Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America

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University of California Press, Feb 15, 2001 - Religion - 280 pages
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Just one hundred years ago, Americans almost universally condemned cremation. Today, nearly one-quarter of Americans choose to be cremated. The practice has gained wide acceptance as a funeral rite, in both our private and public lives, as the cremations of icons such as John Lennon and John F. Kennedy Jr. show. Purified by Fire tells the fascinating story of cremation's rise from notoriety to legitimacy and takes a provocative new look at important transformations in the American cultural landscape over the last 150 years.

Stephen Prothero synthesizes a wide array of previously untapped source material, including newspapers, consumer guides, mortician trade journals, and popular magazines such as Reader's Digest to provide this first historical study of cremation in the United States. He vividly describes many noteworthy events—from the much-criticized first American cremation in 1876 to the death and cremation of Jerry Garcia in the late twentieth century. From the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era to the baby boomers of today, this book takes us on a tour through American culture and traces our changing attitudes toward death, religion, public health, the body, and the environment.
 

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Purified by fire: a history of cremation in America

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As Prothero (religion, Boston Univ.) states in the introduction, "what Americans usually do is bury." In this outstanding work, he delves deeply into a subject that is often avoided: death and, most ... Read full review

Contents

The Cremation of Baron De Palm
15
Sanitary Reform
46
Resurrection and the Resurrectionists
67
BRICKS AND MORTAR 18961963
103
The Business of Cremation
105
The Memorial Idea
127
BOOM 1963PRESENT
161
Consumers Last Rites
163
Contemporary Ways of Cremation
188
Timeline
213
Abbreviations
19
Notes
21
Selected Bibliography
53
Index
63
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Page 11 - What we find, instead, is an untidy but characteristic unevenness of development. What is important are the significant breaks — where old lines of thought are disrupted, older constellations displaced, and elements, old and new, are regrouped around a different set of premises and themes.
Page 18 - Could they suppose that it would be more impossible for God to raise up a body at the resurrection, if needs be. out of elementary particles which had been liberated by the burning, than it would be to raise-up a body from the dust, and from the bodies which had passed into the structure of worms?
Page 18 - Could they suppose that it would be more impossible for God to raise up a body at the resurrection, if needs be, out of elementary particles which had been liberated by the burning, than it would be to raise up a body from dust, and from the elements of bodies which. had passed into the structure of worms ? The omnipotence of God is not limited, and He would raise the dead whether He had to raise our bodies out of churchyards, or whether He had to call our remains, like the remains of some ancient...

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About the author (2001)

Stephen Prothero is Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University, coeditor of Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History (1998), author of The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott (1997), and coauthor of The Encyclopedia of American Religious History (1996).

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