Undertaking, as a profession, grew out of the furniture business, as men who made and sold coffins and burial supplies began to lay out bodies and, later, to embalm them. Undertakers had to convince the public of the need for their services, often by handling the worst cases (accidents, suicides). Rural residents, lacking resources but relying on their neighbors, were the last to accept this profession and the need for embalming. By the end of World War II there were fewer people to do the labor-intensive jobs needed for burial, and undertakers gradually convinced people of the need for their services. This chapter examines such efforts, as well as the role played by women in the profession, cremation, burial insurance and the creation of funeral homes and chapels that brought about the transition from home burials to those handled by funeral industry professionals.
Keywords: Embalming, Cremation, Burial insurance, Funeral homes, Professional funeral industry