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This exercise analyzes 48 grave markers from Crown Hill Cemetery dated between 1864 and 1997.  This section of the exercise provides some brief background on Crown Hill and explains the terms that are used to describe the markers in the data table, which you can link to following the historical background information or at the end of this page.  You can link to the questions at the bottom of this page or at the bottom of the data table.

Death and Memorializing at Crown Hill

At 555 acres that now include over 185,000 burials, it is difficult to do justice to the full range of marker styles used at Crown Hill.  Cemeteries like Crown Hill were introduced in the nineteenth century as spaces in which the dead could be memorialized.  Eighteenth-century graveyards, in contrast, were simply places to inter the dead, but subsequent cemeteries were laid out like gardens and meant to be spaces we would visit and even use as a recreation spot for picnics and family outings.  Crown Hill includes the highest point in Indianapolis, known as the "Crown," where writer James Whitcomb Riley was buried in 1917.  Before Riley captured this prime piece of real estate, the Crown was a popular place for Indianapolis residents to visit, and it remains so today.  Cemeteries became important public spaces after the mid-nineteenth century, and many Victorian etiquette books included a chapter on dress and behavior in cemeteries as well as directions on maintaining burial plots.  Opened in 1864, Crown Hill is typical of the cemetery movement in its carefully planned layout with an intricate road and path network and wide range of flora.  Even today Crown Hill has a stunning range of trees unique in Indianapolis.

Crown Hill historians say that on an average weekday in the early twentieth century 500 people visited the cemetery every weekday, 3,000 each Sunday, and nearly 100,000 on Memorial Day.  This public dimension of cemeteries fueled rapid changes and continual innovation in grave marker style because it was understood that markers would be very public representations of the dead and, by extension, their living families and friends.  Grave markers essentially gave the dead a way to "say" something to those who lived after their death, and some wealthy folks buried in Crown Hill left quite stunning architectural monuments to themselves.  Yet even common folk developed an interesting range of marker styles. lilly.jpg (29805 bytes)Quite a few well-known folks chose Crown Hill for their eternal repose, and some of them left stunning markers to memorialize themselves and their kin.  One of the city's most influential citizens, Eli Lilly, died in 1898 and was put to rest in this monumental mausoleum.

Markers in this exercise were chosen relatively randomly to cover the full range of the cemetery's operation and include some examples of the most common marker styles in most periods.  No official military markers were included because they are standardized.  Markers were taken from all portions of the cemetery.  Family markers that were clearly dated and identify a shared family plot were used, as well as individual burial markers.  Inevitably some styles are not well covered or not covered at all; for example, the exercise does not include any of Crown Hill's 57 family mausoleums, which are quite massive (making them hard to measure), include multiple burials, and usually have no date on the outside, which is essential for our purposes.  Markers that are largely illegible were not selected, though some markers are still a bit unclear.  Markers that appeared to have been restored even partially were not used, since some restored stones use different colors and sometimes even changed motifs on the markers.  Most of the burials in the exercise are just regular people, but Crown Hill is the eternal resting place of many famous folks, and you may find a few of them in here if you look closely.

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Marker Descriptions

Each marker in the table has a physical description that includes the last name of the deceased as well as each marker's attributes: height of the marker, width, color, shape, and additional aesthetic descriptions where necessary.  You can click on the name of the deceased to see a picture of the marker; the dates and first names have been removed from the marker pictures.  The photographs include all legible text, including poems, inscriptions, and month and day where indicated.  Some family markers are dated on a separate footstone or other marker, so they may only include a last name without dates or full names.  Hit your back button to return from any picture to the data table.

The following attributes appear in the table:

Height is the measurement in inches to the highest point on the marker to the current ground surface.

Width is the measurement in inches at the midpoint of the marker.  Odd-shaped markers were measured as consistently as possible at the middle of the marker or in a point that appeared to represent average width.

Color is the literal color of the stone.  In the case of limestone and marble markers that in some cases have weathered over a century, the original color is hard to gauge as the marker itself has deteriorated, and in these cases the stone's color is indicated as "light."  Granite, in contrast, holds up very well in even the most difficult weather conditions, and it holds it original color and does not break down much.  Besides light, the other colors included are red, grey, black, and multi-colored.

Shape is the single most important attribute for your seriation analysis.  The table indicates consistent descriptive categories for shape that refer to stones that have similar motifs and aesthetics as well as literal physical shape.  Some markers mix aesthetics from two different categories (which often betrays that they are markers being produced during a transition between styles), and in these cases the table indicates a predominant style and its secondary aesthetics:  you should look at the pictures and make your own judgments.  The categories used here are:

1. Symbolic:  To some extent, every marker is symbolic in the sense that it represents something through display of a motif whose implied meaning is understood by society or a well-defined faction in society.  Among the most common symbolic motif in this case study are log tree trunk markers.  Vertical or horizontal logs (usually in limestone) were routinely used as grave markers during at least part of the period covered by this exercise.  Standing dead trees with cut off branches were understood to represent death, and in some cases the number of cut-off branches on a marker referred to the number of deceased children that preceded a parent in death.  Many symbolic markers include multiple representational motifs, such as doves (love, Holy Spirit), lions (courage, bravery), anchors (based on the Hebrews 6:19 passage "We have this hope as an anchor for our soul"), drapery (mourning), and lambs (usually to signify innocence on a child's grave).  Some of these motifs are not included in this exercise, while others appear together on the same marker or appear on a marker that was classed in some other shape category.


2. Figural:  A marker whose predominant motif is a human figure.  This can include busts as well as statues.  Angel statues, which technically are symbolic representations of the afterlife, are included in this category when an angel was the lone motif in the grave marker, as it is on about 90 of Crown Hill's statue markers. davisjeff.jpg (67444 bytes)Former Confederate President Jefferson Davis is buried in Richmond, Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery beneath a figural marker of himself.  The marker was erected in 1889 and is bronze on a granite base.


3. In ground:  Any marker that is less than 10" in height and has its inscription facing upward was identified as in-ground.  None of the markers in this study are flush with the surface.

clinepatsy.jpg (59797 bytes)None of the markers in the exercise are completely flush with the ground like this 1963 marker in Winchester, Virginia for Virginia Hensley Dick, known by her stage name Patsy Cline.

blissleonard.jpg (81713 bytes)Leonard "Baby" Bliss was considered the world's heaviest person at the turn of the century.  He was buried in Towanda, Illinois in 1912.  Most markers classed as in-ground don't have words on the sides as Bliss' marker does.

gallojulio.jpg (38894 bytes)Winemaker Julio Gallo was buried in 1993 beneath an in-ground marker in Modesto, California.


4. Rectangle vertical slab: Any rectangular form that is taller than it is wide and is not cut into the shape of something other than a rectangular form (e.g., an oval) was classed as a vertical rectangular slab.  These markers can take a wide range of specific forms, with some quite high and others not particularly high.  These may still have some secondary motifs inscribed into them, such as pictures of the deceased or etchings.  Usually rectangular slabs are polished on each side and the sides are roughhewn. danieljack.jpg (48435 bytes)Jack Daniel, the inventor of the eponymous whiskey, was buried in Lynchburg, Tennessee in 1911 beneath this rectangular slab.  The two white chairs are supposedly for visiting ladies.

checkers.jpg (31213 bytes)Richard Nixon's dog Checkers rests beneath a rectangular vertical slab in Wantagh, New York.


5. Geometric:  A marker that is a geometric form, such as oval, cubes, or abstract geometric forms. rsroberts.jpg (83863 bytes)Geometric markers can take a wide range of forms.  Rosalind Roberts' marker in Ridgewood, New York, erected in 1985, is particularly distinctive and marked the "cocoon of love."  This example may actually contain the deceased within the "cocoon," in which case it would have been classed as above-ground, but it was too neat pass up including a picture.


6. Monumental:  Markers over 120" in height were classed as monumental, regardless of their shape or motif.  Generally it is safe to assume that markers of this size were more expensive to produce than smaller markers. hillap.jpg (30258 bytes)This monumental figural marker rests atop Confederate General A.P. Hill, who died in battle in 1865.  Hill now rests at the middle of a traffic circle in Richmond, Virginia's northside.


7. Obelisk:  A non-rectangular marker that is taller than its width but less than 120" high; the most common Crown Hill obelisks are needle-shaped forms like the Washington Monument's shape.  However, because most of these were higher than 240" (e.g., the Ayres family marker to the right is easily twice that high), none of the largest obelisks at Crown Hill are included in the data set. ayres.jpg (20458 bytes)The Ayres family marker at Crown Hill was erected in 1896, when department store patriarch Lyman Ayres died.  This marker would be classed as monumental in this classification system because it is quite high, but the needle form is typical of obelisk markers.

doubledayabner.jpg (60138 bytes)
This obelisk marks the grave of Abner Doubleday, who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1893.  Often considered the inventor of baseball, Doubleday was a Major General for the Union cause in the Civil War and saw action at Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Second Bull Run, and Antietam. 


8. Above ground: Markers in which the body (or bodies) of the deceased is above the ground surface.   No mausoleums were included, primarily because they're difficult to date without gaining entrance inside.


9. Rectangle horizontal slab: Any rectangular form that is wider than it is tall was classed as a horizontal slab.  Like vertical rectangles, these are often two-sided markers, though many have some additional decorative features.

buchanan.jpg (34291 bytes)Guitar player Roy Buchanan was buried in Arlington, Virginia beneath a standard rectangle horizontal slab in 1988.

The table also includes a comments section with details on particular markers.  This will indicate additional decorative elements (e.g., birds, anchors, ivy, drapes, etc), inscriptions on multiple sides, orientation of log/tree markers (i.e., vertical or horizontal), foreign text, additional materials besides stone (e.g., some markers have brass decorations), and any decorative descriptions (e.g., inscribed motifs).  You should always look at the picture yourself, because sometimes you will notice stylistic similarities not clear from the textual descriptions alone.

hoon.jpg (57707 bytes)Some markers witness distinctive visitation behaviors.  This marker in Dayton Cemetery in Dayton, Indiana is for Shannon Hoon, the lead singer for Blind Melon, who died in 1995.  Visitors to the grave have left offerings of various sorts.  More intensively visited graves for folks such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac, and Elvis Presley are swamped with offerings from fans who often journey a long way expressly to visit the grave. 

billykid.jpg (43015 bytes) In many instances, visitors take something from a cemetery to remember their trip.  Usually its just pictures, but some more devoted folks want pieces of the grave itself:  for instance, Jim Morrison's marker in Paris now has 24-hour security.  This New Mexico marker (left) is over William Bonney, "Billy the Kid," who was buried in 1881.  The Kid's marker was stolen in 1950 and lost until 1976, and it was again thieved in 1981 and found within a week in California.  Bonney's marker is now set in iron shackles and placed within a cage to discourage its theft.  Taking a piece of a grave is common as a mechanism to "possess" something imbued with the deceased's presence.  At least one marker at Crown Hill has similar evidence of visitors' desire to take part of the marker home, and it is included in the exercise:  can you find it?

swann.jpg (66078 bytes)Grave markers are always communicative mechanisms, and sometimes they take distinctive forms.  This marker at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC is for Tom Swann, a Marine Corps veteran who is still alive. Swann's stone is strategically placed near J. Edgar Hoover's grave and the graves of gay men who also chose to make a statement by their choice of final resting place. (Thanks to Dik Saalfeld for the background on this marker).

giardino.jpg (83224 bytes)Buried in Totowa, New Jersey in 1994, Sal Giardino's marker proclaims that he was the "World's Greatest Electrician."

Personal stories are often told in marker aesthetics.blackwellfrancis.jpg (37391 bytes)  For instance, Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell rests in Indianapolis' New Crown Cemetery beneath this marker with a guitar etching.

Blackwell's musical collaborator, bluesman Leroy Carr is buried in Indianapolis' Floral Park Cemetery beneath a marker inscribed with piano keys.  Carr and Blackwell were among the country's most famous blues musicians between the late 1920s and Carr's death in 1935, spending most of their time playing the city's Indiana Avenue clubs.  Carr's current marker was installed about five years ago. carrleroy.jpg (39657 bytes)


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Last updated December 2, 2009