In 1902 Sears,
Roebuck offered a
specialty catalog for tombstones, enabling
customers to select a stone and specify the
inscription without sales pressure from the
mortuary. Sears emphasized high quality
for lower prices than offered by local stone
inscription costs were $.06 per character.
Epitaph inscriptions were $.025 per
character. No charge for punctuation or
spaces. Sears' catalog offered a
few epitaph examples of frequently used epitaphs,
including the inscription cost. Adding, "Rest
in Peace" cost $.27, "Sleep, mother, dear.
And take thy rest; God called thee home, He thought
it best." $1.52. For
raised letters, 1/8" high and 2"
tall, the cost
was $.15 per character.
Sears stones were offered in Acme blue
dark vein Vermont marble or
white Acme Rutland Italian marble.*
Sears' granite supplier was
located in Vermont so freight prices were estimated
at $.25 to $.75 per 100 pounds east of the
Mississippi and $.75 to $1.50 west of the
For a dime, customers could
receive a sample of the marble they were
roughly 18" x 18" x 9" thick could be purchased for
$5 to $8, depending on the type of stone, plus
lettering. Three-foot high stones were $15 to $24
and four- foot stones weighing over 1,000 pounds
could be purchased for $35 to
A large stone for a
family plot might cost in the $70 to $160 range,
foot stones for individual family members buried in
the plot. Iroquois Theater manager
Davis and his family have such a family plot in
finished tombstone from Sears arrived four
to six weeks later. Because
of the weight, getting the stone from the train
station to the cemetery, and installation once
there, would have been no small task.
The platform beneath heavy stones needs to be
prepared so as to keep the stone from tilting or
toppling. Today a concrete foundation of several
feet is poured; not sure if that
was the type of foundation used in 1903.
Perhaps all tombstone-related services fell into the
bailiwick of the granite cutters. In Chicago in
early 1903, union granite cutters, who earned $3.00
per 8-hour day, protested those cemeteries who
employed non union workers at $2.40-$2.85 for a
tombstone supplier was probably the
Vermont Marble Company (VMC), founded in 1880. VMC was one of
the world's largest marble suppliers, in 1894
employing up to 4,000 workers, including many
Italian, Irish and Scottish immigrant craftsman. It
boasted annual distribution of a million cubic feet
of marble from its quarries
in the cities of Rutland, Danby
a long relationship with marble, granite and slate.
The facade of the
U.S. Supreme Court building
Memorial in Washington, DC are
made are made of Vermont marble, and millions
of gravestones in America's cemeteries are made of
granite quarried in central Vermont. The slate roof
in classrooms and on the roof of the White House
came from the Slate Valley area of
Vermont and New York.
The last VMC milling
operation was closed in 1993 by Pluess-Staufer, who
purchased the company in 1976 for its calcium
carbonate quarries (used to produce filler materials
made of crushed marble, limestone and chalk filler
for use in paper-making, paint and plastics).
The international conglomerate, known today as
still has operations in Vermont, as well as in a
half dozen other U.S. communities.