Coffin or Casket Plate/Plaque
George Benham M.D.
I have had this item in my possession for many years and never gave it much thought. This is a coffin plate for George Benham M.D. Died April 9th 1887, aged 47 years. (Aug. 1840 - April 9, 1887).
He was the husband of Calista Emery Kipp January 30, 1846 to June 13, 1911. [My 1st cousin twice removed. Descended from Richard Titus Kipp, a brother to my great grandfather Benjamin Kipp]
They lived at Princeton, Ontario.
Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased. Generally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper, zinc or tin. The different metals reflect the different functions of the plates, or the status and wealth of the deceased. For a basic funeral, a simple lead plate would be lettered with the name, date of death and often the age of the departed, and nailed to the lid of a wooden coffin.
In the late 1840s the first machine made coffin plates began to appear. At first they were simple shapes stamped out of a flat piece of metal. The industrial manufactured coffin plates of course had no names on them. They were in fact just blanks that were intended to be engraved by someone in the local community such as a jeweller or undertaker. As such the quality of the engraving varies wildly.
In North America the same time that the use of coffin plates was increasing in popularity the practice of removing the plates from the coffin before burial increased. Often the Coffin Plates were never attached to the coffin but displayed on a stand or table next to it. The coffin plates were removed to be kept as mementos by the loved ones of the deceased.