History

embalming civil war photo

Embalming, a relatively new practice in America, became common during the Civil War when it was used to preserve the bodies of dead soldiers so that they could be buried at homes far from the battlefield. The practice became well-known when President Abraham Lincoln’s body was embalmed for its formal trip from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois for burial.

Embalming has become such a common part of American funerals that many people assume that it is required by law. However, no state or province in North America automatically demands the embalming of bodies. When preservation of the body is specified by state ordinance, refrigeration, chilling or dry ice can often be substituted for embalming. Special circumstances such as an extended time between death and burial, and transportation of remains on commercial airline flights may necessitate embalming. Some religions, notably Judaism and Islam, do not allow embalming.