M990.674.1 | Model of hearse
1865-1875, 19th century
Wood; metal: iron; glass; fibre: velvet; Carved
55 x 27 cm
Purchase from Mr. John L. Russell
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Model (422)
Keys to History
This scale model of the type of hearse used in Quebec around 1870 belonged to an undertaker who used it to present his various models
In Quebec, a tradition established in 1684 forbade the transportation of the dead in coaches. Out of respect for the deceased, men carried the coffins from the home - where the body had usually lain in state - to the church. Widely observed in the city, this tradition nevertheless caused problems in the country, where the often long roads sometimes had a few steep hills.
To remedy these problems, many parishes acquired, beginning in 1850, hearses that they made available to families. Many trades were involved in making hearses: the vehicle was built by wheelwrights or carriage makers, and sculptors carved the ornamentation.
Hearses made from 1880 to 1900 were decorated with remarkable wooden sculptures depicting angels, crosses and other religious symbols.
In Quebec, the first hearses were used to alleviate the problems caused by the very long funeral processions in rural areas.
There were very few hearses in Quebec before 1850 because a regulation from 1684 stipulated that coffins had to be carried by hand.
The coffins were decorated with different colours according to the age of the deceased. Hearses for adults were black, and those for children were white.