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Cemetery vase, decorative motif

Object Details

See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
ca. 1890-1920
Accession number
Cast-iron cemetery bouquet holder, with single coat of dark-green, glossy paint. The tulip-shaped vase has eleven scallops along the rim. The interior has no decoration, while the exterior has raised designs on each scallop. A spike extends from the base of the vase, for insertion in the ground.
Label Text
The popularity of visiting the cemetery and decorating loved one’s graves with flowers in Victorian times inspired the invention of the cemetery vase in the 1890s. A vast improvement over the bottles and tin cans that had been used for holding flowers previously. The first cemetery vases were made of glass, but metal vases treated with weather-resistant paint soon surpassed them because of they were durable and inexpensive. Attached to the bottom of these conical vases was a long metal spike that could be easily inserted into the ground, which kept the vase securely in place and upright. Iron-reservoir cemetery vases were sold by florists and some cemeteries, and they were the most popular container for Memorial Day flowers from 1897 to 1919. They were widely used in cemeteries, except during World War I and II when Uncle Sam needed the metal for the war effort. During these hiatuses, tomato cans with a hole drilled in the bottom through which a wire was inserted to secure the vase in the ground were used instead.
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
bouquet holders
cast iron
flowers (plants)
Cast iron, paint
Vase: 9 1/2 × 8 1/4 in. (24.1 × 21 cm)
Overall: 20 in. (50.8 cm)
Aesthetic Movement
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Cemetery vases
Record ID
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