Sheboygan Casket Mfg. Co., Inc .
. . .
Custom Caskets: Orders
Are Sometimes Unusual
fat lady from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus,
her death hardly was routine. Funeral arrangements for
the 600-pound performer posed innumerable problems for her
Removal of the body from the mobile home she occupied near
Baraboo, a difficult task in itself according to those who
recall the circumstances, was only the first obstacle.
A more perplexing problem was finding a coffin large enough
to accommodate the woman.
Friends turned eventually to Sheboygan Casket Mfg. Co. Inc.,
1214 N. 9th St., one of the few custom builders of coffins
in the United States. But the order proved formidable,
even for a firm accustomed to supplying oversized products.
Workmen selected an ordinary coffin, measuring six feet, six
inches long, which is suitable for the vast majority of
people, and quartered it, according to Richard Zeller, plant
superintendent and treasurer of the company. They then
added plywood to extend it in all directions and
two-by-fours for reinforcement.
Wouldn't Fit Through The Door
end product truly was unique, but by no means did it solve
all of the problems confronting mourners. For while
the casket now could accommodate the circus performer, it no
longer fit through the funeral home door.
for visitation, a large bay window had to be removed to
provide access and egress for the coffin.
platoon of pallbearers accompanied the body to its final
resting spot; burial required two adjoining cemetery plots.
Ringling Brothers fat lady, remembered 25 years hence, was
one of several special orders received by Sheboygan Casket
Co. over the years.
A Little History
another occasion a California man asked the firm to build
him a coffin which would allow him to be buried in a
standing position. Although he gave no reason for his
bronze; the cheapest are made of low-grade wood with cloth
covering. The latter are purchased elsewhere and
resold, but no longer manufactured here.
prices vary since funeral homes traditionally combine their
services into a package deal, a trend that is losing ground,
however, in favor of itemized expenses.
Casket Co. also manufactures cremation boxes, but is not
engaged in the sale of urns. Anderson explained that
sometimes the entire casket, after visitation and final
rites is cremated.
countries, cremation was outlawed for many centuries because
it allegedly ran counter to the doctrine of bodily
resurrection. That was the reason medieval witches
were burned at the sake - to destroy both their bodies and
Cremation Ruled Legal A Century Ago
cremation began to gain acceptance fewer than 100 years ago,
when Dr. William Price, an eccentric Welshman, cremated his
son. Price was prosecuted in Cardiff in 1884, and his
acquittal - the judge ruled the practice was legal, provided
it caused no nuisance to others - paved the way for modern
Funeral Chapels, 1205 N. 8th St., is equipped with a
crematory, Anderson noted, and has been for many years.
built according to funeral directors' specifications.
With 35 full-time employees working in the five story
factory, the company can turn out 15 completed coffins a day
and fill an emergency order within 24 hours, Zeller stated.
working hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,
unless a special request must be net.
to the shells, hardware and bolts of silk for the interiors
are bought from other sources. All of the caskets
produced here are custom-tailored and cotton-filled.
Companies are going to snap-in, cardboard interiors," said
Zeller, who has served the company in various capacities for
42 years. "We don't use and of that."
arrive at the factory, workers take out grinding marks, sand
them inside and outside and check for flaws. They then
apply a color coat and different types of shading - as many
as three - before they are covered with a clear, hot lacquer
(180 degrees). When the lacquer dries, a second coat is
applied and the shell is allowed to stand overnight.
are water-sanded, then buffed at a high speed the next day.
Average 190 Pounds In Weight
Many of the
coffins are made of 18 gauge steel and average 190 pounds in
weight. Smaller ones are available for children.
order forms, stating the type of shell, finish, hardware and
interior desired, stay with each casket until it is
completed. Because of the wide variety of combinations
possible from a custom builder, the orders can get rather
complicated, Zeller pointed out.
smaller operation that some but we're still in business
while many other have fallen by the wayside," Anderson said.
Sheboygan Press, Thursday
November 29th 1979