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vol. 4, p. 14
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 4 (1875-1878)


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Von Palm's Cremation

The Body-burning to Take Place Next Wednesday
A New Exit to Futurity Throngh Fire – The Embalming and the Cremation – Description of the Paraphernalia.

The cremation of the body of the late Baron Von Palm is an affair that has been so long talked about that the public will not be surprised to learn that all arrangements are now completed for that operation. The affair is to make place next Wednesday, December 6. The place that has been chosen for the solemn ceremony is Washington, Pa., about twenty-five miles west of Pittsturg, on the Chartiers Valley Railroad. Colonel Henry S. Olcott and Mr. Henry J. Newton, executors of the last will and testament of the Baron, have sent a circular invitation to the various scientific institutions and boards of health. They claim that the occasion is more of interest to sentence in its historical, sanitary and other aspects, and that on that account ought to have all the publicity. To this view of the subject the friends and relatives of the deceased have agreed, and consequently the Usiversity of Pennsivania, the Washington end Jefferson College, the New York College of Physicans and Surgeons, other institutions of learning, and the health boards of Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., and other cities, have already signified their intention to be represented. In fact, a large gathering of scientists, advanced people and progressive men and women is expected.


is focused around this pending cremation, Joseph Henry Louis Charles, Baron Von Palm, Grand Commander of the Sovereign Order of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, Prince of the Roman Empire, Knight of St. John of Malta, was in the first place of somewhat distinguished birth, the oldest, branch of his family flourishing at present in Suabia, Southern Germany. A younger branch is to be met with in Wurtemberg, Bavaria, and Austria, and still another line, of princes, in Vienna. The first line are barons of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsfreiherren), and belong to one of the most to ancient families. The late Baron Von Palm himself was born at the baronial seat of his father, at Augsherg, Bavaria. He was educated at the University of Heidelberg and afterward became a diplomate. He then served as Secretary of Legation at Carlsruhe, and subsequently became Ambassador. At one time he was sent as special envoy to Ferdinand II, King of Naples, by his brother, to negotiate a settlement of family difficulties, including, among other things, the legitimacy of the Prince's son. The Baron travelled véry extensively, and spent much of his fortune in gratifying his taste for music and painting, and finally. about fifteen years ago, he came to this country. He was highly esteemed for his various attainments and social characteristic. Later he moved to Chicago, where he invested largely in land and mining interests, but was not successful in a pecuniary point of view. As fate would have it, he then encountered colonel H. S. Olcott, who is so notorious for his connection with Spiritualism, and became much interested in the beliefs and doings of the Theosophical Society. It was not long ere he became a member of that siciety, and just before his death was elected a member of its council. Unfortunately, being a man about seventy years of age, he suddenly succumbed to the insidious results of an exciting life, was attacked with disease of of the kidneys, and died May 20, 1876. Feeling his end approaching he made his will, leaving all his property to Colonel Olcott. A previous will describes him as possessing the Castles of Old and New Wartensa, on Lake Constance, Switzeriand.


of the body, made directly after his death, showed that he had been for or many years the victim of a complicated malady of the vital organs. The remains were subjected to embalmment, and the funeral took place from the Masonic Temple May 28, 1876, the hall having been kindly granted for that purpose by Mr. Frothingham, The remains were then conducted to the Lutheran Cemetery, which is reached by horse cars traversing the dirtiest and poorest districts of Williamsburg. All the funeral services were conducted in accordance with the peculiar tenets held by the Theosophical Society.

This society alms to be a modern resurreсton of some ancient sect, Egiptian or otherwise, which, some thousands of yenrs ago, was on the search for occult truths and principles Whether the Theosophical Society has yet discovered any of these truths and principles we do not certainly know. In view of the pending reduction of the body to ashes by fire, it will be interesting to the reader to learn something of the modus operandi, The furnace which is to transact the job, and which be been built by Dr. Le Moyne at Washington, is expected to accomplice the task in about five hours, and without causing the least bit of disagreeable odor. The crematory is of brick, one story in height, with three chimneys, and a roof of corrugated iron. There are two rooms, the reception and the furnace room. The former is about 20 feet square, with a catafalque in the centre for the holding of the body and some chairs to accommandate the spectators. The furnace room is 20 feet by 10 feet, The retort is 7½ feet long, 20 inches in height and 28 inches wide, looking something like a gas retort. Underneath is the furnace, and the whole is enclosed in brick work. All being ready the body will be inserted and reduced to


Before these can be collected, however, thirty-six more hours must be allowed to elapse in order that they may cool. Thus the whole operation will take over forty hours. When the ashes are collected they will be placed in boxes and held subject to the orders of the friends of the deceased: an index of these boxes will he made, so that no confusion will be possible. All gases coming from the body during the burning are returned to the furnace and then consumed. A venthole at the rear of the retort facilitates this. The furnace has already been successfully tested with nearly 200 pounds of sheep carcases. A good deal of interest has been felt and expressed in the matter; for, although cremation may never become fashionable, the question has he fascination of novelty, and all who knew the Baron are anxious that he should be cremated well.

A recent


obtained through the kindness of Mr. Buckhorst, who prepared it for cremation, revealed the fact that any one who knew him when alive would be able to recognize now. . The embalming has been a success, though the flesh is somewhat discolored and shrunken. A part of Mr. Buckhorst's plan was to cover the body with prepared clay, which rendered it exceedingly tough and durable. Ir is expected that the result of the cremation will be to reduce the corpse to about three and a half pounds of dust, fit subject for a new piece of meditation by some new Hamlet. The fires that are to consume the Baron will be lighted on the morning of December 5(next Tuesday), and it is thought that within twenty-four hours after the heat of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit will be obtained. At seven o’clock, Wednesday, the body will be placed in the furnace, and the cremation will be over about noon. A great many persons have already applied for admission. In the afternoon of the 6th addresses will be delivered by Dr. Le Moyne, Colonel Olcott and Rev. G. P. Hays, the latter taking the ground that there is nothing in cremation contrary to the Christian religion. This view is sustained by that recently expressed by Mr. Max Stein, who died some days ago in Brooklin.


The Temple of Venus at Denderah

Editor's notes

  1. image by unknown author. Decorative letter V
  2. Von Palm's Cremation by unknown author, Trubune
  3. The Temple of Venus at Denderah by unknown author