When Anderson-McQueen discovered an antique funeral coach for sale in West Palm Beach, they decided to make it part of their family. “We’ve built our business helping families preserve their legacies,” said COO, Director and owner John McQueen. “It was important to preserve a piece of our own industry’s legacy.”
Funeral coaches, now called hearses, played an important role in American history. From President Lincoln to Roy Rogers, horse-drawn carriages have been used in funeral processions as a way to express the importance and value of the life being honored.
They also helped spur the expansion of the US manufacturing industry. According to The Carriage Trade by Thomas A. Kinney, “wagon and carriage parts manufacturers fashioned huge quantities of parts as identical as they could make them.” This contributed to the growth of the economy and was an integral step in developing the motorized hearses used today.
Horse-drawn funeral carriages first appeared in the United States during the mid-19th century after families realized they wanted burial options beyond church grounds. What’s known as the “rural cemetery movement” was inspired by romantic perceptions of nature, a love of art, and a desire to surround loved ones who’d passed with both. Drawing from innovative burial ground designs in England and France, the first rural cemeteries were established around elevated areas on the outskirts of town.
The scenery and views may have been spectacular, but the cemeteries were often miles from the church and posed an interesting challenge to funeral homes: how to get the casket from the service to the burial site.
A two-wheeled boxcar was the first conveyance method used, but the wood caskets were unprotected and exposed to the elements. The boxcars quickly evolved into elaborate, glass-enclosed transports that kept the traditional black exterior, but included gilded highlights. Often draped inside with velvet and tassels, the new carriages allowed for the pomp and circumstance so popular during Victorian times.
In 1994, the McQueen family shared with one of their funeral directors that they were interested in purchasing an antique coach. They’d had requests from families over the years and felt it would be a great addition to their specialized services. It wasn’t long before their director located one for sale. Designed by the craftsmen of the American Midwest, the coach reflected the quality of an era past, but was in need of some tender loving care.
Built by Crane & Breed of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1895, the coach’s wood was mottled and much of the metal corroded. After being shipped to St. Petersburg, the coach was stripped to its original wood and the steel parts sandblasted and repainted. Master craftsman Fred Kenfield used dental tools and small files to clean the intricate pieces before he hand finished the wood and painted it to the coach’s original specifications.
Traditionally pulled by black horses for adults and white for children, today, the Anderson-McQueen coach is usually drawn by Clydesdales, an easy-going breed that handles traffic and crowds well. “We’re often asked to bring it to parades and festivals,” says McQueen. “And we do use it for funeral services when a family requests it.”
From traditional military ceremonies and celebrity funerals to families looking to honor their loved ones in this time-honored manner, a horse-drawn funeral coach adds a touch of elegance to any service.
If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Anderson-McQueen at 727-822-2059.