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vol. 4, p. 18
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 4 (1875-1878)


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Nov. 20, 1876

The Von Palm Cremation

Interview with Colonel Olcott, the Baron's Executor



Burning and Burial

The public are beginning to look forward with a good deal of interested curiosity to the cremation which is to take place next week in Washington, Penn. The parties are all notable in their way. Dr. Le Moyne, the owner of the furnace, is well known as a philanthropist, and a man who has defended his plans for the help of humanity with great intellectual force and gallantry ; Col. Olcott, in his different roles of army officer, colleague of materialized spirits, and Theosophic high-priest, has always kept himself on the top wave of notoriety; while the Baron has been principally famous as a corpse. Scarcely has his dead body disappeared behind burning tripods and the serpent with its fail in its mouth in Steinway Hall, when it whisks into sight again upon the-hills of Washington, prepared to vanish from among the true-blue Presbyterian population of that ilk in flames with as fine dramatic effect as Don Juan going to his own place. "Thus, at last," cried the Indian to the Athenians, lying down upon the pyre, “ I make myself immortal." De Palm has borrowed the idea.

We can see no reason, however, in the importance attached to this particular experiment. The fact is already proved that a body a scientifically constructed furnace can be ..duced to ashes without offense to the health or even the senses of the public. Dr. Le Moyne's furnace has been tested with animals, and is indisputably constructed upon the best principles. The arguments in favor of cremation are well known to even the most illiterate classes – the advantage to the public health by the stop put to the aggregation of an enormous mass of decaying matter a short distance below the surface of the ground ; the return of the body to the elements by a clean, swift, wormless passage; the, sanction of its use in antiquity in almost every nation, and not least, its superior cheapness. The public is not going to be won by argument in this matter in which its unreasoning feeling is profoundly interested, and will always have the loudest word. Do arguments prevail on the American public to ventilate its churches, cars, or sleeping-rooms? The air it breathes is more poisonous than the exhalations from any grave, yet from habit it persists in breathing it. Habit as well as feeling pleads for burial. It may be a fact that crowded cemeteries are breeding-places of malaria and typhus, and that the drainage of death goes on in them incessantly ; but in the public eye they are valleys of peace, God's acre, in which sleeps the sacred dust of our beloved, awaiting a blessed resurrection. Poetry, the noblest imagination, all the tenderness of those who weep for the dead, have for ages combined to make the grave seem to us totally different from its grim reality. <... continues on page 4-19 >

Baron de Palm`s Body

How the Theosophists Intend to Dispose of It

The cremation of the body of the late Baron De Palm, which was enjoined upon his executors under his will, is to be effected on the 6th of December next, in the town of Washington in Western Pennsylvania. Washington, which possesses the only crematory in the country, and which has attained to that eminence only recently, is known as the seat of the ancient Washington and Jefferson University. The crematory in question is the work and possession of Dr. F. Julius Lemoyne, an eccentric gentleman of means, who was a John Brown Abolitionist and whom that party once ran for the office of Vice-President and once again for the Government of his State. He is a resident of Washington, an advocate of cremation, and having finished his crematory be at once applied to Colonel Olcott for the remains of Baron De Palm as an exalted first offering.

<Untitled> (It will require more than the reports)

It will require more than the reports of the few scientific gentlemen and the mob of curiosity hunters who will witness this cremation to induce men – and especially women – to give all this sacred pageantry with its tender images and to meet the future through the untried way of Dr. Le Moyne's brand-new furnace. Familiarity with the idea is the only chance for its success. If one or two cremations should take place instead of, and at the time for ordinary, burials, without charlatanry, but with impressive and solemn ceremonies, they would do much to soften the public prejudice. Dr. Le Moyne has doubtless the wisdom to perceive that human nature will insist upon shrouding its last state with some kind of poetic pomp and meaning ; and he will therefore not give to his experiment too much of the air of an ordinary baking.

NY Tribune. Nov. 28, 76

Editor's notes

  1. The Von Palm Cremation by unknown author, New York Herald
  2. image by unknown author
  3. Burning and Burial by unknown author, New York Tribune
  4. Baron de Palm`s Body by unknown author, World, The, Tuesday, November 21, 1876
  5. It will require more than the reports by unknown author, New York Tribune, November 9, 1876