Four Hundred Years of History
Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

by Marilyn Yalom
May 15, 2008

In this sweeping history of America as seen through its gravestones, graveyards, and burial practices, stunningly illustrated with 75 black and white photographs, acclaimed cultural historian Marilyn Yalom, illuminates these unique records of our religious, ethnic, and deeply human history as Americans.

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Paring up with photographer Reid S. Yalom, the dedicated mother-son team visited each one of the hundreds of cemeteries in THE AMERICAN RESTING PLACE, following a coast to coast and north to south trajectory that mirrors the vast historic pattern of American immigration. The highly original national history they uncover yields vivid and often poignant evidence of the lives and deaths of settlers from Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific.

AngelsThe religious, ethnic, and geographic range of this work is vast, encompassing Native American burial mounds in Georgia and ancient Hawaiian sand dunes; seventeenth-century Puritan burying grounds in Boston; Quaker and Jewish sites in Newport; Dutch Reformed churchyards in New York; colonial Protestant cemeteries in Charlestown; Spanish Catholic missions in Texas and California; nineteenth-century Victorian cemeteries in Philadelphia, as well as Amish and Mennonite sites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and consecrated ground for Catholics in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago. And that is only part of the story.

VeteranYalom’s incisive, lively accounts of how epigraphs reveal changing ideas about death and personal identity; who's buried next to whom and why; when and why cemeteries are moved; and especially how class and gender play out in stone, often in surprising ways, include:

  • the story of one esteemed 17th-century Bostonian who amassed a thousand pairs of gloves in his funeral-going lifetime
  • burial rites and unique funerary symbols in today's Native American cultures
  • a Czech community, brought uncannily to life in the crematorium of Chicago’s National Bohemian Cemetery

From fascinating past to startling future — DVDs embedded in tombstones, green burials, “the new aesthetic of death,” and more — THE AMERICAN RESTING PLACE is the definitive history of the American cemetery.

About the Photographer:
Reid Samuel Yalom is a San Francisco-based photographer and author of Colonial Noir:  Photographs from Mexico. Reid shares his time between commercial and fine-art photography and can be found in a number of galleries and museums nationwide.