M990.674.1 | Model of hearse

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)
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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.

  • What

    Hearses made from 1880 to 1900 were decorated with remarkable wooden sculptures depicting angels, crosses and other religious symbols.

  • Where

    In Quebec, the first hearses were used to alleviate the problems caused by the very long funeral processions in rural areas.

  • When

    There were very few hearses in Quebec before 1850 because a regulation from 1684 stipulated that coffins had to be carried by hand.

  • Who

    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.