Century-Old Photos From Some of the Nation's Prettiest Cemeteries

In August, we shared a selection of vintage vacation destination photographs captured by the Detroit Photographic Company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Back then, Detroit Photographic traveled the country snapping picturesque shots for postcards, prints, and albums, often employing their exclusive Photochrom process to print splashy color images in large numbers.

One thing we didn’t include in that round-up: all their photos of cemeteries. While it might seem strange to send someone a postcard of a cemetery today (or to put a photo of one in an album), many of America’s 19th century cemeteries were feats of sculpture and landscaping that provided much-needed fresh air and relaxation. It wasn’t so unusual to visit them even when you weren’t in mourning, perhaps stopping by for a stroll or a picnic. A postcard often made a nice memento of such a visit, particularly if it depicted a famous grave.

Detroit Photographic (later the Detroit Publishing Company, and just one of many companies making images of cemeteries) eventually went bankrupt. Fortunately, you can still enjoy many of its images via Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. In the spirit of the season, here are just a few of their images from some of the nation’s most picturesque cemeteries and churchyards. You'll find dozens more in their archives, if you feel like doing some of your own trick-or-treating.

St. Philip's, Charleston, South Carolina. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain

Christ Church churchyard, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain

Forest Hills, Boston, receiving tomb. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public domain

John Brown's Grave, North Elba, New York. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain

Mission of Santa Barbara. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public Domain

St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public domain


Monument to Confederate dead in Richmond, Virginia. Image credit: Library of Congress // Public domain

St. Roch's Chapel and Campo Santo, New Orleans. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain

Washington's Tomb, Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Image credit: NYPL // Public domain

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An Ancient Sarcophagus Was Found in Egypt—And It's Never Been Opened
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In what could be the plot of the next summer blockbuster, a sealed sarcophagus has been found 16 feet underground in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Science Alert reports. It’s still unknown who or what might be lying inside the nondescript black granite casket, but what’s clear is that it hasn’t been opened since it was closed more than 2000 years ago.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the government’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, observed “a layer of mortar between the lid and the body of the sarcophagus,” indicating it hadn't been opened, according to a Ministry of Antiquities Facebook post. Considering that many ancient tombs in Egypt have been looted over the years, an untouched sarcophagus is quite a rare find.

The sarcophagus was discovered when a site in the Sidi Gaber district, dating back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BCE), was inspected before construction of a building began. The casket is 104.3 inches long and 65 inches wide, making it the largest of its kind ever discovered in Alexandria. In addition, an alabaster statue of a man’s head was found in the same tomb, and some have speculated that it might depict whoever is sealed inside the sarcophagus. Live Science suggested that archaeologists may opt to inspect its contents using X-rays or computed tomography scans to prevent damage to the artifact.

Although it remains a mystery for now, Twitter has a few theories about who might be lying inside:

[h/t Science Alert]

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What Did Burr Do After Shooting Hamilton?
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Aaron Burr's first order of business was to go home and have some breakfast.

Having victoriously emerged from that deadly encounter with Alexander Hamilton on July 11, 1804, Burr returned to his estate in lower Manhattan for a hearty meal. Some accounts claim that the V.P. was also pleasantly surprised by a visiting acquaintance (either Burr’s cousin or his broker, depending upon the source) with whom he dined, politely choosing not to mention the bloody spectacle that had just transpired. The next day, Hamilton passed away. For Burr, his opponent’s death marked the beginning of the end.

On August 2, a New York coroner’s jury found Burr guilty on two counts. In their estimation, he’d committed the misdemeanor of dueling—and the felony of murder. To make matters worse, because his duel had taken place in New Jersey, the Garden State issued its own ruling, which also pronounced him a murderer.

“There is a contention of a singular nature between the two States of New York and New Jersey,” he dryly noted in a letter to his daughter Theodosia. “The subject in dispute is which shall have the honor of hanging the Vice President.” Facing a tempest of public outrage, Burr eventually set sail for Georgia, where plantation owner and former Senator Pierce Butler offered him sanctuary.

But, alas, the call of vice presidential duty soon rang out. As president of the Senate, Burr returned to Washington that November to oversee the impeachment of anti-Jeffersonian Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Shortly thereafter—with some help from a contingent of Republican senators—Burr’s case was dropped in New Jersey, though by then, he’d already stepped down from the vice presidency.

Burr’s saga was far from over, though. After leaving D.C., he began aggressively recruiting allies for a planned seizure of America’s western territories. Among those he managed to enlist were General James Wilkinson, who’d been named Northern Louisiana’s regional governor. Burr even went so far as to begin training his own army before he was arrested in present-day Alabama and put on trial for treason. Ultimately, however, he was acquitted. His scheme foiled and his image scarred, Burr departed for Europe and wouldn’t return to his native country until 1812.

By then, the nation was entrenched in a nasty war with Great Britain and had largely forgotten his attempted conspiracy. Towards the end of his life, Burr went back to New York (where, despite the 1804 ruling, he was never actually tried for murder), revived his law practice, and married his second wife, the notorious socialite Eliza Jumel. He died on September 14, 1836, at the age of 80.

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