Funeral Transportation: A History
Part of what we do here at Krause Funeral Homes is make sure families in Milwaukee, New Berlin, and Brookfield are aware of all we have to offer when it comes to funeral services, cremation arrangements, or burial options. We want as many details as possible to have a personal touch so a loved one’s final farewell is an accurate reflection of their life.
One of the most unique ways to celebrate the life and personality of your loved one is through the choice of final transportation. We are proud to be the only funeral home in Wisconsin to offer an alternative to the traditional hearse, with our 19th century-style hearse drawn by a V-twin-powered 3-wheel Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle. Our motorcycle hearse has driven to Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio for funerals, and participated in Harley Davidson’s 105th anniversary celebration. It also accompanies veterans in various Milwaukee parades to honor those who died while serving our country.
It’s interesting how funeral transportation has evolved over the years, with numerous systems used to transport those who have died to their final resting places. In ancient times, a procession of mourners would carry their loved one to the burial grounds. Later, with the emergence of horses, a flat wooden frame called a bier was used to transport along bridle paths and tracks.
Starting in the mid-1800s, trains were used to carry a coffin or coffins to the cemetery. Interestingly, in 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Washington D.C., the caskets with Lincoln’s body and the body of his son Willie traveled a circuitous route from Washington D.C. to Springfield, IL, for three weeks on the Lincoln Special funeral train. The train stopped at many cities along the way for memorials attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Others gathered along the tracks as the train passed, standing in silence, or paying respects with bands, bonfires, and hymn singing. This was the first time a president’s body had been transported across the country by rail.
In the early 1900s, as automobiles became more common, so did motorized hearses (also called funeral coaches). Initially, most funeral directors could not afford to spend upwards of $6,000 on a motorized hearse, preferring the $1,500 horse-drawn option. But over time, prices dropped and gas-powered hearses became the norm by the 1920s.
During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, hearses evolved into a combination of an ambulance and a hearse, equipped to carry a gurney or a coffin. These vehicles, also known as combination coaches, were especially popular in small towns. During the late 1970s, ambulance regulations became stricter and combination coaches were discontinued.
Modern hearses are hand-crafted by companies that take the bodies of existing cars – usually luxury brands like our Cadillac hearses – and customize them. There are also unique hearses and burial vehicles, like our motorcycle hearse, available to the families we serve at no additional charge.
Our team makes every effort to design an unforgettable tribute for each and every family we help. If you would like to learn more about your service options, or are interested in including our motorcycle hearse in your own funeral plans, contact us today.