The soul effigy with a wig


In Memory of Mr


Son of Mr. Clefford


Obt. June 1 1777

AE t. 49 Years.


Gr-Gr-Grandfather: Johann Caspar Richter

Gr-Grandfather: Johannes Caspar von Kronenschieldt  Gr-Grandmather: Elizabeth Allen

Grandfather: John Crowninshield 1696 – 1761 Grandmother: Antiss Williams

Father: Clifford Crowninshield 1699 – 1776  Mother: Martha Hillard 1700 – 1736

John Crowninshield Born in 1728 – died July 1, 1777  Wife:  Mary Ives  1730 – 1774

John Crowninshield was from a prominent seafaring and merchant family of Boston and Salem. The family immigrated from Germany and Denmark and settled in America to build a large and prosperous trading company. In Salem, they sailed from the wharf they built and traded for tea, Madeira wine, oranges, salt and iron. They were the first to engage in the pepper trade.

John Crowninshield’s gravestone can be found in the Burying Point Cemetery at Salem, Massachusetts.   A winged soul effigy is carved into the top of gray slate grave marker. The gravestone displays the image of a winged head, which is referred to as a “soul effigy.”

His winged effigy is wearing a wig, a sign of the prominence of the family.   It was the style at the time for upper class men to wear powdered wigs.  When bathing was not an everyday occurrence, men would shave their heads and sport the wig–reducing the chance of getting lice or other head vermin!

The soul effigy represents the flight of the soul from one realm to the other—from Earth to Heaven and symbolizes the transition the soul makes on that journey. This iconography represents a change from the harsh Puritan imagery of skulls, crossed bones, winged death’s heads, and the accoutrements of the grave, such as the casket, or coffin, and burial instruments, such as, the pick and axe.


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