Photo Clues in 19th-Century Funeral Cards

By Maureen A. Taylor

Funeral cards are nothing new. In the 1860s, mourning cards were popular after the assassination of President Lincoln, but not to announce the death of an average person. By the 1880s, though, it was fashionable to print cards to memorialize relatives.

This funeral card dates from 1891 and is printed on the type of cardstock also used for cabinet card photographs. While this card features just life and death dates for Mrs. Jane Early (and a poem), it’s not unusual to see cards with floral arrangements or photographs of the deceased taken while still alive.

Dark cardstock was popular in the 1880s and doesn’t necessarily declare an image to be a memorial card. White or cream card stock was also used. The presence of a death date on the item is what confirms it to be a funeral card.

These card were handed out at funerals or sent to friends and relatives to announce a death. The use of this style and format peaked during the cabinet card era of 1880 to 1900.

Thank you to Jim TeVogt for emailing this card!

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now