What Were Funerals Like in 1927?

Embalming tools display

Every October, we like to reflect on our history, something of which we are very proud. It was 1927 when Reverend Samuel Hilgenfeld and his wife Lydia opened Hilgenfeld Mortuary in Anaheim. The fact that our business is fourth-generation family owned makes us doubly proud. Our family has been here for nearly 100 years, serving the families of our community with a mission to provide compassionate, caring, and professional funeral services.

In this blog series, we look at the state of funeral services back when Hilgenfeld Mortuary first opened its doors. We’ll explore what services were like in the 1920’s and follow up next time with how things have changed.

It was in the early part of the 20th century that mortuary sciences began to formalize as a profession in the United States. The field was evolving with more structured education and professional standards. Prior to this time, specialized programs and even schools started to offer training for those interested in becoming funeral directors and/or embalmers. This marked a shift from traditional apprenticeships to more structured education.

Home funerals were common, with family members responsible for preparing the deceased for burials. Funerals were generally much simpler with fewer options for caskets, decorations, or official services. They often followed traditional and religious customs and were typically localized affairs.

With the advancement of embalming techniques, things began to change. As embalming became more available, this allowed for a longer preservation time for bodies, providing the opportunity for delayed viewing and transportation. In turn, families moved funerals to locations that provided a more controlled, larger environment for visitations, viewings and services, leading to a growing need for funeral homes. The industry answered, by changing with the times and offering families who had suffered the loss of a loved one, professional guidance and service to assist during their time of distress and grief.

Our next blog will explore how the overall industry has changed since the early days of Hilgenfeld Mortuary’s service to the community.