View Full Version : Old Coffin Styles

04-14-2005, 04:41 AM
I'm trying to find a way to describe an old-fashioned coffin shape that was used probably in the 1800's Europe.

It's not the 'cigar box' shape we use now. Sometimes you see the shape in old Dracula movies but not often.

From the head, the sides went out wide around the shoulder area then narrowed back to the feet. It would probably be made of pine or birch.

Is there a name or description that people would picture in their minds for this type of coffin?

04-14-2005, 05:16 AM
There's a modern euphemistic trend of refering to coffins as caskets -- implying that the latter is the more modern, rectangular-shaped one.

So I guess, to identify with your reader, you probably want to steer away from 'casket,' and be sure to say 'coffin.' From there, I'd probably just describe it as a tapered hexagon, or somethin'.

Sorry to not be of more help :\

04-14-2005, 08:27 AM

They call that "traditional" shaped, I believe. I always thought those were the coolest. I think someone who posts here is a mortician, but I can't remember who. She would know.

For me, I think of that cross shaped one when I hear "casket." When I hear "coffin" I think of the more modern shape.

three seven
04-14-2005, 12:54 PM
Funny, because in this country too we've used the square-sided variety for donkeys' years, but anything that looks like the one above is described as 'coffin shaped.'

04-14-2005, 01:39 PM
I got up early to write my review of the new Amityville Horror, and this is one of the first things I see? :scared: Puts me in the right headspace, though.

Never knew the semantic difference. I would've thought there was an even more archaic word for that particular burial container.


04-15-2005, 12:58 AM
I'd write 'it was an old-fashioned coffin, the kind you see in Dracula movies'!

After scanning countless memorial photos, old catalogs, funeral science textbooks and scouring the basements and attics of historic buildings and antique malls, I learned there were many ways of building the ageless and dignified toe-pincher coffins of the nineteenth century. I chose the methods that I believe make the sturdiest and most beautiful coffin. As in the old days, each coffin is built to fit the intended user. While the appearance and classic design are based on historical research, my construction methods and tools are modern to ensure strength and durability.

From "vintagecoffins.com". "Toe-pincher" is not a very elegant phrase, though -- I'd still go with 'old-fashioned' or maybe 'nineteenth century style'.

Oh, almost forgot -- I read a nonfic on forensic anthropology the other day, and apparently it was not uncommon for coffins of that sort to have a leaded glass window on the top for viewing. Creepy, huh?

06-18-2005, 09:14 PM
Probably the most common old style of the casket era. Here in the states the newer cigar shaped caskets are used. The old style which is broader at the shoulders and narrows at the feet is called the TOE PINCHER. Though this style is very seldom used here it is still quite popular in europe...there is an older style casket known as the HIGH TOP/HIGH PANEL casket which was very popular in Germany which also led to very late ornate horse drawn hearses before 20th cxentury. These caskets were embelished with ornaments fom top to bottom and had no handles on the sides but rested on claw feet at the bottom.A new coffin manufacturer has begun to remanufacture similar style coffins like this in Prague. They still have no handles and still rest on claw feet, though they are no where near as high as the old ones. As an Embalming/Funeral antique collector I was fortunate to be offered a 3 rare Coffin Ornament catalogs from Germany that date from the mid to late 1800's...very intricate designs! I don't know if there is a law against using such ornaments today. The only ornaments I see on some of these caskets even here in the states are coffin screws, crosses, christs, and some others. I hope this information has helped, feel free to send any message.


06-18-2005, 09:44 PM
I grew up in an old funeral home, and we had an old casket in our garage. It was actually called a body basket, and was made of wicker. It was a loaf shape. (like french bread.) Low, not wide. The base was wooden. It was heavy.

Does that help?

06-18-2005, 09:46 PM
I like the word "tomb."

06-18-2005, 10:49 PM
A modern reader would be familiar with an Egyptian sarcophagus, of the King Tut variety; that might help you describe it.