As with mattresses, so with graves it is illegal to remove Tags, at least in the United States. So our friends the Tags are safe in their beds in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. (figure 1).

Figure 1. Tag monument. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Little ‘L.’ Tag was a creature of a day, his or her ephemeral existence commemorated now by only an empty cast-iron chair. Often enough one finds the ‘man of the house’ seated in a chair over the family grave (figure 2).

Figure 2. William Hughes monument. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia. PA. Photo: author.

There is, too, the little girl, Teresina Vasco, who died of an electrical fire and is commemorated in her chair in Glenwood Cemetery in Washington, D.C. (figure 3).

Figure 3. Teresina Vasco monument. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

As to empty furniture to connote loss, I recently published an image of an empty bed monument in Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and the Charles Carroll Fulton monument in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore exploits the empty chair figure (figure 4).

Figure 4. Fulton monument. Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

We can now extend the record to include this empty chair in West Laurel Hill. Empty furniture as a figure for the loss of a loved one was anticipated by Robert Louis Stevenson in his magnificent essay, Aes Triplex: ‘there are empty chairs, solitary walks, and single beds at night.’

Figure 5. Tag monument. Detail of cast iron chair. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

What’s interesting about the chair under consideration is that it is a freestanding grave marker. The upper rail holds the name of the deceased child (the chair is sized for a 3-year-old), while the bottom has the much longer name of the maker: ‘JACOB S BERS MAKER 1121 ST JOHN ST.’ It’s like the maker’s tag takes precedence over the commemoration, and that’s one tag I wish could be removed!

Figure 6. Gaunt monument. Visitor’s bench in form of chair. West Laurel hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Post Script. Of course, there are no few chairs in cemeteries placed to accommodate visitors, but these are a different kettle of fish. For example, we saw a great stone easy chair at the Gaunt monument in West Laurel Hill this morning (figure 6).

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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