Life-Preserving Coffin- In Doubtful Cases of Death (1844)


I found this amazing bit of American history on the Emergence of Advertising collection.
Before the enormous leaps forward in the late 19th century, Victorian medicine was far from an exact science and was practiced by “doctors” lacking much medical knowledge. Plagues of cholera, yellow fevor, &c. ravaged newly growing industrial cities that lacked sewers and running water, underlining the issue of premature burial as these scourges killed young and seemingly healthy people so quickly. The physical appearance of death – or “suspended animation”-could get a fellow prematurely buried.
Plucky Victorian Baltimore inventor and advertiser Mr. C. H. Eisenbradt solves this problem and advertises his “life-preserving coffin” thusly:
“The superiority of this kind of Coffin over the ordinary ones, will be perceived at a glance; and rests upon the fact, that the inventor has so contrived an arrangement admitting of pure air, and with springs and levers on the inside, that the slightest motion of its inmate will be instantly communicated to the springs, which, freeing the coffin-lid, it flies open- a circumstance which entirely relieves the confinement of the body”
(he recommends interment in a vault or “a properly heated room” to eleviate the problem of the prematurely buried being 6 feet under tons of earth)
They don’t write copy like they used to, huh?
Other “life-preserving coffins” sought to solve the problem of premature burial through breathing tubes which opened up above the grave, signal flags rigged to pulleys, little above ground bells on strings trailing into the coffin, or later, an electromagnetic bell alarm and flag combo.
This advertisement appeared in the same year in which fellow Baltimorian Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Premature Burial” was published in which an unnamed protagonist suffers from attacks of “catalepsy”- a condition in which the sufferer falls into a death-like “trance” and fears being buried alive. Coincidence?
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