Old Undertaker Advertisement

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Tuesday, November 18, 1913:  Nothing much.

1913 Undertaker AdSource: Watsontown Star and Record and Star (April 3, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Nothing much???? The previous day Grandma’s maternal grandfather died.  What was Grandma thinking?   Was her mother involved in the funeral preparations?

I found an advertisement by an undertaker in the nearby town of Watsontown. Her grandfather lived in another nearby town—Turbotville—so this probably was not the undertaker that the family used.

But, I don’t understand the ad. What does “a share of patronage is solicited” mean?

27 Responses

  1. Poor thing.

    I’m guessing “a share of patronage is solicited” means, in Victorian-era language, “please give us your (share of your) business (patronage).”

  2. No one likes sharing out too uh of this kind of business!

  3. I agree with auntfluffy as to what that phrase meant. Grandma didn’t share her innermost thoughts in her diary, did she?

  4. Clearly Grandma did not realize her diary would someday be published. Otherwise she may have given lots more information. She is like a good mystery writer – keeps us hanging on the edge of our seats! ;) If we only had that hindsight to know what the world will be like a decade later!

    • I sometimes wonder what people a hundred years out in the future would find fascinating about our lives now (as well as what they would find really strange).

  5. I don’t know what that means either. I tried to google the phrase and now am more confused than before!

    • I also tried googling it–and came up with several other old ads that also used the phrase, but it still wasn’t clear to me what it meant.

  6. Maybe I’m wrong so please tell me if I am. My way of seeing your Grandmother’s sparse use of words might be caused by a need to be as economical with thoughts, energy and focus as possible. Living on a farm and in a rural area was very physically exhausting at times. It would require great attention to daily mundane chores and a focus on necessities. To have time to write about emotions and speculate about what could be or might be would’ve been a luxury. I’d think farm life kept one busy from the rising to the setting sun. A life of action but not too much reflection or casual conversation or deep introspection.

    • I might have worded it differently, but I think you are right. Her world on the farm probably focused more on concrete things–and in some ways it probably didn’t provide the time or much encouragement for reflections about emotional issues (though I think that she none the less probably felt emotions very deeply even if she wasn’t fully aware of them).

      • Yes, Sheryl you are right. If I came across too bluntly it was because I was tired when I read the entry. I’m looking forward to any possible clues in future entries.

  7. Maybe she was kind of depressed and didn’t want to go into detail about the funeral preparations.

  8. That is puzzling.

  9. I’m not certain but I think what it means is that the fee is based upon the number of people attending/length of time required for the viewing. A lot of people (if they even had a viewing of the deceased, or held a “wake” as some of us do) still did this at home, but this may be an undertaker who offers more of the services associated with modern funeral parlors. Don’t quote me, though! ;)

    • Works for me. I’ve also wondered it the funeral was held in the home. I have a vague sense that many funerals were in homes but then, but I don’t have much specific information.

  10. auntfluffy and diana both pegged it exactly. It is saying, “We would like to have some of your business”. A hundred years ago businesses were much more reserved about asking for business, especially businesses like mortuaries, lawyers, doctors and dentists. I am not claiming to have been there a hundred years ago but some things hadn’t changed much by the time of my first memories.

    • Thank you–it’s really helpful to know that you’ve previously heard the phrase and that it means “please give us your (share of your) business (patronage).” I hadn’t thought about how “a share of patronage solicited” might once have been considered an indirect, polite way to solicit business.

  11. I suppose advertising for more business has always been a delicate matter for an undertaker.

  12. […] The previous day Grandma wrote “nothing much,” so I guess that it was another slow day from Grandma’s […]

  13. I’ve decided Granny has an agenda she’s not let her diary in on, one she may not even have admitted to herself. Have you noticed how important Sunday’s are? Is it because gets away from the farm? Is she particularly religious? Is there someone special she likes to see? Or is it the break from drudgery. Life on a farm might seem peaceful to some, but to others it would be torture.

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