Casket Basket?



Linda Boyle Gibson's "casket basket" has found a useful purpose -- holding dyed reed at her shop, In A Hand Basket, in Bloomington, IN.

Catheryn Peters offers that anyone wishing to purchase a casket basket might watch the e-bay wicker section.
 There is also one for sale at Ruby Lane  (1/26/04)

The basket made its appearance at the AMB convention in 1999. Woebegone Guild members delivered keynote speaker Dianne Stanton to the podium to the strains of their own version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Here's how is all started --

 When Linda Boyle-Gibson of In A Hand Basket stopped in at an antique shop in Paducha, KY this summer, she never expected to find a 7-foot basketry treasure, but she is now the owner of this woven item. Pictured with Linda is Jean Cadmus May (on left) and Linda’s dogs Samantha and Winston.

Here is her description of the basket: It has a wooden base and is in wonderful shape. It is reinforced with metal rods, has what looks to be the original canvas belts with buckles. There are woven handles on each end and it measures 7 feet long and is very heavy. There is a small brass tag on the front that says “Champion, 50 Years of Leadership, Springfield, Ohio”. The lady at the shop said it came from an estate sale — not a funeral home.

 Here is what she has learned about it so far: It is believed to be the type of basket that was referred to as a “removal basket” used to transport bodies to the mortuary. Donna Carlson has volunteered that these baskets are believed by some to be the origin of the term “basket case” — those who would be leaving the premises in a basket.

Champion Co. is still in existence in Springfield, OH making embalming fluids. The company was sold in more recent times and there is no one left there who remembers anything about the company making these baskets, presumably sometime in the 1890's to 1900.

 Cass Schorsch remembers a memorable dinner at a restaurant that had created a salad bar from one of these baskets for Halloween. Linda says that her suggestion of making it into a coffee table was not well received but that her daughter would like to rise out of it on the front porch on Halloween night. Jean Cadmus May’s suggestion of it serving as a bed for the guest room will probably not happen either.

 For those of you attending AMB this coming week, watch for this basket. In keeping with the season, this basket may be making an appearance.

 If anyone has either factual information about this “treasure” or suggestions for a suitable use for it, please e-mail Baskets, Etc. and we’ll post it here.

Comments ---
Doug Sanders, 34, of Derbyshire,  
advises that he has been making willow baskets  
for 15 years,  from cribs to coffins, seven days a week. 




  • From Aubrey and Darrell Hill: We have been selling more and more woven willow caskets. We have even found our way into the British press regarding their popularity. More information can be found at our web site at Somerset Willow Co. (5/13/99)

  • From I don't know what the proper name was for the wicker basket you describe, but we have one meant for a baby. I have no idea how old it is but it is still used on occasion. The one we have (My husband is a retired funeral director.) was or is used to make removals from the place of death to the funeral home. To my knowledge they were not used for burial purposes. Our basket has to be over 50 years old because it came with the business when we bought it. Our business is a little over 100 years old. (5/13/99)

  • From Norma Buehlmann in Des Moines, IA: I was excited to see the basket casket. We have a childs size coffin basket in the undertakers shop at Living History Farms. It dates around 1874. Also the embalming table is woven cane. (10/19/98)

  • From Susi Nuss: This Summer when I was at The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt. Lake, NY. I saw one of these caskets in an extremely handsome, shiny black, horse drawn hearse. I was aware that these baskets were used for this purpose. That is one reason I have always avoided the use of the phrase "basket case".
  • I have also heard, but have no confirmation of this, that patients in mental institutions were placed in baskets like this to control their fits of emotion. They could still breath, but were restrained enough so that they could not hurt themselves or others. There is still a physical restraint hold used in these cases that retains the phrase "basket hold". (10/26/98)


  • Susi Nuss of the Mining Co. has done some research for us. Here is what she reports:

  • The owner of E.L. Higgins Antique Wicker says this about one removal basket: "The casket we were making reference to a 1880's wicker viewing casket that we have. It was made by the Frigid Fluid Co. in New York. This piece was used just for viewing in the home before they had refrigeration."
    She also found reference to a removal basket at this Key West site.
    If you are in the market for such an item, you will find one for sale at Main Street Antiques in MO. (11/7/98)


  • A sharp eyed co-worker of mine has spotted one for sale at Collectors Cove Ltd, Route 33, Sciota, PA 18354, Phone (717) 421-7439. (11/7/98)

  • Linda Justice says "There used to be one in the window of Duffy's Tavern in Utica, IL. They have remodeled and it is no longer there." (12/18/98)

  • From Ruth Ann Stutler: Two years ago while in Kansas for my son's wedding, we visited Dodge City and the museum at Boot Hill. There were two things there that really caught my interest. One was beautiful flowers and wreaths that prairie women had woven using their own hair. The other was an antique woven casket. It was hard to get a good close up look at it as it was behind glass, but just the idea of it intrigued me. If any weavers are ever in the Dodge City area, they may want to check out the museum there. (1/24/98)

  • Colleen Calver adds to our article: I have a "casket basket" exactly like the one in the picture only it is child size. I purchased it at an estate sale here in Texas. The estate was from a former mortician. There were several other "child" size caskets, but they were wood. It was explained to me that it was a travelling casket. The body was picked up at the home in the traveling casket and then returned to the home in it after embalming. In Victorian times, and times before, people were viewed in their homes. I don't know if this is true but I have the casket in my living room. I store things in it under my harvest table. No one ever guesses what it is right away, I have to pull it out and they have to see the total shape. It is neat. (11/21/99)

  • From Raymond Fuller: It has been years since I have seen one of these. The funeral home I worked in in the 70's had one in the basement . My first funeral home I worked at, the owner told me of stories of when he would deliver these to the railway station in a mining town on friday and would return Monday to collect them if any one was killed during the weekend. (2/28/00).
  • From Wendy Walsh: My great, great grandfather started a funeral business in the 1860's in northern Colorado. We have an old picture of him on a bicycle with a wicker basket like yours on the back. I 'm not sure how it was anchored on. Apparently he would remove the body from the home in the basket, but I don't believe they were used for burial, just for transport. I'll bet it was a difficult ride back to the funeral home!
  • Ed. note: She's looking for the picture to share with us. (4/10/00)
  • From Cindy Smith in St. Joseph, MO: Our Outlaw Basket Casket -- Our local motuary Heaton Bowen Smith and Sidenfaden Chapel has a small museum in the back that has a child basket casket as well as and adult size.  They were used to remove the bodies from their place of demise to the uneral home.  The adult one they have is the actual basket used to transport Jesse James to the Heaton Bowman funeral home after he was shot here in St. Joseph, Missouri.  They have picture of it with Jesse in it included in their display. (04/28/02)


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