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Examples of Boston Gravestones and Their Art

Boston had a good slate source from which gravestones were produced. They also had professionally trained carvers. Plus, Boston served many communities along the coast beyond the city. Examples are found in many coastal towns.

Pre -1710 Daniel Wicom – 1700 – Rowley, MA
This gravestone has a small skull and wings, pumpkin and leaves border, diamond with crosshatching in finial and no bottom border.

Post -1710 Mary Perkins – 1718/9 – Ipswich, MA
This nicely carved gravestone has a bottom border design reflecting the side border design. Whorl in finial is integrated into side border making a continuous flowing pattern. Date reflects old calendar when the year ended in March instead of January.

Cherub Daniel Rogers – 1723 – Ipswich, MA
Cherub designs show up in Essex County in limited numbers. A particularly fine group of three gravestones in Ipswich all have the cherub. The wings have feathers replicating a real bird’s wing. Above and below the main image emanating out from small central designs enclosed in circles are stylized figs on vines. This is a piece of art.

Skull and Wings Edmund Worth – 1723 – Newbury, MA
Skull and wings was the most popular design used on gravestones. However, within the context of this design are many versions. Here the skull is oversized for the highly stylized wings.

Early Fig & Pumpkin Jacob Perkins – 1705 – Ipswich, MA
Concentric circles were carved in the finals. Flowing from beneath the circle is a stylized leaf pattern followed by two lobes with a tiny lobe at base. These lobes are presumed to be figs. Below is a stylized pumpkin followed by another stylized leaf.

1720’s Fig and Vine Mary Rogers – 1723 – Ipswich, MA
Finial is enclosed with a rope-like border with a delicate flower design inside. A stylized leaf flows from the circle’s outer border down to a highly stylized fig. A different style leaf follows below the fig. Figs and vine probably had some kind of death related symbolism but that did not deter carvers from expressing themselves artistically.

Repeated Design Pattern Elizabeth Appleton – 1703 – Ipswich, MA
The design in this side border is extremely similar in its shape and repetition to designs used on chest and highboy furniture

Stylized Leaf Pattern Richard Smith – 1714 – Ipswich, MA
Complex leaf patterns such as this one show up on silver as decorative designs and on fancy coats of arms engraved on silver.

Circular Leaf Pattern – Newbury, MA
A six pedaled flower design is bordered on each side by stylized leaves curled around in a circle. This was a popular design for side borders, too.

Strawberry Pattern – 1705 – Rowley, MA
Two examples of the strawberry design were found. One was done by an apprentice learning the trade on a footstone for Ann Chase in Newbury (see related photos) and this one. The overall gravestone is unusually fancy with embellished ornamentation on the date numbers and extra attention given to the main image area. The bottom border dates the stone to a post 1710 carving date.

Boston gravestone carvers created art. Restricted by their very product, gravestones, they nonetheless worked at being creative and imaginative. Some fine carving still exists today in old burying grounds around New England.



Copyright (c) 2005-2011, James E. Gage & Mary E. Gage. All Rights Reserved.