Cremation in the Modern Era

January 21, 2019

Cremation as a final rite of passage has been in practice since prehistoric times. The highly controlled process of reducing bodies to ashes using high heat in a closed space, can be dated as early as 1000 BCE by the Greeks who introduced this practice to the Western world, according to scholars. The practice was not fully adopted until Professors Paolo Gorini and Lodovico Brunetti of Rome invented the first cremation chamber in 1873. They argued that cremation was a practical method of disposition and thus began a movement to promote a sanitary farewells in both Europe and the U.S.

Sir Henry Thompson, surgeon and physician to Queen Victoria, was driven by public concern for hygiene and health and clerical desires to reform burial practices. It was then that he became the principal advocate of Cremation in England. The practice was led primarily by doctors who worried that burying whole bodies could spread disease and cause problems for public health. Slowly, crematories begin opening in Europe and abroad. As part of this movement, the first crematorium in North America was built in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1876.

In 1913, the Cremation Association of America was formed to promote the “modern way” and the “safe and hygienic way” of dealing with human remains. Originally, the association consisted of doctors and other concerned citizens who worried that whole-body burials could create health risks for the living. However, modern cremation as we know it today has only existed for a little over a century; the cremation movement in North America grew in popularity out of that invention. It can be contended that much of the recent rise of its popularity can be credited to the Great Recession. Cremations can cost as little as a one fourth as much as traditional burials. The lower price tag however is not the only considerable aspect that makes cremation a popular alternative. Cremation offers the flexibility of keeping a loved one’s ashes at home or casting or scattering them in a meaningful place. Although, only a quarter of a century ago, this process was looked upon as a taboo subject, cremation remains a popular practice today.

Cremation was a popular choice among the educated and wealthy throughout the 1920s. However, cremation fell out of favor once it was scientifically shown that earth burials, when done properly, were safe for public health. In the early 1980s, the rates of cremation in North America and around the world began to rise, and continues to rise for a variety of reasons, including concerns about cost, concerns about the environment and use of land, creative ideas for laying cremains to rest, and more acceptance of cremation by many religious faiths. Although, burials remain a tradition and might be more readily accepted by a majority of families than incineration, the number of people choosing cremation is growing and is expected to surpass burial rates in the near future.


Making the choice between burying or cremating a loved one will always be a personal decision. With a growing number of available options for you, here at Joe Jackson Funeral Chapels in Laredo we offer a wide selection of completely personalized and unique services. We are always available to discuss questions you may have about cremation with our funeral service professionals. Ask us how! Leave a comment down below!

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