Immortality Symbols





BORN AUGUST 19, 1844

DIED MARCH 5, 1880



The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, produced what was billed as ‘white bronze’ cemetery markers from the 1870s until 1912.  The markers are distinguished by their bluish-gray tint.  The markers are not bronze but cast zinc.  The zinc is resistant to corrosion, but the zinc becomes brittle over time and cracking and shrinking can occur.

These grave markers came in a wide assortment of sizes and shapes and were somewhat like grave marker erector sets.  The more elaborate markers had a shell of sorts and then various panels could be attached according to the tastes of the family ordering the grave marker.  In this way, each marker could be “customized” to the tastes of the individual.  The markers were designed to look like traditional markers and from a distance, except for the tale-tale bluish-gray color, they do.  The markers come in many of the shapes and sizes of gravestones that were popular during that time period.

This example is in the front row of the Brick Chapel United Methodist Church cemetery just outside of Greencastle in rural Putnam County Indiana. In this example the marker sits on a limestone base.  The monument features a century plant growing from the urn atop the tall ornamented shaft.

Many Christian symbols have been appropriated because of the qualities of the animal or the plant are held up by the religion.  The peacock, for example, became a symbol of the resurrection because the feathers on the male peacock grow back each year more beautiful than the year before.  It was also a symbol of the incorruptibility of the flesh because of a mistaken belief that peacock flesh did not rot.

Just as the peacock became a Christian symbol due to its natural qualities, so, too, did the century plant (Agave americana).  It was mistakenly believed that the century plant lived to 100 years or more.  Because of that, the misnamed “century plant,” which only lives 10 to 30 years, was adopted as a symbol of immortality.

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