Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs


Baby on a cooling board
Anonymous, North American
silver print

A silver print showing a baby lying on a device known as a cooling board, possibly one designed by B.F. Gleason of Brockport, New York. Their device appeared in several newspaper advertisements and the accompanying illustrations closely match the structure seen here. At a time when funerals were usually held in the family home, these fold-up tables could be easily transported by funeral directors and placed in an appropriate semi-public space within the house. The surface of the table was perforated with holes, allowing cold air to circulate around the body from a tray of ice hidden below. The canopy on the top of the frame kept the cold air where it was needed, refrigerating and preserving the corpse. 

According to one advertisement: 'A PRACTICAL UNDERTAKER of long experience, submits this COOLING BOARD to the profession as combining all the essential qualities to meet every requirement for the proper care of dead bodies. The simplicity of this Board recommends it over all others in the market, and its price places it within reach of every Undertaker in the land. It is manufactured of the very finest materials, nickel plated &c.'

Photographer and location unidentified, but almost certainly North American. 

The print measures 4.8" by 6.5" (12 cm by 16.7 cm), including a narrow white border not shown in the scan; it is mounted on a piece of black Bristol board measuring 6.9" by 8.9" (17.5 cm by 22.5 cm).

code: pm0197
post mortem, post mortem portrait, post mortem portraits, cooling board, cooling boards