National Casket Company - 1920s-1930s - Boston, Massachusetts

    During 1928 and 1929, 200 Kissel-built coaches were distributed through the National Casket Company of Boston, Massachusetts and called National-Kissels. Available with a choice of two straight-eights (either 126hp or 95hp) or a much less expensive 73hp six, all three engines were available as side-loading funeral coaches or ambulances. A special town car featuring an open driver's position was offered on the 126hp White-Eagle equipped chassis and included an incredibly long wheelbase of 162". Unfortunately, a dispute had developed between Kissel's body supplier, Eureka and the Henney Motor Company surrounding Eureka's 3-way casket table. As National wished to avoid being a party to any lawsuits threatened by Henney, they ended their distribution of the Eureka-bodied Kissel coaches, forcing Kissel into receivership during September 1930. Ironically, the National Casket Company now turned to REO for a new line of funeral vehicle chassis that were bodied by Eureka's arch-enemy Henney.

1931 National Casket Company funeral coaches were marketed as NU-3-Ways and were equipped with Heise patented casket tables mounted in side-loading Henney bodies placed on 125hp straight-8 REO chassis with a 152" wheelbase. The combination of the Amos Northrup-designed REO chassis and Henney's attractive long and low bodies made for one very attractive funeral coach.

Lower-priced 1932 National-REOs were mounted on the 152" wheelbase 85hp Flying-Cloud 6 chassis while more expensive coaches were built on a more powerful 159" or 162" wheelbase 125hp straight-8 Royale chassis.  Henney's NU-3-Way casket table was offered on all of the REO 8-cylinder chassis but not on the less-expensive 6.  National-REO bodies were identical to regular Henneys and were offered in rear-loading, side-loading, and 3-way funeral coaches. Service cars, ambulances and combination coaches were also available and could be delivered as town cars or totally-enclosed vehicles.  

Henney offered the industry's first electric-powered casket table in 1932 which was designed by William H. Heise, the designer of the original 3-way table. A centrally located motor was placed under the casket frame in a specially designed hump or "mound" that could be operated from either side of the vehicle using switches imbedded in the compartment walls. The "electric" option was available on select Henney and National-REO NU-3-Way coaches.


The National Casket Company of Boston, Mass., marketed hearses under its own name in the late 1920s and early 1930s, first on Kissel chassis and later on Reo,. The bodies for these National-Kissels and National-Reos were built by the Henney Motor Company of Freeport, III.


    For more information please read:

The Professional Car - Issue #88 Second Quarter 1998

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional Car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company: a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999


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