Burials: 50,000 at a Time

I was doing some research recently, helping a New York Times reporter with an article, and thought it would be interesting to find out how the frequency of burials at Green-Wood has changed over the cemetery’s history. Though Green-Wood was chartered by New York State on April 18, 1838, is was more than two years later, after substantial work was done installing roads and paths, grading the hills, and improving the soil, that the first burial took place on September 5, 1840. Sixteen years later, in 1856, the 50,000th burial occurred. Burial totals of an additional 50,000 people occurred in 1863 (100,000), 1871 (150,000), 1880 (200,000), 1889 (250,000), 1898 (300,000), 350,000 (1910), and 400,000 (1924). We reached 438,000 by the end of 1937 and now have a total of 561,000 people interred at Green-Wood. So, for those of you who are keeping score, it took this many years to add another 50,000 burials from 1840 until 1924: 16, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, 12, and 14. It is fair to conclude from this that, after the earliest years of the cemetery, burials were steady through the end of the 19th century, then tapered off a bit early in the 20th century. As for the most recent years, from 2000 through 2008, burials per year have held pretty steady, ranging from a high of 1621 to a low of 1356.

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