cousin: So glad you and Marshal should clasp hands once more. So old fashion like. Wish we had some more ice cream as it is warm here.” It’s postmarked 1911.

Cemetery Postcards: The First Real Postcards

Early postcard from Mound Cemetery, Ohio

The first true postcards had no space for messages.  The photograph took up the entire front of the card, while the back of the card was blank.  The address was meant to stand alone there, as it would on the front of an envelope, so that the postman wouldn’t get confused and mis-deliver it.  Collectors refer to these as “undivided back” cards.

Undivided back of the Mound Cemetery card

The postmark is hard to read, but the US government allowed printers to begin using the words “Post Card” on the back of cards after December 1901.  Cards with divided backs — with space for a message on the left-hand side of the card — came into use in Europe almost immediately, but didn’t start to be used in America until after 1907.

I like that the address on this card is so simple:  “Mrs. Sadie Hubberd, Robinson, Ill.”  No need for a street number.  Zip codes didn’t become necessary until 1944, and then only in large cities.

These undivided back cards were intended to be mailed, then tucked into an album and treasured.  Even so, senders managed to squeeze a message in where they could.  This one reads, “Still living will write in a day or two,” but there is no signature.  I hope Sadie understood who was writing her.

The photo on the front of this card shows the Conus mound in Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio.  Atop it stands a woman in a long dress and a proper hat.  She’s hard to make out in the photo, but she gives a good indication of the size of the mound.

As the first settlement in the Northwest Territory, Marietta has one of the oldest pioneer graveyards west of the Appalachian Mountains. General Rufus Putnam, founder of the settlement, donated land surrounding this large Native American mound to be a graveyard in January 1801. Revolutionary War veteran Robert Taylor was buried there in October. In fact, the cemetery claims to have the highest concentration of Revolutionary War veterans in the country.

The 30-foot-tall Conus mound was built by the Hopewell people between 800 B.C. and 700 A.D. Inside it lie their chiefs, who were laid to rest, then covered over with a layer of dirt carried from a nearby pit one basketful at a time. Each layer of chiefs were laid above their ancestors until the mound reached its current height.

The mound can still be climbed using the staircase you see in the picture.

Some useful links:

Important Ohioans buried in Mound Cemetery

Satellite view of the cemetery

Ancient Earthworks walking tour

The other postcard essays are:

Cemetery Postcards

Cemetery Postcards: the Earliest Years

Cemetery Postcards: the Earliest Years

Eldorado Engine Oil trade card, circa 1884

The earliest postcards weren’t actually postcards at all.  They were trade cards, designed to be collected as souvenirs for the pictures on their faces.  Their reverses were filled with advertising text.  Cleverly designed, they were advertisements that people chose to keep around.

This card on the left is an advertisement for Eldorado Engine Oil, “the best oil made.”  On its face is a reproduction of an etching of the monument to James A. Garfield, America’s assassinated president, who was laid to rest in Cleveland, Ohio’s Lake View Cemetery.

The Garfield Monument, November 2011

The etching puzzles me.  The monument resembles the Garfield Monument, in that it has a similar square Romanesque base and a conical tower.  However, the tower as built wasn’t nearly as tall.  I don’t know if this artwork was based upon the original architect’s plan (which wasn’t entirely executed for some reason) or if this is an artist’s rendering from imagination, description, or another source.  It’s clearly not from life.  Even the stairways and terrace are different — though eerily similar.

A little poking around reveals that the tomb wasn’t completed until 1890.  My tentative dating on the card is 1884, based on the text on the card’s back, which reads in part:

Clark, Clark Co., Dakota
July 1, 1884
Gentlemen: — We have fully tested Eldorado Engine Oil during the past year on all kinds of Farm Machinery and on our Threshing Machines….
Very respectfully yours,
Isaac Ulyott

So the card can’t be earlier than 1881, when Garfield died, and is probably no later than 1890, when the President was entombed.  1884 seems as likely a date for it as any.

This card was never intended to be sent through the mail, though. (In fact, the penny postcard stamp was not put into use until 1898).  This card is printed on very thin card stock or very sturdy paper.  It survives because it was pasted into an album.  The advertising side of the card is still slightly rough with remnants of the adhesive.

It’s the oldest card in my collection.  So far, anyway.

The other postcard essays are:

Cemetery Postcards

Cemetery Postcards: The first real postcards