Feature Story

New Motor Car That Carries The Entire Funeral

Editor's Note: R. J. Haight, Chicago, publishers of Park and Cemetery Magazine included the following article in their Volume XXII, No. 3, May 1912 issue, dealing with the use of modern techology in the cemetery.

As has before been noted in these pages, the motor funeral car that carries the casket and entire funeral party has many advantages over the trolley funeral car by reason of its ability to get directly to the home and to the cemetery lot. This type of car has been tried successfully and a new type of motor car to carry the entire funeral has just been patented by Bellett Lawson, Jr., superintendent of Elmwood Cemetery Chicago, and Secretary of the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents.

In Chicago most of the cemeteries are from 9 to 18 miles from the business center, and often as far from the homes of the people who have to bury their dead. The transportation of a funeral with 28 mourners and the body in the usual horse drawn vehicles to any of the cemeteries within 12 miles of the loop district costs $66 and upwards. This does not represent all the expense, for a stop is usually made at a road house to feed the horses.

The Lawson Car which is illustrated here is 20 feet one inch long, and seven feet five inches wide. The casket compartment in front is 7-1/2 feet by 3 feet two inches. The car will carry 28 passengers. The casket compartment is to be lined with sheet copper and the flower compartment enclosed with glass so that it will be separate from the other portion of the coach. There are four doors on the left side of the car and three on the right side. The casket is placed in from the front end. The coach is to be driven by electricity from a motor located under the center of the body with shaft drive to a counter-shaft and silent chain drive to the rear wheels. One of our illustrations shows the motor arrangement. The tires are solid, being 34x4-1/2 in front and 36x4 dual tires in the rear. The speed will be about 16 miles an hour. Power will be contained in an Edison Storage Battery of 115A-6 cells located under the seats and will give a mileage of from 40 to 50. These batteries will be interchangeable and one set can be charged while another set is being used so that two or more funerals can be conducted in one day with the same coach. There is to be no expense spared in the construction of the bodies and the specifications call for spring seats and backs to the cushions which are to be upholstered in machine buffed leather. There will be silk curtains at the windows and between the compartments above the seats. These curtains make it possible to have three compartments or all in one as desired, and in inclement weather funeral services may be held in the car.

Special attention has been given the spring arrangement. These springs are imported from France and impart an ease of riding which is most necessary for a vehicle of this kind.

The Chassis will be built by the Electric Omnibus Corporation of New York and Troy, and the bodies by the H. McFarland Co., of Chicago.

This car is the result of very careful study by C. J. Field, the vice-president of the Electric Omnibus Corporation of New York, and Mr. Bellett Lawson, Jr. Mr. Lawson designed the type of coach body to be used, and has applied for a patent on it.

As far back as 1901 Mr. Lawson studied funeral transportation and at that time considered the automobile, but as it was in an embryo state turned to the electric trolley funeral car and the system in use in Buffalo was inaugurated by him. It is a great financial success. These cars are used to their full capacity but as a small percentage of people live on the car lines the use of trolley cars is limited to a comparatively few people. In spite of this the receipts are about $9,000 a year per car.

Mr. Field has been identified with the Edison interests for years and is the designer of the Electric Buses which are in successful service here for Carson Pirie Scott & Co. In cooperation with Mr. Lawson, Mr. Field has completed the details of these funeral coaches for this company. The company will control this type of Funeral Coach for Cook County for a specified time under an agreement with the Electric Omnibus Corporation. The Funeral Coach Company has a capital stock of $60,000. This will give ample working capital to purchase five of these coaches, and the necessary equipment including the fitting up of a garage.

Editor's Remarks: Fast-forward 105 years. Tesla-powered electric bus project spotted charging at a Supercharger station. Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose.