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Posts Tagged ‘immigrant’

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Sacred to the memory of Alexander Doull, Colonel of Artillery in the Army of the Potomac, previously lieutenant in the Royal British Artillery

The inscription on Colonel Doull’s tombstone reminds us of a fact about the United States Civil War that be forgotten – the important role that immigrants played in the armies. About 25% of the Union army was estimated to be foreign-born immigrants. With the rate of immigration in the 19th century, we also have to assume that there was a significant slice of the United States-born soldiers who had parents or grandparents who were immigrants.

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Christlieb

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Weber Monument

Weber Monument

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The Reverend George W. Pepper

Pepper

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Josef Balonzan

In this post, I showed you porcelain portraits of East Cleveland Township Cemetery.

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The memorial art form had a limited lifespan. Yalom argues in her book that as the southern and eastern European immigrants and their children and grandchildren assimilated into United States culture, they discarded folkways and traditions from Europe. Part of this assimilation was adopting more “American” funeral traditions, including memorial art. And so porcelain portraits decreased in popularity, at least for a while.

Frank Barresi

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One of my favorite things about visiting East Cleveland Township Cemetery are the porcelain portraits on some of the stones, more than in any other cemetery I’ve seen in this area. That is directly correlated with the number of southern and eastern European immigrants (and their descendants buried here), as evidenced by the names and languages represented on the tombstones.

According to Marilyn Yalom’s The American Resting Place, these immigrants brought the tradition of these portraits, on ceramic, enamel, and porcelain with them to the United States. The technology to imprint photographs onto these substances was developed in the 1850s. According to Yalom, these immigrants would send photographs of the deceased back to artisans in Europe until American firms started to manufacture their own portraits. The first of these, she reports, was made in 1893 in Chicago, another city teeming with immigrants.

In a cemetery like East Cleveland Township, where the deceased have left little in the way of a documentary legacy (some of the records were even burned in a gatehouse fire), the preservation of a likeness in a photograph on their tombstone is a precious thing indeed.

I’ve already shown you the portraits of the Moyer children, preserved on their tombstone almost a century after their deaths.

Charles Scherer, dead at age 35 or 36, rests under a stone with his portrait and the epitaph “here rests my love.” It must have brought some comfort to be able to look upon his visage when grieving.

Charles C. Scherer

The marker for Frank Persa, laid by a son or daughter, rests against a tree. His portrait is well-preserved.

Father Frank Persa

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Michael Strung’s portrait has some scratches, but you can still clearly make out a middle-aged man with a bushy mustache.

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