Posts Tagged ‘photograph’

Josef Balonzan

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


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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Considering how many photographs I take, I’ve had people look through my cemetery photos and ask why I chose to photograph a particular monument. Well, the reasons vary. For one thing, thanks to the innovations of digital photography, it’s not likely that I will run out of “film.” I have a 1 TB external hard drive to take care of that storage problem. Usually the only limitations on my cemetery photography are my own stamina, the cemetery’s gate hours, and the amount of juice left in my camera batteries.

In a very small cemetery, like West Herrick or Plains Pioneer Cemetery, I will often take the time to meticulously photograph every single inscription. I will do the same in a very old cemetery, for preservation purposes if nothing else. In a larger but not unmanageable cemetery, I often tackle things section by section, carefully walking down the rows (if there are any) and photographing anything that catches my fancy. It could be the shape of the monument, the color of the stone, a funerary symbol or the inscription. I am attuned to unusual names, foreign languages, epitaphs, and significant years in local and national history. Certain kinds of funerary art draw me in: lambs, porcelain portraits, angels, and Celtic crosses. I don’t think a lot, I just push the button and the shutter goes click. I can sort it all out later when I get home.

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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


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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I did this scavenger hunt that was posted to the Association of Graveyard Rabbits, although I didn’t get the post written before the deadline for the carnival itself. I twisted my ankle walking around Union Cemetery doing the carnival and then limped my way around Origins gaming convention for four days.

All scavenger hunt photos were taken this past Wednesday morning at Union Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Below I’ve listed the scavenger hunt item and then a photo of the grave marker that fulfilled that requirement.

Cross – The Birk monument culminates in a cross.


Heart – This very worn marker for a baby named Paul is heart-shaped. I can’t even make out his surname.


Fraternal symbol – For the fraternal symbol, we have the marker for Frank P. Walters, a Marine who served in the first World War and has a Masonic symbol on his tombstone.

Frank P. Walters

Monument – This seemed so general that I decided to feature the Gaddis family marker. A metal sundial sits atop the center column.


– A carved flower decorates the top two corners of the Hagans’ stone.


Hand – The gravestone for Amanda Evans includes a single hand holding the stem of a flower.

Amanda m. Evans

Angel – The names of the two Cooper children are flanked by praying angels.

Iris Lee and Rose Mary Cooper

Bird – A bird, likely a dove, is carved into baby William Wiedemann’s tombstone.

William Wiedemann

Tree – A weeping willow grows on the tombstone of John Lisle, whose 1808 burial must have been one of the earliest in the graveyard, which was only founded two years before.


– I wandered around looking for a star for while before it dawned on me that the Civil War veterans’ markers contain or are stars, like these two for George Lakin.

George W. Lakin

Obelisk – This obelisk memorializes the Lakin family.


Four-legged animal – The marker for little Mildred Ferguson, who sadly did not live to see her 2nd birthday, is topped by a lamb – a four-legged animal.

Mildred V. Ferguson

Photo – Dorothy Price Walsh’s tombstone preserves her likeness for us.

Dorothy Price Walsh

Military gravestone – For the military tombstone, I found the memorial for Medal of Honor recipient Joel Parsons, a Civil War veteran.

Joel Parsons

– Amaranth Abbey is a giant mausoleum.

Amaranth Abbey

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