The Obelisk

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In 1928, the Georgia Marble Company of Tate, Georgia, produced a marketing piece in the form of a book titled, Memorials: To-Day for To-Morrow written by William Henry Deacy. The book was designed to showcase their memorial designs by highlighting them in the book with lush full-color watercolor illustrations of the various memorials. Along with the illustrations the book provided explanations of the symbolism found in the memorials. The book also coupled an architectural drawing of how the memorial is to be made. The monument they chose to highlight on pages 62-64 was the obelisk.

memorials_today_for_tomorrow_p64_georgia_marble_co-1928_rr

After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism in America, including the obelisk, those tall thin four-sided columns that tapered upward and then end in a pyramid at the top.  The obelisk is a ubiquitous gravestone shape found in American graveyards.

Beach Grove Cemetery, Muncie, Indiana

Beach Grove Cemetery, Muncie, Indiana

The author, Mr. Deacy, makes the following claim in the Georgia Marble Company book (page 63), “The steeple of the Church symbolizes the spiritual and uplifting power of religion and the moral aspiration of man. It was evolved from the obelisks which stood before Egyptian temple—emblems of the sun god Ra and the regeneration of man. It has long been a favored form for the civic and private memorial. Towering heavenward from a sightly (sic) location, the obelisk probably ranks among the most simple and impressive of all monuments.”

The book goes on to say that the obelisk is highlighted best when it is featured by itself, with no other monuments nearby to distract from its elegant and graceful shape. It also says that, “various pedestal forms are used to support the shaft or spire…and while they attain a rather graceful continuity of line, nevertheless, no type of base or support rivals the simple three steps, which if properly subordinated in scale, tend to increase the effect of height….

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The entire book can be found at the Quarries and Beyond Website: http://quarriesandbeyond.org/cemeteries_and_monumental_art/cemetery_stones.html.

The Quarries and Beyond Website was created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. It focuses on historic stone quarries, stone workers and companies, and related subjects such as geology. Whenever possible links of finished products are provided on the Website. There is a “Quarry Articles” section that presents articles, booklets, and links from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including the 1856 “The Marble-Workers’ Manual.” The “Cemetery Stones and Monuments” section provides references and resources, including many old monument magazines, catalogs, price lists, and a photographic tour “From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments.”

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