American Burial Traditions
Until the late 18th century, burial customs in America were conducted in a practical manner. The early settlers buried their dead in the traditions of their homelands with little ceremony or thought to commemorating the deceased.
By the early 19th century, colonial burying grounds and churchyards located in rapidly expanding towns and cities were becoming overcrowded and neglected. As the century progressed, there was a growing public attitude that a cemetery should fill a larger purpose than merely serve as a place for interment. The development of what we know today as the American “rural” cemetery addressed these issues.
In 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts became the first cemetery in America to be developed in the “rural” style. Mount Auburn was located away from the town’s center and designed in a park-like manner. The Cemetery’s innovative landscape was complete with the winding paths and shady glens thought appropriate for contemplating the solemnity of death. Mount Auburn set the tone for a rapidly expanding movement in cemetery development.