The Glass Coffin

American Casket with Stand by DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Factory

Constructed in the 1920s, the Museum’s glass casket (2001.4.234) weighs between 400 and 500 pounds. The type of pressing machine that was used to make it weighed approximately 31,000 lbs. The American Glass Casket Company claimed that their casket press, measuring 13 feet tall, 25 feet long with a width of 5 feet was the largest glass press in the world in 1921. Glass coffins, which were cushioned with yards of fabric, were not meant to display the body but rather to hygienically protect it from the elements.

Glass was being used in casket construction as early as the 1850s and patents are seen starting in 1859 for glass caskets, but DeCamp did not patent his two piece adult sized casket until 1915. In 1921, the American Glass Casket Company owned “the exclusive right to manufacture and sell the DeCamp Glass Casket in the states of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico and [was] the parent-producing company in the making of this glass casket under the DeCamp patents” ([Glass casket catalog] Bib # 74869, page 12) while other plants each had their own respective territories.

Patent Information Plate on CMoG Casket for DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Factory

Patent Information on Casket Plate for DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Factory

Of the trade catalogs in the Rakow Library’s collection, one on glass caskets is fully viewable online. The catalog for Crystal Glass Casket Company, Washington, DC describes their caskets as “hermetically sealed by applying a composition which renders the casket air-tight, water-tight, vermin-proof and absolutely sanitary, thus assuring a perfect burial receptacle” (page 7). The makers explain that the strength of glass is greater than other materials commonly used in coffin or casket production including woods and metals. The catalog contains interesting photographs documenting the production facilities and can be seen online here.

DeCamp trimming room, Cut No. 13 from Bib 52588 - DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Muskogee, OK, USA.

DeCamp trimming room, Cut No. 13 from Bib 52588 – DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Muskogee, OK, USA.

After the glass bowl and lid of the casket were pressed, they had to be annealed for approximately six hours to relieve stress from the glass. Dealing with pieces of such a large size, cracks were often a problem. In the trimming room at the factory, felt or fabric was applied to the outside of the glass to prevent the metal handles from coming in direct contact with the glass surface. Silk or brocade was used to decorate the caskets as can be seen in the photos above and below. Small caskets were used as samples since they were easier to produce. It is unknown how many full size caskets were produced, but today only two 6′ 3″ caskets remain intact, both in museum collections.

Glass casket from Bib# 45886 - DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Muskogee, OK, USA.

Glass casket from Bib 45886 – DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Co., Muskogee, OK, USA.

Many questions still surround the history of glass casket production. Some accounts relate that certain factories did not produce any full size glass caskets at all, but were merely a front to attract investors. In 1923, several company representatives were indicted and charged with conspiracy in connection to the sale of company stock. Most investors saw no returns and bankruptcy came for companies rather quickly. For further information, or to view additional catalogs from other firms, including the DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Company, contact or visit The Rakow Research Library.

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15 comments » Write a comment

  1. Were the glass caskets too heavy to be carried by human pallbearers? Glass ones would probably weigh more than those made of wood or metal.

    It seems the glass must have been purely functional, not decorative, because it was covered over with material.

    Very interesting.

  2. Karen,

    You are correct that the glass caskets were much heavier than ones made of other materials like wood and metal. It is not clear if (or how many) full size glass caskets were made or used. Some of the photos in the trade catalogs we have do show pallbearers with the coffins, but we cannot say for sure if the photos were staged.

    You’re also right about the glass being more functional than decorative. The companies really stressed the idea of the preservation of what was inside of the glass casket as opposed to one composed of other materials. I did read something, though, about other types of decorative glass actually being made in the facilities or by those companies. Please let me know if you’d like more information on that.



  3. Pingback: The Glass Casket | Blogging by Amy De Simone

  4. So who actually made the infant glass casket, was it Crystal Glass Company or the DeCamp Consolidated Glass Casket Company?


    • Both companies made caskets in multiple sizes, including a small casket that could be seen as the size appropriate for an infant. The American Glass Casket Company first produced a two foot size and worked up to a 40″ and eventually 52″ size. The Crystal Glass Casket Company noted in it catalog that the company produced three different sizes. Both companies worked under the De Camp glass casket patents.

  5. Hello my name is Jeff Miller. I would like some contact information as J.W DeCamp is my great great Grandfather and my mother has all the patent information along with the miniature sales casket. Who would be a good contact to discuss items related to this. I am just a little familiar with this but would love all the information I could get.

    • Hi. I know this blog is very old, but I just came upon it. I am a great great granddaughter of J.W. DeCamp. My family has 3 sample caskets, one of which is cut. We also have a wonderful sales catalog. Would love to share info and learn more info.

      • Hi Ms. Cardwell, The Rakow Research Library is certainly interested in hearing from you! We would love to learn more about your sales catalog and would be happy to share information we have in our collection with you. Please contact us at [email protected] and direct your question to Cataloging Specialist, Trade Catalogs. I look forward to hearing from you!

  6. I too have a small size casket, seems to small even for an infant, I thought it would have been a salesman sample, am I wrong, kind of creepy the think I may have collected a baby casket?

  7. I have an orginal copy of a buyers receipt for 5 shares of capital stock of the Crystal Glass Casket Company at $10.00 per share stating he made a first payment of $25.00. Dated 2-14-20. And just read the story of the trouble the company got into for imbezalment etc. I would like to know if anyone would be interested in a photo of this receipt? Interesting story.

  8. I have a letter addressed to my great grandfather soliciting money to purchase stocks in the company. The wording shows a strong sense of urgency to send the money in without delay….a great scam tactic! Apparently he came to his senses because I have the blank stock form with the self addressed envelope.

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