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After the Civil War, increasingly more undertakers began to experiment with embalming as an alternative to other modes of preservation.By the early decades of the twentieth century, embalming had become a standard practice in much of the country.
The foundation of the emergent industry was embalming, a practice that gained legitimacy during the Civil War years.In addition, states began to recognize this modern professional occupation through licensing boards made up of established funeral directors and other civic leaders.Second, the rhetoric surrounding embalming relied on contemporary theories about public health and sanitation; many argued that embalmed bodies posed less of a threat to the health of a community than bodies left to rot in the ground naturally.The Lynch family, in its third generation of funeral directors, has chosen to remain privately owned while some others have sold to large multinational corporations.the industry, which was generating billions of dollars per year in economic activity by the end of the twentieth century.American undertakers, many of whom had connections with the furniture industry and had a growing interest in the production of coffins, began to focus on the transformed appearance of the body.
Embalming assumed a central place in American burial practices for a number of reasons.
As funeral homes multiplied, so did a variety of professional associations organizing men at the national and state levels, trade publications exclusively catering to an emerging class of authorities of disposal, and educational institutions for the training of funeral directors.
The funeral industry gradually emerged as an economically sophisticated, politically adept, and consumer-oriented institutional powerhouse that revolved around the embalmed, viewable body.
While the changing nature of funerals created an industrial juggernaut over the course of the twentieth century, the public image of funeral directors has been constantly tarnished by bad press, ugly controversies, and negative stereotypes.
Although they have referred to themselves as "professionals," undertakers have had a difficult time convincing the public that this title should apply to an occupation that does not require a college degree—hence the gaping divide between the self-image of funeral directors as well-respected, active community members and the popular, media-fostered stereotype of the heartless, corrupt, and exploitative swindler.
Although medical schools before the Civil War relied on various European methods of preserving dead bodies for instructional purposes, most Americans had no knowledge of the procedure and abhorred any "unnatural" intervention into the body's organic processes of decomposition.