Throwback Thursday: Funerals and Furniture Stores


Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Did you know that you used to be able to buy coffins at the local furniture store? (And by “used to,” I mean back in the 1800s.) It’s true.


If you look at the history of most funeral parlors, you’ll notice a trend: while more recent establishments may have always focused on funerals, many of the older ones have a background in making and selling furniture.

This really wasn’t that unusual for the time. During the 1800s, what we think of as “funeral parlors” were few and far between, so families often took care of most of the arrangements. Since it wasn’t common yet for a business to specialize solely in making coffins, that job usually fell to the local cabinet maker or furniture dealer.


Eventually, some of the furniture and cabinet makers went beyond just building coffins. Several studied embalming and became undertakers, offering services to the bereaved, all while still selling furniture. There were several of these businesses in DeKalb County, including Otis and Son in Butler, Ray C. Dilgard’s in Auburn, and the Spencerville Funeral Parlor & Furniture Store.

Want to see more local history? Click here to search our online photo database.


About Katy

Some of the books I've recently come to love include Signal To Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Just City by Jo Walton, Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, and Bug In A Vacuum by Melanie Watt. I'm a firm believer in the power of the Oxford comma.
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