William Schelm Company - 1910s-1920s - East Peoria, Illinois
|In many smaller communities, the funeral director served many functions
in addition to his primary undertaking duties. It is well known that many funeral homes also served as temporary
hospitals, places used to stabilize accident victims before they could be transported to a nearby hospital.
Additionally they commonly had purpose-built combination hearses which also could be used as an ambulance with
A little-known fact is that in small towns funeral home owners typically owned the local furniture store as well. In very small communities some funeral parlors did double-duty, operating as a furniture store Monday through Friday and as a funeral home when the need arose.
The William Schelm Company of East Peoria, Illinois was one early firm which catered to the funeral home/ furniture store marketplace. Starting in 1914 they offered a combination motorized funeral coach, furniture delivery car using a stretched Model T chassis. This utilitarian vehicle would prove popular in the early years of motorized coaches and numerous manufactures soon offered similar models. These early multi-purpose vehicles look much like the flower cars that would become popular starting in the late 1930s and some big-city funeral directors used them for transporting floral tributes in large corteges. The unusual Schelm casket-cars were made through the early 1920s.
Some directors used them to transport chairs, altars, and supplies to the cemetery grounds while others used them as a first call car, the vehicle which was sent to the home of the deceased. In the 19th and early 20th century, some families kept the body in the house and the funeral director did the embalming on site. A number of manufacturers offered embalming or first call cars, which typically contained a casket and all supplies needed for embalming.
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