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,
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.
Morton’s book does a great job of introducing an unfamiliar visitor to the cemetery. She introduces the important permanent residents with an appropriate amount of information, then focuses on the lovely and unusual statuary in the cemetery’s permanent collection. She includes Cleveland-area history, illustrated with just the right number of vintage photographs. She discusses the varieties of nationalities-of-birth represented in Lake View.
My chief issue with this cemetery guide is the cover photo, which — while hinting at the diversity of monuments within Lake View Cemetery — gives no indication how beautiful the place is. Even in mid-November, with most of the leaves already drifted to the grass, Lake View is a gem of garden cemetery design.
I found this book in the shop at the Cleveland Clinic, which turns out to be just down the road from Lake View Cemetery. Morton’s guidebook encouraged me to visit Lake View for myself. I am so glad I did. The restful beauty was exactly the respite I needed from my hospital vigil.
Lake View Cemetery
12316 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-2415
Email: email@example.com Established: 1869 Size: 285 acres Number of interments: Over 105,000 Open: Daily from 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. The Garfield Monument and Wade Chapel are open daily between April 1 and mid-November from 9 a.m. until 4.
Cleveland, Ohio’s Lake View Cemetery is a large, lovely rural garden cemetery that climbs a ridge east of town and provides spectacular views of Lake Erie and the metropolis stretching westward below. The cemetery also performs as an arboretum, in which many of the trees labeled.
Beneath the stately old trees, much of the cemetery is full of heavy granite markers, but among them stand some marvelous works of art, including the warrior archangel Michael, guarding the grave of John M. Hay, Secretary of State under President William McKinley. Two grieving women, reminiscent of the Duke of Burgundy’s Mourners, attend the sarcophagus of the E. M. Peck family. More modern figures climb the heavy granite monument to the Evans family, re-purposed from the family’s swimming pool.
Lake View Mourner
Just inside the Euclid Gate stands the poignant monument to the 175 victims of the Collinwood School fire, in which an angel protects children with her arms. The unexplained fire struck the relatively new building in March 1908. Teachers managed to save half their charges, but some children panicked and fell, blocking the stairwell so that others couldn’t escape. The tragedy brought national attention to the issue of school safety for the first time.
Another of Lake View’s treasures is the Wade Chapel. The classical building is named for Jeptha H. Wade, who served as one of the cemetery’s first presidents. His namesake grandson hired Louis Comfort Tiffany and gave him carte blanche to design the chapel, which is unusual amongst cemetery buildings because it does not contain any permanent remains. Tiffany designed the breathtaking Resurrection window, which functions as the room’s focal point, in addition to the Biblical murals lining the walls. Because Tiffany refused to have soot besmirch his artwork, his friend Thomas Edison wired the chapel for electric lights, making it the first building with electricity in Cleveland.
The showpiece of Lake View Cemetery is the monument to assassinated President James A. Garfield. Garfield was born in a log cabin in Cuyahoga County. Although his father died when he was 2, he was elected to the Ohio Senate, a post he left to serve as a Major General in the Civil War. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, then the U.S. Senate, but received the Republican nomination for President before he took office. He served four months of his presidential term before a deranged fan shot him in the back. One of the bullets lodged in his spine. Garfield lingered for 80 days, before infection from his inept doctors’ unsterilized fingers finished him off.
Nine years after his death, the President was laid to rest inside this monument, which has been called the first true mausoleum in America, since it serves both as his tomb and a tribute to his memory. The structure combines Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine architecture in a tower, domed interior, and crypt. A statue of Garfield captures him as if he’s just stepped out of his chair, a roll of parchment clutched in his hand. Around the room, stained glass windows embody the 13 original colonies as secular maidens. A maiden representing Ohio joins them as a gilded mosaic.
Garfield’s coffin lies in the crypt, alongside his wife Lucretia. Their daughter Molly, who was 14 at the time of the assassination, and her husband Joseph Stanley-Brown, who served as Garfield’s private secretary, are inurned nearby.
November 18th is Garfield’s birthday; this past Saturday celebrated his 180th birthday. Wreaths were laid, flags presented, and both boy scouts and girl scouts toured the monument. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and was able to enjoy the celebration and explore the tomb before it closed for the winter.
Lake View Cemetery presents a full schedule of events, including moonlight nature walks, architectural walking tours, and much, much more. The calendar is online here. Check back for 2012 events.
Upcoming on December 3, 2011 is a tree-trimming at the grave of Rev. H. C. Schwann, who is credited with bringing the first candle-lit Christmas tree into a church in 1851. The tree-trimming will be followed in the afternoon by a program of holiday music and lights outside the Wade Chapel.
I really wanted to like this book. The author goes on a quest to visit the graves of all the American Presidents and Vice Presidents. Unfortunately, I would have put the emphasis on graves and not on the author’s discovery of himself.
Mr. Tucker starts the book by announcing to his wife of 25 years that he is buying an RV and leaving her for months to go walkabout. He does not allow any discussion. He can’t really justify the trip to her or to his friends (or the reader), not even by calling it a midlife crisis. Whenever he gets lonely on the road, he visits a Wall-Mart to gawk at the rampant consumerism and desperate unhappiness of Americans outside of the privileged enclave where he was born to money. As narrators go, he is not someone I wanted to snuggle up to for 300 pages.
The book unfolds in map-order, following the author as he travels outward from New York. Since I only have a tenuous grasp on the order of American presidents (and no idea whatsoever about the vice presidents), I needed a whole lot more history to understand the chronology. I’m not sure how he could have assembled the book differently, but I was often lost.
The final straw, though, was that I wanted to know about the monuments to the fallen men, as well as the graveyards in which they lay. I wanted a guidebook and not a memoir. If you have a whole lot more historical knowledge than I brought to the book — and you’re interested in midlife quests — you will enjoy the book more than I did. George Soros liked it.
Every library in America, whether personal or public, should have a copy of this book. It’s a straightforward listing, in presidential order, of our nation’s commanders-in-chief, including burial places, costs of admission to visit, causes of death, and final last words. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? would be great for doing schoolwork, playing Trivial Pursuit, settling arguments, and as a guidebook for family vacations. I can’t wait to drag my daughter off to visit some presidential gravesites.
All that aside, the book opens with a beautiful foreword by Richard Norton Smith which tries to explain for skeptics why anyone would want to visit a cemetery: “To honor those who have gone before. To draw inspiration from distant lives…. Not to mention the humbling perspective that comes whenever we confront mortality, our own or anyone else’s.” (I’m sure I’ll be in a position to quote that at some point!) Smith’s funereal obsession was with presidential graves, to which he dragged his long-suffering family year after year. He makes a strong case for having that touring information collected into this book. He also provides brief historical asides on many, though not all, presidents.
Lamb’s book is full of interesting facts. Did you know George Washington died taking his own pulse? That he was so afraid of being buried alive that he insisted on lying in state for three days? That Benjamin Harris’s father was actually dug up by resurrectionists? That William Taft was a Unitarian who didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ? That Lincoln’s brain and scalp were removed before he was embalmed and rings made of his hair became treasured mementoes? That five ex-presidents are buried in Ohio? An appendix even lists the amount of time ex-presidents survived after leaving office.
Included in the book are portrait sketches of each president, along with black-and-white photos of the burial sites. Unfortunately, many of the grave images are very dark and hard to make out. The inclusion of color plates adds so much that it’s a shame those photos are separate from (and not referred to in) the text of each listing. Hopefully, those flaws have been tackled in the 2003 edition.
An appendix lists addresses and even number of visitors to the presidential libraries. At the end of the 20th century, many former executive officers were choosing to be buried at their library sites, where presumably security was tighter than in the family boneyard down the road. It’s a sad comment that Lincoln had to be “smothered” beneath 10 feet of cement to protect his corpse from kidnapping. However we might feel about a man’s record in office, there’s no one more helpless than a dead man. As always, I hope that familiarity with graveyards will engender respect for them and for the high and mighty brought so low at last.
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