Victorian Era Funeral Items and Body Preservation Techniques

Dec 31, 2019 | 0 comments

Steve Person The Victorian Undertaker
Steve Person, The Victorian Undertaker

Over his 47 year career in funeral service, Steve Person collected a wide range of Victorian funeral and undertaking items. The retired funeral director now makes presentations as The Victorian Undertaker.

“You can’t believe how much you might find on the top shelf of the prep room, or the attic of the garage, or in the basement of the funeral home, but I’ve collected a number of things over the years,” said Person.

In this video recorded at the 2019 National Funeral Directors Association convention and expo, Person showcased objects from his collection. Items include coffins, cooling beds, old embalming fluid bottles, embalming tool kits, and old mortuary promotional items.

He spoke about how these items were used, and explained the business’ evolution, including how furniture makers transitioned from “undertaker” to “funeral director.” Among the topics he discusses:

  • Preservation with an ice coffin in the 1800s before modern refrigeration was invented.
  • Soaking the body as a way to preserve the corpse.
  • Cooling boards and how they were used for embalming at home.
  • The advent of embalming, credited to Dr. Thomas Holmes, and how the deaths of Civil War soldiers accelerated the use of this process.
  • The effect President Abraham Lincoln’s death, embalming, and the 19-day rail trip from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois had on funeral service in the United States.
  • How embalming led to the creation of mortuary colleges.

Watch the video

The Victorian Undertaker at NFDA 2019

Steve Person is available to speak about Victorian funeral traditions. His website is

A Good Goodbye