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vol. 4, p. 19
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 4 (1875-1878)


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< It will require more than the reports (continued from page 4-18) >

Mr. Lemoyne's crematory is built of brick, a single story in height, and roofed with corrugated iron. It has two rooms–one for the reception of the guests, the other for the reception of the remains. The guest apartment is twenty feet square, and furnished in simple manner. A catafalque stands in the centre, the rest of the furniture consisting of a few chairs. A door connects the chamber with the furnace-room, which is as long as the other, but only half as wide. Here is nothing but the furnace. The retort into which the remains are received is 712 feet: long, 28 inches wide and 20 inches high. This and the furnace beneath are inclosed in brick-work, and present much the appearance of an ordinary furnace in an ordinary house. Coke is used for fuel, and heats the retort to a white heat in twenty-four hours' time. The remains are to be placed in the retort only after it has become heated, and require then about five hours to be converted to ashes. After this the furnace must be allowed to cool before the ashes can be collected, which requires some thirty-six hours further. For the reception of the ashes indexed vases are supplied to prevent mistakes. During the operation gases are returned to the furnace and consumed, so that all odors are prevented.

For the cremation of Baron De Palm's body on the 6th of December fires will be lighted on the morning of the previous day, so that at the time placed for the ceremony the retort will have been heated up to nearly two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. The body will be placed in the retort at 7 o'clock in the morning, and by noon will have become consumed. Colonel Olcott says that application for cards of admission have already come in from every quarter. Among the numerous correspondents of newspapers who will be present are those from the Pall Mall Gazette, from a journal in Athens, and from one in Melbourne, Australia. The boards of health of different cities have signified their intention to send representatives. Dr. William L. Richardson, of the Boston Board of Health; Dr. John C. Dalton, of the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Dr. George O. Parker, of the University of Pennsylvania, are among a number of scientific gentlemen who will be present. In the afternoon of the day of the ceremony addresses will be made by Mr. Lemoyne, Dr. Hays, President of the Washington and Jefferson University, and by Colonel Olcott. Dr. Hays, who is a Presbyterian Clergyman, in his address will take the position that there is nothing anti-Christian in the ceremony of cremation, and Colonel Olcott will trace the history of urn burial among the ancients.

Colonel Olcott says that he has had Baron De Palm's body on his hands for some time, pending his researches for proper means of carrying out the provisions of the Baron's will. He has had numerous applications from certain industrial agents, among others an agent for a gas-retort, for instance, which he had thought proper to refuse, knowing that they sought simply to advertise their wares. He considers the matter settled now in the most satisfactory manner. The Baron's body is in a state of perfect preservation, having been carefully embalmed.

The Von Palm Cremation

A Feudal Baron Orders His Body To Be Burned
Curious Vicissitudes of an Aristocratic Diplomat.
A Singular Institution Amid the Pennsylvania Mountains.

According to the statements of those who have the matter in charge the remains of 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, will be cremated at Washington, Pa., on the 6th of December. What is earthly of this personage hes in the receiving vault of the Lutheran Cemetery; and, if a disembodied spirit can receive any consolation from the good estate of its former tenement, the manes of the Baron must be gratified to know that a recent surgical examination has established the fact that the fleshly domicile which it inhabited for about three score and ten years is almost in the condition of a mummy. The death of this gentleman occurred at the end of last May. The readers of the Herald will remember what a pitch public combat reached when it was announced that the funeral services were to be conducted according to the rite of the Theosophical society claiming to be a modern resuscitation of some ancient sect, Egyptian or otherwise, which sought, in the dim twilight of history, for truths and principles which were not got at, and whose modern representatives, after the trifling interval of three or four thousand years, are on the scent of the same truths and principles. Cicero had, in his day, the boldness to say :–"Nil tam absurdum quod non dictum fuit ab aliquo philosophorum." (There was no absurdity to which one or other of the philosophers had not committed himself.") How far the Theosophs illustrate this celebrated saying it is needless here to inquire. It may be sufficient to state that the Baron von Palm belonged, at the close of a long life, to this fraternity, and that its present head is going to have the Baron's body reduced to ashes by tire on the 6th prox. This disposal of the remains of Baron von Palm will probably produce a great sensation in this country, as it will be in direct opposition to the universal custom prevailing among Christian sects.


erected by Dr. Le Moyne, at Washington. Pa., is expected to reduce a human body to ashes in about five hours, without a particle of odor or a single disagreeable effect. Dr. Le Moyne erected the crematory after study of all the details. He has done all the work at his own expense, and it is his purpose that no fees shall be charged, so that this means of disposing of the dead shall be within reach of the poorest people.

The crematory is built of brick, one story in height, with a roof of corrugated iron, and is provided with three chimneys. The building is divided into two rooms, the reception room and the furnace room. The reception room is about twenty feet square, and is furnished in the simplest manner. In the centre there is a catafalque upon which to test the body, and about the room some chairs for the accommodation of the friends of the departed. A door from the reception room leads into the furnace room, which in size is about ten by twenty feet. In this room there is nothing but the furnace. The retort in which the remains to be cremated are place was made especially for this purpose. It is seven and a half feet in length, twenty inches in height and twenty-eight inches wide, and somewhat resembles a gas retort, the only difference being that its sides are perpendicular instead of being arched. Beneath the retort is the furnace, and the whole is enclosed in brick work. Coke is the fuel used, and it is calculated that the retort can be brought to a white beat in twenty-four hours. Then the body will be inserted, and in about five hours, the remains will be reduced to ashes. Before the Ashes can be collected, however, the furnace must be allowed to cool, and this, it is thought, will take about thirty-six hours. When the ashes are collected they will be placed in boxes and held subject to the order of the friends of the departed. An index of these boxes will be kept so that they may be obtained at any time and prevent any danger of their being mingled. While the burning is taking place no odor will be perceptible, as all gases emanating from the body are returned to the furnace and there consumed. This is accomplished by having a vent hole at the back of the retort opening into the furnace, and through this all gases generated by the combustion of the body will be forced to escape. Already the furnace has been tested with 163 pounds of sheep carcasses and it was found to work admirably, there is therefore no reason to expect failure in any other instance.


The cremation of the Baron's body will take place, as previously stated, on the 6th of December next, at Washington, Pa., to which place the remains will be forwarded a day or two beforehand. The fires in the furnace will be lighted on the morning of the 5th, and it is expected that twenty-four hours later the full heat required – nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – will be obtained. At seven o'clock on the morning of the 6th the body will be placed in the retort and the cremation will be completed about noon. During the afternoon addresses will be delivered by Dr. Le Moyne, the designer and builder of the crematory; Colonel H. S. Olcott, in his capacity as executor of the Baron under his last will and testament; Rev. G. P. Hays, D. D., President of the Washington and Jefferson College, and other prominent persons. The Boards of Health of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Washington, D. C., and other cities have been invited, and most of them have already voted to send their most representative men to witness this highly interesting experiment, The University of Pennsylvania, the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons and numerous other learned bodies will be represented.

Dr. Le Moyne wrote to a friend recently that enough persons have already applied for admission to fill the two largest halls in the town. A conference of the scientific gentlemen present will be held in the evening to discuss the respective advantages of cremation and inhumation, President Hays, of the Washington and Jefferson College, although not yet fully committed to cremation, will take the ground that there is nothing in the Christian religion that forbids those who choose to adopt this method of disposing of their dead.

A circular letter of invitation is in preparation and will be shortly issued to the various public institutions, and those whom it might fail to reach should apply to Colonel H. S. Olcott, No. 71 Broadway.


The family of the late Baron Von Palm originated in Southern Germany (Suabia), where the oldest branch, the barons, is still flourishing. A younger branch, the counts, flourish in Wurtemberg, Bavaria and Austria, and the third line, the princes, have their residence in Vienna. The first line are barons of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsfneiherren) and belong to one of the very oldest families. The late Baron was born at the baronial seat of his father, at Augsberg, Bavaria. He received a liberal education at the University of Heidelberg, and at an early age he entered the diplomatic service of his country. He first served as secretary of legation at Carlsruhe, and subsequently reached the rank of 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 very extensively and spent a large portion 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 characteristics. Later he moved to Chicago, where he invested largely in land and mining interests, but was not successful in a pecuniary point of view.

After coming to this city he fell in with Colonel H. S. Olcott, and became much interested in the Theosophical Society, of which Colonel Olcott is the president. The Baron had always taken a deep interest in philosophical and scientific research, and the line of study pursued by the projectors of the Theosophical Society arouse all his attention. He soon became a member of the society, and, just before his death, he was elected a member of its council. Being a man of about seventy years of age his constitution had become impaired by his long and exciting life, he was suddenly taken sick with a disease of the kidneys and died on the 20th of May, 1976. Feeling his end approaching, he sent for an attorney, and executed a will leaving his entire property to Colonel Olcott, as he expresses it in his will “in gratitude for kindness.” It is not known how much property he had in Europe, but in an old will found among his papers, dated twelve or fourteen years ago, he describes himself as the proprietor of the Castles of Old and New Wartensa, on lake Constance, Switzerland. As there is no other record of this property it is possible that it passed out of his possession prior to his death.

An autopsy of the body made immediately after death revealed the act that he had been suffering for years with a complication of diseases of the vital organs, and it was regarded as a wonder that he had been able to exist as long as be had. The remains were embalmed, and the funeral took place from the Masonic Temple on Sunday, May 28, 1876, the room having been granted for that occasion by Rev. O. B. Frothingham. The circumstances attending that funeral must still be fresh in the minds of the readers of the Herald.


of the illustrious and most valorous knights, the Barons Palm –


Copied from the great book of heraldry of German knights, instituted in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 832, and the glorious reign of Carolus Magnus Imperator.

The American College of Heraldry furnishes the following description of the armorial bearings of the Von Palms:–

Argent – Three pales azure; over all a lion rampant gules.

Crest – A demi-lion rampant gules; the helmet crowned with a baron's crown.

Motto – “Justus ut Palma.” (“The righteous man is as the palm tree.”)

The coat of arms of the late Baron Von Palm is somewhat different, and is emblazoned as follows:–

Argent, three bars azure, over all a lion rampant or; an escutcheon or pretence quartered ; first and fourth or a palm tree proper, with a fence proper; second and third gules and dexter aim in armor, embowed, holding a sword proper over all; an escutcheon of <... continues on page 4-20 >

Editor's notes

  1. The Von Palm Cremation by unknown author, New York Herald, New York, Sunday, November 19, 1876
  2. image by unknown author. Baron Palm's Coat of Arms