Victorian Funerary Symbolism

John Baptiste Ford (November 11, 1811 – May 1, 1903) was born in Danville, Kentucky, and made his fortune as an industrialist producing various products including iron, steamboats, and eventually glass.

Ford is buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a grand Victorian gothic mausoleum with pointed arched windows, buttresses, composite column capitals, and a quatrefoil tracery on the pediment over the doorway.  The mausoleum is topped by the figure of hope.

Two figures flank the doorway representing sleep and death.  On the left is a mourning figure holding a sprig of three poppies.  In cemetery symbolism the poppy represents eternal sleep.  Just as it was portrayed in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the main characters lie down in a field of poppies where they fall into a deep sleep.  That same imagery is used here.

On the right of the doorway is a figure holding a draped urn.  The draped urn represents the clothing of the deceased being shed to move from the Earthly realm to the Heavenly realm.  The urn was an almost ubiquitous 19th Century symbol found in nearly every American cemetery.

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