Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum re-enacts historic funeral of Mrs. Tinker

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum re-enacts historic funeral of Mrs. Tinker


On September 4, 1901, Mrs. Robert H. Tinker, wife of local businessman Robert H. Tinker, died at her home, the Tinker Swiss Cottage.

Now, 100 years later, in memory of Mrs. Tinker, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is inviting the public to act as mourners at re-enactments of her funeral. Like most Victorian funerals, the service will be held in the parlor at the Tinkers’ home, the Swiss Cottage. The re-enactments will be held September 8 at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Actors will play the roles of Robert H. Tinker (the grieving widower), Marcia Dorr (the bereaved niece), dear friend Mrs. Emerson and Reverend Snyder of Second Congregational Church. The undertaker and the family maid will escort mourners to and from the service.

Afterward, visitors can explore an exhibit of 19th-century mourning jewelry and artwork. The exhibit, “A Fond Farewell: A Look at Victorian Funerary Customs,” includes jet jewelry, memorial photographs and wreaths made out of woven human hair. Hair of departed friends was often woven and encased in jewelry or display pieces as memorials. Visitors can also sample “funeral cakes” and hear about the distinct rituals followed by 19th-century families when a loved one died. There were specific rules for clothing, the decor of the house, and even the appearance of everyday items such as stationery and handkerchiefs. The exhibit, A Fond Farewell, will continue to be on display to the public Tuesday through Sunday at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. through November 15 at regular admission prices.

Admission to the funeral re-enactment is $10 for adults, $5 for children. Reservations are recommended. The Museum, located at 411 Kent St., can be reached for information at 964-2424.

Additional fall events will coincide with the funeral re-enactment and exhibit. On September 15, in conjunction with the Rockford Historical Society and the Camp Fuller Fest, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum will present a Cemetery Walk of Greenwood Cemetery. Twenty costumed interpreters will share the stories and lives of historical figures buried at Greenwood—including members of the Tinker family. The walk is free of charge and will run from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

A lecture series also is planned for the month of October and includes talks on funeral customs, hair art and other mourning objects from the 1800s, and the symbolism of the often elaborate Victorian cemetery markers and headstones.

These programs are sponsored by the Rockford Area Arts Council, the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. Special thanks to Tara Blazer for loaning the museum her collection of funerary artifacts as well as to Fred C. Olson Funeral Chapels, King’s Flowers and the Aurora Historical Society.

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