CLOSE
Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Grave Sightings: Frank and Forrest Mars

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

Do you like M&Ms? Indulge in the occasional Milky Way? Satisfy your hunger with a Snickers? Appreciating any of those sweet treats is an appropriate way to pay your respects to Frank and Forrest Mars, pioneers of one of the world's largest candy brands.

Frank Mars—born in Hancock, Minnesota, in 1882—contracted polio at a young age. Confined to a wheelchair, the young Mars spent a lot of time in the house with his mother, Alva, who taught him how to hand dip chocolate.

After he graduated high school, Mars decided to become a candy wholesaler. He married Ethel Kissack, and they had a son, Forrest, in 1904. Unfortunately, familial bliss wouldn’t last long. Mars and Ethel divorced, and Forrest was sent to live with Ethel’s parents in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Meanwhile, Frank kept plugging along at the candy business. After a string of serious setbacks, including bankruptcy and failed businesses in Seattle and Tacoma, he had finally found local success with the Mar-O-Bar, a confection made with caramel, nuts, and chocolate.

Stacy Conradt

The business was struggling along until Frank reunited with his son in 1923. Forrest had gone to college and was working as a traveling salesman, and that summer, he and a crew of men were working in the Chicago area, putting up posters for Camel cigarettes. Forrest managed to get arrested for plastering the advertisements over municipal signs and he called his father for bail.

It was the beginning of a profitable, if tumultuous, relationship. Forrest later recalled that he and his father were enjoying a snack at a soda fountain and discussing the business when he looked down at his ice cream drink. “Why don’t you put this chocolate malted drink in a candy bar?” he suggested. Within weeks, Frank came up with a bar centered around chocolate malt nougat, the Milky Way. “He put some caramel on top of it, and some chocolate around it - not very good chocolate, he was buying cheap chocolate - but that damn thing sold. No advertising,” Forrest said in a rare (exceedingly rare—the Mars family is notoriously private) interview.

It was a resounding success, which only led to arguments on how to run the business. Eventually, Forrest told Frank to “Stick the business up his ass. If he didn't want to give me one third right then, I said I'm leaving. He said leave, so I left.” He went to England and started his own branch of the business there, establishing the hugely popular Mars Bars and getting the inspiration for M&Ms, which he would eventually take back to the States.

Frank died suddenly in 1934, the victim of kidney failure. Forrest did not return home to attend the funeral. Frank was originally buried at Milky Way Farms, the family farm in Tennessee. His widow later had Frank and the mausoleum moved to Chicago, and finally to Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

There were many more ups and downs and family disagreements, but Forrest later became chairman of Mars, Inc., in 1959, and merged his company—Food Manufacturers, Inc., home to products like Uncle Ben’s Rice—in 1964.

The father-and-son reunion that didn’t happen during Frank and Forrest’s lifetimes eventually happened in death. When Forrest’s wife, Audrey, died in 1989, he had her interred at the family mauseoleum in Minneapolis. He joined her there in 1999 when he passed away at the age of 95.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Stacy Conradt
arrow
History
Grave Sightings: Alexander Hamilton
Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

Two hundred and thirteen years ago, a lifetime of political slights and injuries came to a head when Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr dueled in Weehawken, New Jersey, on July 11, 1804. Thanks to that catchy little Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, you probably know how the story ends: Burr fired a single bullet that killed Hamilton and his own political career all in one fell swoop.

Burr made himself scarce for years after the infamous incident, fleeing the country for various locations in Europe before settling back in the U.S. under an assumed name. (In addition to killing Hamilton, Burr also had a pesky treason charge hanging over his head.) Hamilton, however, has been pretty easy to find: For more than two centuries, he's been resting at the Trinity Church cemetery at Broadway and Wall Street in Manhattan. And George Washington's right-hand man had quite a few visitors—especially the day of his funeral.

The ornate entrance to a Gothic church, with a wrought-iron fence and old gravestones in the foreground.
Stacy Conradt

The final farewell to Hamilton was extremely well attended; it probably helped that New York City declared July 14 a city-wide day of mourning. During the funeral procession from Angelica and John Church’s house (on what is now Park Place) to Trinity Church, “the sidewalks were congested with tearful spectators, and onlookers stared down from every rooftop,” wrote Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow. “There were no hysterical outbursts, only a shocked hush that deepened the gravity of the situation.”

After a eulogy delivered by Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton’s friend and the author of the preamble to the Constitution, Hamilton was laid to rest—but not beneath the grand grave marker that denotes his final resting place now. The large tomb, topped with an urn at each corner and an obelisk in the middle, was donated in 1806 by the Society of the Cincinnati, a Revolutionary War fraternal group of which Hamilton was President General.

It seems obelisks were a common theme for memorializing Hamilton. Another organization Hamilton belonged to, the Saint Andrew’s Society, had a 14-foot marble obelisk [PDF] with a flaming urn erected at the spot where Hamilton fell. Sadly, the monument was repeatedly vandalized, including by souvenir hunters chipping away pieces to add to their collections. By 1820, it was completely gone except for a plaque. The plaque ended up at a junk store before it was eventually donated to the New-York Historical Society.

Just as the cenotaph at the duel site slowly faded away, so did the mourners who paid their respects at Hamilton’s grave site. Visitors likely picked up again after Eliza Hamilton died in 1854, but aside from that, their plot at the Trinity Church cemetery was much quieter before the Broadway hit.

The flat, rectangular white marble gravestone of Eliza Hamilton, inscribed with her name, relationships, birthday and deathday. Pennies have been strewn across the stone.
Stacy Conradt

But Alexander isn’t the only Hamilton at Trinity getting love from the public these days. Previously forgotten to the annals of history, Eliza Hamilton’s contributions and sacrifices have been brought to light in recent years by Chernow’s biography and Miranda’s musical. As a result, she has just as many fans as her husband—if not more. “She tends to get more gifts than he does," Trinity archivist Anne Petrimoulx told NPR in 2016. "I think the musical makes people identify more with Eliza than with Alex."

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Stacy Conradt
arrow
History
Grave Sightings: Satchel Paige
Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

If you’re looking for life lessons at a cemetery, you’re probably imagining something abstract: A little reflection, and some deep thinking about the meaning of life and how fleeting our time on earth really is. Visit the gravestone of legendary baseball player Satchel Paige, however, and you’ll get step-by-step instructions.

Engraving on the granite tombstone of Satchel Paige with six pieces of advice on "How to Stay Young,' including "Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood."
Stacy Conradt

Originally printed on Paige’s business cards, this sound advice is just the beginning of what you can discover about the pitcher by paying your respects. The massive monument, which sits on a plot of land at the cemetery aptly named “Paige Island,” provides details about Paige’s career and personal life, including how he got his unique nickname:

Close-up of an engraving on the gravestone of baseball player Satchel Paige that details how he got his nickname.
Stacy Conradt

Part of the gravestone of baseball legend Satchel Paige and his wife, which provides the highlights of his career. The top of the grave is dotted with baseballs and coins.
Stacy Conradt

Paige died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 75—though he never did slow down much. In fact, on September 25, 1965, he became the oldest pitcher to ever play in a major league game, when the Kansas City Athletics put him in for three innings. The team made a big show out of getting the 59-year-old Paige a rocker for the dugout and hiring a nurse to oil and massage his pitching arm, but fans shouldn’t have worried that his “advanced” age would slow him down: In three innings, only one batter managed to get a hit off of him.

The granite gravestone of baseball legend Satchel Paige, with an engraving about his marriage and children. Fans have left baseballs, coins, and a necklace along the top of the stone.
Stacy Conradt

The large gravestone is a replacement for the original, a modest marker that can still be found at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The first stone was donated by a fan who played up Paige’s reluctance to reveal his real birth year by inscribing a question mark for the date. Paige’s family was said to appreciate the donation, “but not for the perpetuation of the ruse over the pitcher’s age,” as his biographer Larry Tye wrote. As far as anyone knows, the 1906 date on the current tombstone is correct.

The granite gravestone of baseball legend Satchel Paige, with the dates of his birth and death and a bronze engraving of his likeness. Fans have left baseballs and coins on the top of the grave.
Stacy Conradt

If you’d like to learn a life lesson (or six) from Satchel Paige himself, you can find his grave at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. Don’t forget to bring a baseball.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios