Cemetery vase, tulip

Object Details

ca. 1890-1920
Cast-iron cemetery vase with thick spike. The vase consists of eight concave petal panels with tapering points overlaying eight concave petal panels with similar tips. The serrated edge has a total of sixteen points. The ridges on the interior reflect those of the exterior (concave where the other is convex). The exterior has remnants of blue-green paint. The stake is sturdy, straight, and rectangular with slightly concave sides and a blunt end.
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.
bouquet holders
cast iron
flowers (plants)
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Accession number
Cemetery vases
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Cast iron, paint
Vase: 6 × 5 1/2 in. (15.2 × 14 cm)
Overall: 11 in. (27.9 cm)
Aesthetic Movement
Record ID
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