Furniture and Undertaking

I guess it makes sense to combine the two professions. If you’ve got the wood and tools to make coffins, why not build a couple of cabinets when business is slow, right? I mean, there’s a lot of time between cyclone season and flu season in Ypsilanti. Might as well do something constructive. And, when things really heat up on the mortuary side of things, I suspect even the most dedicated of undertakers would need a break. And I can’t imagine there’s a better way to clear one’s head after a morning of embalming than an hour spent debarking and planing a 400 pound slab of black walnut. Still, though, I was surprised to see the above ad when flipping through a 1933 Ypsi phone directory over lunch this afternoon. I suspect, if I thought about it hard enough, I could come up with an equivalent today, an instance of a business trying to increase profits by forcing its employees to do other work in their down time. I’m sure such things exist. For the time being, though, I just can’t help but wonder how the J.E. Moore and Company showroom was laid out, and whether or not their staff ever tried to move furniture during funerals, saying things like, “If you enjoyed that chair, widow Muller, I could give you a real good deal on it one we’ve got Mr. Muller in the ground.”

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8 Comments

  1. Posted March 7, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, furniture and undertaking isn’t, or at least wasn’t, that rare of a combination. If you search for it, you can find a lot of historic examples. I don’t know if it was as common a combination as barbershop and bloodletter, but it certainly wasn’t rare. I’d just forgotten that furniture and undertaking used to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

  2. Posted March 7, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    As for opportunities to do this now, here are the first two ideas off the top of my head.

    The sales staff at Gene Buttman Ford, when waiting for potential customers to come in the door, could be required to knit scarfs to sell on Etsy.

    Cab drivers, between fares, could be required to park, roll down their windows, and try to sell brownies to those walking by.

  3. JRS
    Posted March 7, 2017 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Maybe not that rare even now…my friend had a small handmade furniture business in Seattle in the 90s. His business license was for a “firm engaged in manufacturing wood furniture and caskets.”
    He never exercised his right to build and sell caskets, though.

  4. Paul Hickman
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Capone perfected the art

  5. Eel
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Organized crime and meat packing. A match made in heaven.

  6. Gillian
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Your interpretation was more generous than mine. I figured the undertaker just had a side business of selling of people’s furniture after they died.

  7. Eel
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Or, like in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they made furniture from the bodies.

  8. Eel
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Or, like in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they made furniture from the bodies.

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  1. […] how I was telling you a few days ago that I’d gotten my hands on a 1933 Ypsilanti phone book? Well, here’s a little something that I thought you might find of interest. Back in […]

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