What Is Headstone History?
When a loved one passes, family and friends want to preserve their memories forever.
Headstones – also known as gravestones and tombstones – are among the more common choices people make to commemorate someone’s life.
Headstones have evolved over the years. The headstones we are most familiar with are rooted in Europe and the United Kingdom. By the early 17th century they were being carved and erected here in America. Prior to that – because people did not have time nor tools – the more common remembrance traditions included using wood markers or piling up stones to mark a gravesite.
In some regions of the country earlier use of gravestones were predominately for the middle and upper classes who could afford purchase the raw material and have it carved.
Over time, following the emergence of the new Protestant theology, the lower classes also started using them.
It wasn’t until 1650 that Americans started to manufacture slate tombstones. They remained widely popular until 1890. They then discovered sandstone and brownstone in the Connecticut River Valley area. Unfortunately, after time, the tombstones turned back into sand.
Iron was also another material used to mark graves. In some cases it was formed into a cage – a Mortsafe- over the grave to keep it protected from looters.
In 1930, limestone and marble became well-liked for several reasons. Primarily because it provided different color options. The limestone was a pale gray and the marble was a glossy white. Unfortunately, they weathered just as sandstone did. Stones faded over time, rendering the inscriptions illegible.
It wasn’t until 1960 that granite gained prominence as headstone material. It was durable and retained a clean look. It remains one of the top choices today.
It is interesting to note that for that very reason some cemeteries only allow granite headstones.