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Mourning Lithograph

Mourning lithograph

When four young children lost their lives in an accident, their family memorialized them in this mourning print.

Life a century ago was more prescribed than today. Etiquette ruled in most spheres of daily life. A death in the family, particularly, called forth an entire set of social requirements altering dress and behavior. People of all classes took these traditions seriously and feared falling short of society's expectations.

Although black clothing and bunting is what we today often associate with 19th century mourning practices, families also created memorials for display in their homes. One such example is this lithograph memorializing four children from Parkerville, Kansas.

The Council Grove Republican of November 15, 1879, reported on the details leading up to their tragic deaths. The week earlier, following heavy rains, Thomas Poole had sent his eldest son with a wagon to fetch the boy's siblings from school. A nearby creek, which the wagon had successfully forded just minutes earlier, rose faster than the boy expected and the wagon capsized on the return trip, spilling the five Pooles and two neighbor children in the water. The eldest boy and the two neighbors managed to save themselves, but the four younger Pooles were drowned.

Close-up of children's names at bottom of lithographSymbols of Death and Mourning

The lithograph features common 19th century mourning symbols, including a dove holding a banner reading "Gone But Not Forgotten," and an hourglass depicting the fleeting nature of life. The lost children's names and ages are emblazoned on a tablet near the bottom: Martha (11), Ida (8), Clara (5), and Walter (4). 

The collections of the Kansas Museum of History also include a companion piece to this lithograph in the form of a printed poem entitled, "We Yield Them To His Care. Written on the Death of Mr. Pool's [sic] Children." Printed with a black border (a typical indicator of mourning), it possibly was distributed at the children's funeral. The opening stanza is typical of these elegies:

Dear Lord, 'tis hard to say "'tis well,"
When chastened so severe;
To trust Thy love and not rebel,
And check the bitter tear.
With heaving breast of deepest woe,
To see The gentle hand
That has in mercy sent the blow,
And broke the household band.

Obedience to strict mourning customs had decreased dramatically by World War I (1914-1918), and today's mourning practices  barely resemble those of our ancestors.

Entry: Mourning Lithograph

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2002

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.