October 21, 1988: Famed Boyertown Burial Casket Company Closes Doors


October 21, 1988: The Boyertown Burial Casket Company has closed its doors forever. The second largest casket company in the world was organized on March 27, 1893. From a very modest beginning, the casket company grew rapidly.

Business got underway in November 1893, with a whistle sounding to commemorate opening day. That large duplex whistle was heard throughout town morning, noon, and evening for almost 100 years.

The first Board of Directors developed ideas that revolutionized the industry. “Build ‘em better” became its slogan, building better, stronger, and more attractive caskets with new, creative designs.

There were many famous people buried in a Boyertown casket. The world-renowned magician Harry Houdini had Boyertown make a casket for an escape act, and he was buried in it in 1926 (hoping for one more escape?).

The first President of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, was buried in a Boyertown casket, as were William Jennings Brian, an American statesman; Vladimir Lenin, the first Communist ruler of Russia; Will Rogers, the beloved comedian; Liberace, the glitzy pianist; the film star Marilyn Monroe; and Robert F. Kennedy, a brother of President John F. Kennedy; and his Attorney General.

Unfortunately, a number of circumstances combined to erode that business, and the 96-year-old Boyertown Burial Casket Company has today closed its doors with 15 minutes’ notice to employees. The site has received a historical marker as a point with national significance from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

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