About the History of Funeral Cards

Anyone who has been to a funeral has probably received a small card, about the size of a bookmark or playing card, with a picture on the front and a scripture or bible verse on the back with the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased. These cards have a surprisingly long history, although they were not originally printed as funeral cards, but rather as general religious cards sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Invention of Lithography

When lithography was invented in the 18th century, it revolutionized printing and made it possible to mass produce inexpensive printed materials. At this time the Roman Catholic Church began to print religious cards or holy cards with the picture of a saint or scene from the Bible on one side and a prayer with a promise of indulgence on the other. Sometimes these cards were bordered with lace and they were also embellished with printed and cut out borders.

Funeral Cards

The idea for funeral cards was born from these holy cards and those who could afford more elaborate funerals began distributing these memorial cards at funerals. During the 19th century when photography became both available and popular, memorial cards often had a photograph of the deceased on the front side of the card instead of a religious picture. Funeral cards were extremely popular with both Roman Catholics and Protestants during the late 19th century.

Funeral Fans

During the early part of the 20th century, prior to the widespread use of air conditioning, it was not unusual for memorial cards to be in the shape of a fan with a handle which could be used be mourners during hot summer funerals. Since most funeral parlors were also private homes, funeral fans continued to be used into the 1950s and 1960s until the installation of air conditioning in private homes became feasible.

Funeral Cards Today

Most funeral homes have preprinted funeral cards to which the add the name and appropriate dates for funeral services. In many cases there are several different cards with different pictures and Bible verses offered at each funeral service. If family members prefer a different sort of memorial card than those supplied by the funeral home, it is often possible to order personalized cards from a local printer or which can be completed overnight.

Printing Funeral Cards at Home

Computers make many things possible and most printers will print on card stock which is available at office supply stores. For truly personal memorial cards, family members may chose from a wide variety of pictures, poetry and prose and print their own memorial cards at home. Verses can be copy-pasted into a word processing program and the font and size can be altered to fit the card. This is an especially good solution for secular funerals since most commercial cards have religious themes. It also makes it possible to use a favorite photo of the deceased on the card.

Funeral cards have a long tradition and are a lovely way to remember family members and friends who have passed away. Whether a family chooses to use cards provided by the funeral home, to purchase cards from a printer or to print their own funeral cards, these cards are a tradition that provide a special way to honor the dead.