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Planted Bodies: Science and Marketing in Philadelphia’s Rural Cemeteries

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Wagner Free Institute of Science

1700 West Montgomery Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19121

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Planted Bodies: Science and Marketing in Philadelphia’s Rural Cemeteries

Join us for a Weeknights at the Wagner lecture by:

Aaron Wunsch, University of Pennsylvania

Rapid changes in pre-Civil War America – industrialization and urbanization – led people to seek refuge for themselves and their loved ones in a host of highly artificial new environments away from city centers. Among the most important was the so-called “rural” cemetery, the contours and highlights of which differed from city to city. Philadelphia, dubbed “the Athens of America” in the early years of the republic, was renowned for furnishing the kinds of scientific knowledge – botanical, anatomical, and geological - on which cemetery founders’ promotional claims rested. This talk by historian Aaron Wunsch will examine the complex mix of rationalism, romanticism, and consumerism that helped launch Laurel Hill, Monument, and Woodlands Cemeteries, the three earliest “rural” cemeteries in Philadelphia.

Main Image: courtesy of the British Library on Flickr Creative Commons.

Museum open until the talk begins at 6 p.m. Registration is free, but donations ($5 suggested) are welcomed at the door!

Mt Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia

Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia/Yeadon, a "rural cemetery" established in 1855




About Aaron Wunsch:

Aaron Wunsch is a professor in University of Pennsylvania's historic preservation program. He received his Doctorate in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley. His dissertation, "Parceling the Picturesque: Rural Cemeteries and Urban Context in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia," focused on the social and economic forces that shaped Philadelphia’s rural cemeteries. Building on that work, he curated an exhibition on Laurel Hill Cemetery at the Library Company of Philadelphia and has written extensively about its development. He is the author of Palazzos of Power: Central Stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company, 1900-1930 (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016) and the forthcoming book Cemetery City: Death, Commerce, and Reform in the Landscape of Antebellum Philadelphia. He has received several awards for his preservation advocacy work, including the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s 2015 Public Service Award for Preservation in the Public Interest.

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Wagner Free Institute of Science

1700 West Montgomery Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19121

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