The science of vaccination advances by leaps and bounds in the last half of the 19th century, greatly reducing the chances of dying young from disease. At the same time, the Civil War takes away many in their prime, and the U.S. experiences a new kind of mourning when, for the first time, a president is assassinated.
The average life expectancy during this era was 40.
Joseph Lister's cleanliness techniques are dramatically reducing the number of deaths due to infection.
More and more people—children and adults—are getting vaccinated against deadly cholera, anthrax, rabies and typhoid fever.
American newspapers avoid the subject of sex but trumpet the macabre details of dying, even among ordinary persons.
The Civil War has created havoc with the popular idea of “the good death,” in which people die composed and at peace with God—ideally surrounded by loved ones at home.
More and more portraits of grieving families, including the recently departed in his or her coffin, are now done as photographs.
There have been experimental proposals to make coffins of iron, clay, glass or even rubber, instead of wood.
Fewer people are being buried in churchyards and more are being laid to rest in city or town cemeteries, many of them as vast and scenic as a park.
The embalmed body of outlaw Elmer McCurdy has toured for years in fairground sideshows—and with patrons placing nickels in McCurdy’s mouth, he is earning far more in death than in life.
The greatest American speech ever was delivered on a Pennsylvania battlefield with more than half the dead soldiers still unburied.
1851 - Herman Melville publishes Moby Dick
1855 - Armed clashes erupt between pro- and anti-slavery forces in Kansas
1866 - Alfred Nobel invents dynamite
1876 - Native forces led by Sitting Bull defeat Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn
1886 - Haymarket Square bombing in Chicago kills seven policemen
1892 - Pinkerton guards and Pennsylvania militia put down steel workers strike in Homestead, Pa.