Coffins, containers in which the deceased are placed for burial or entombed above ground, derive their name from a word that originally meant “basket.” A tapered, six-sided box, the coffin differs from a casket, a rectangular container with four sides that originated in the nineteenth century and a euphemistic word implying a container used for precious treasures.

By the late 1800s when it was customary to display a corpse at home before interment, manufacturers produced wooden coffins, thus giving mourners an extensive selection for their loved one’s final resting place.

William L. Fry's undertaking preparation room, Olathe, Kansas, circa 1920. Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum.

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