Funeral Cars – A Brief History

Today, funeral cars are generally divided into two categories: hearses and limos.  The hearse carries the casket as part of a dignified ceremonial ritual, while the limo carries mourners (usually close relatives and friends, as other funeral attendees generally drive their own vehicles).

The history of funeral cars is long and distinguished. Throughout the centuries, funeral professionals have played an important role in society, and the cars have been an important tool in that job. Today we will take a brief look at the early history of funeral cars.

Horse Drawn Hearses

The earliest hearses are believed to have emerged in the 1700s. Drawn by horses, these early funeral cars were typically designed and built by expert coach makers. This style of hearse can still be found in occasional use for stylized funerals such as the traditional New Orleans jazz funeral. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. Somewhat more common is the use of horse drawn funeral cars in publicity activities such as Anne Rice’s launch parties for her Vampire Chronicles, for which she often arrived in a customized horse drawn hearse.

Early Motorized Hearses

At the end of the 1800s, automobiles were quite new and many considered them to be only a fad. Nonetheless, some


forward-thinking funeral directors worked with coach builders to transfer the basic hearse design onto an automobile chassis. These hearses were often noisy and unreliable, and the trend did not catch on. Nonetheless, in 1909 technology had advanced to the point that an automobile hearse was a practical solution. The first commercially available automobile funeral cars went on the market in 1909.

Tomorrow we will investigate the early modern history of the hearse, an era which began in the 1920s. In the meantime, why not visit our convenient online dealership? We would be happy to show you the latest in funeral cars and limousines.