Monday, November 26, 2012

William McKinley's Assassination and Grave Journey

William McKinley is an interesting president and human being, more so than most people realize. Although it was a brief conflict, he was a wartime president during the Spanish-American War. His presidency also ushered in a time of great prosperity in America, largely due to his insistence for high tariffs on foreign goods (which protected American industry and its workers; if foreign products are more expensive, people are inclined to buy American). He also cared for his wife Ida,who was frail and sickly, with great compassion and tenderness. However, I would like to take a more in depth look at his assassination and burial.

An anarchist named Leon Czolgosz waited for his opportunity to kill McKinley, to get close enough to him to have a good shot. The McKinley's were touring the U.S., and they were making a stop at the World's Fair in Buffalo, N.Y. The president planned to hold a meet and greet at the Temple of Music (a concert hall,which was demolished after the fair ended) on September 6th, 1901. The gun was concealed in a hankie, as Czolgosz joined the throng of people who wanted to meet the president, and the president was shot twice in the stomach. One of these bullets lodged itself deep in the president's abdomen, and although the president appeared to grow stronger in the coming days, he had gangrene deep inside his body. The president died on September 14th, 1901 (and it was his death that led to the Secret Service having a primary role in protecting the president).

President McKinley's body was to lie in state in Buffalo and Washington, before being taken home to Canton, Ohio for his funeral. A silent film of his funeral procession into West Lawn Cemetery can be seen here (it's pretty amazing, considering this happened over 110 years ago): 

A large scale monument was planned for the final interment of the president. Until this monument was completed, the president's body was to rest in the receiving vault at West Lawn Cemetery:

The receiving vault seems archaic to us now, but it was necessary before machinery made grave digging possible in winter, when the ground freezes. Those who died during the winter would rest in this vault until their grave could be dug in the spring. In President McKinley's case, he would stay there until his monument was completed in 1907. Mrs. McKinley visited her husband almost everyday in the receiving vault, until her own death in May of 1907. The attachment that the Mr. and Mrs. McKinley had to each other was profound, and Mrs. McKinley never stopped mourning or fully recovered after his death.

McKinley Memorial was completed a couple of months after Mrs. McKinley's death, and the president, his wife, and 2 daughters were re-interred in the grand monument. Driving up to the monument takes your breath away; it's right in front of you as you pull in the driveway. The monument is really an amazing sight, and pictures can't do it justice:

The memorial and museum are open to the public, and more information can be found here, about visiting or history in general:

West Lawn Cemetery is practically next door, so I would also recommend visiting the cemetery. They are both gorgeous and full of history, so what's not to love?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interesting artwork

What's so amazing about this artwork is that the headstone itself is located in a simple prairie cemetery. Most of the headstones are plain and barely readable, but this one is vibrant and beautifully decorated. The gates represent the entrance to Heaven, and the dove most likely represents the pure soul of the individual passing on to their eternal rest in Heaven (there is also a faint Masonic Square and Compass at the top of the headstone, which I talked about in a previous post). 

It is a bit hard to see, but this headstone was designed to look as though it was draped in a cloth with frills and tassels. Before the modern funeral home came into popularity, the deceased would lie in state in the parlor of their family home. Typically, everything would be decorated to reflect the mourning period that the family was going through. One of the most common of these decorations would be heavy black draping for all of the furniture in the parlor. This headstone reflects the common mourning decor of the time, and it's pretty unique!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Freemasonry: The Square and Compass

Freemasonry can seem pretty confusing and elusive, with all of its secret rituals and symbolism. It is said that the organization began as a group of men who all worked on the construction of European cathedrals in the 1500s. Due to their occupation, these men were known as Free Masons, and the name remained intact even after the society evolved. Today, many fantastic theories about the Masons have emerged, including the belief that the are trying to secretly take over the world, or even that they are a Satanic order. I recently purchased a copy of the morals and dogma of the Masonic order, and this message was printed boldly on the title page:

It would seem that the society wants their ways to remain private! I have yet to make up my mind on whether or not the Masons have ill-intent for non-members or not, so I will have to do more research...

Today, from my understanding, the Masons are essentially a fraternal organization that is rooted in the belief of a Supreme Being, which is inclusive to gods of many faiths. The connection of this faith to everyday life is seen in one of the Mason's most recognizable symbols, the Square and Compass (which can be seen clearly here:[1].gif) :

At the top of this Mason's tombstone, the Square and Compass can be seen plainly. The Square and Compass can be interpreted in many ways, and there is no one way the Mason's interpret it. From what I understand, the square serves to remind Mason's to keep their actions in check and "square" with what the Supreme Being would want from them. The compass stands to represent the belief that Mason's must maintain a balanced relationship with both mankind and the Supreme Being in order to be a proper Mason. The "G" in the middle of the symbol reminds the Mason that a relationship with God (or Great Architect of the Universe) is central to making accurate judgments on how to carry oneself. Without this reasonable, even approach, then the Mason would be out of control and going against their fellow man and the higher power (correct me if my interpretation is totally off base!). It would also seem to me that these tools of measurement are a reference to the stone builder origins of the organization.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Love your art, love your unique self

Cemetery art and photography are two of the many things that I enjoy that makes me unique. 

I take photos to capture  the stories behind the headstones. These photos also explain a part of myself and how I see the world. I don't care so much that my photos are of excellent quality or represent a subject matter that lots of people will enjoy. What matters to me is that taking photos brings me down a much needed path of self expression. If others enjoy them and learn something, I'm flattered! If not, oh well! I am still satisfied with my artistic abilities. The fact that I'm expressing a true part of myself to others, whether they like it or not, is all that matters. Everyone should have something, whether it's art or some other outlet, that they can use as a means to learn about themselves and the world around them.

The point I'm really trying to get to is that it seems like not many women my age really express themselves in a way that is truly their own. So many girls try to project an image that they feel others, especially men, will respond to in a positive manner. Some in my generation feel as though Lady Gaga is a revolutionary artist. She plays it safe, though, and her creativity is bound to stereotypically female areas. It's fashion, perfection, and sex that she sells as her own brand of creativity. Her expression lacks the sincerity and passion that I see in other artists; she clearly constructs her image in a marketable way. Could she be doing it for the attention or the money, as so many others do?  How boring!

It's as though women have taken a step in the wrong direction, against their own self-respect and individuality. They often try to be what they think men want (or be what other females expect them to be like, to a lesser degree) in order to receive attention, even though it might be the wrong kind. I hear women say things like "Oh, my boyfriend/husband wouldn't let me do this or that!" If someone told me that I couldn't be who I am or pursue my hobbies without their permission, that sure wouldn't go over well with me, and they wouldn't be a fixture in my life for too long!

I usually don't touch on topics that don't explicitly have to do with history or cemeteries, but I thought this was important. All women should have the self-confidence and support that inspires them to be special and create something that matters to them. I'm glad that I am independent and my own person. My blog and photos are a reflection of my personal expression, and I wish more women would express themselves and prove to themselves that they are capable of fantastic things! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Words of Cemeteries

Within its gates I heard the sound
Of winds in cypress caverns caught
Of huddling tress that moaned, and sought
To whisper what their roots had found
-George Sterling-

Things blossom in their time. They bud and bloom, blossom and fade. Everything in its time
-Neil Gaiman-

Let not death, nor the graveyard overcome you with fear, for every seed buried in its cold ground, resurrects forth anew, into a blossomed life
-Anthony Liccione-