It is a fact of life–there is always (or almost always) someone out there who knows more than you do about something.

It is pretty well known that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed stained glass windows for use in cemetery mausolea. There are several of those at Green-Wood. And, just a year ago, I was pretty impressed with my knowledge of the much less well known stone monuments at Green-Wood by Tiffany Studios. Through the work of sharp-eyed Green-Wood Historic Fund Volunteers, processing the cemetery’s Burial Orders, I had learned about two stone memorials at the cemetery by Tiffany Studios:  one memorializing Theodore Jackson–a baseball pioneer–and the other for Charles Boyd Curtis, a Civil War veteran. However, as it turns out, I was unaware of a few markers by Tiffany at Green-Wood–about 58 or so!

About a year ago, I was seated next to Susan Olsen, Woodlawn Cemetery’s director of historical services, at a New York Landmarks Preservation awards ceremony. Susan and I go way back–decades, and she has always generously shared her cemetery knowledge. As Susan and I talked a bit about our work, she mentioned that she had come across a master’s thesis about Louis Comfort Tiffany and the work that his business, Tiffany Studios, did in designing and crafting stone cemetery memorials. That sounded good to me, and Susan sent me a copy of that thesis. Eureka!

The thesis, “Silent Sentinels:  Funerary Monuments Designed and Executed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios,” written in 1995 by Eileen Wilson Coffman for her master’s degree at Southern Methodist University, is a tremendous resource about an otherwise ignored subject. Meticulously researched, it details 763 monuments by Tiffany Studios in cemeteries across the United States–scattered across 32 states, with most of them–605–in the northeast. As Coffman notes, Tiffany had established a niche in designing and producing stained glass for churches and mausolea. It was then a short jump to creating high-quality stone memorials for placement in cemeteries. Coffman’s work has opened the door to much new information about Green-Wood and the monuments that dot its grounds. As Coffman notes of these stone markers, “Almost without exception and regardless of the type or style, the common denominators are present, including the explicit attention to texture, tone, proportion, and above all, a superb manipulation of line.”

Once I received this thesis, Jim Lambert, volunteer extraordinaire, took over, going through it page by page, looking for any mention of Green-Wood. And he diligently came up with material pertaining to 60 Green-Wood monuments!

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) is interred at Green-Wood. The son of Charles Tiffany, who founded Tiffany, Young and Ellis in 1837 (which would become Tiffany & Co.), and Harriet (his mother who was the sister of Tiffany’s partner, Young), he grew up regularly exposed to art. He painted, worked in interior decoration, as a art glass maker, and with enamels, iron, precious stones, wood, and ceramics, but achieved his greatest fame for his stained glass lamps and windows.

Louis Comfort Tiffany.

But there is another aspect of Louis (pronounced “Louie,”–he is named after Louis XIV, the French sun king) Comfort Tiffany’s art that has long been little-known:  his work–and the work of his employees who made up his workshop, over which he exercised constant and personal supervision–designing and creating grave markers. As per Coffman, the first Tiffany stone memorial was created in 1890 (under the company name of Tiffany Glass Company, the name used 1886-1892; the last in 1935, under the aegis of Tiffany Studios, two years after Louis’s death. Coffman notes that his cemetery monument business started slowly:  only 20 funerary monuments were produced in the 1890s. In 1896, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company–the name of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s business from 1892 to 1902–published “Memorial Tablets,” advertising that aspect of its business. Tiffany was soon building mausolea for clients, and in 1912 purchased a granite quarry in Cohasset, Massachusetts, to obtain quality but inexpensive stone for his business. Not surprisingly, the stones quarried there were referred to as “Tiffany Granite.” In 1913, another brochure, “Memorials in Glass and Stone,” was published. As Coffman has written, ” . . . Tiffany hurled his firm into the monument marker business complete with showrooms, samples, and even a quarry, intent upon capturing the somewhat untapped market for cemetery monuments for the rising middle and upper classes.” Unfortunately, because few Tiffany business records have survived, there is an incomplete record of Tiffany stone work. But Coffman’s thesis fills much of that void.

Once Jim Lambert, the volunteer working from Coffman’s thesis, had identified Tiffany markers identified as being at Green-Wood, he searched the cemetery records, identifying a likely lot or two that seemed to match–usually based on the customer’s name as it appeared in Tiffany’s records. In several cases, being more familiar with Green-Wood’s records and its grounds than Coffman apparently was (much to her credit, she diligently traveled around the country, visiting a host of cemeteries, for her research), we were able to find several Tiffany memorials that Coffman had been unable to find. In other cases, we were able to verify, often based on letters from Tiffany Studios, Tiffany’s Quincy quarry, or sketches that Tiffany submitted to Green-Wood’s superintendent, that monuments that Coffman had concluded were not by Tiffany (based on stone and design particulars) were in fact by his company.

Some of the memorials at Green-Wood are spectacular and likely unique. So it is with Tiffany’s stone work for Theodore Jackson, a massive monolith in section H, lot 21121, visible from Battle Avenue on the south slope of Battle Hill. Jackson was a baseball pioneer; he served as the secretary of the committee on rules of the historic baseball convention of 1857–which established the parameters of baseball, including that a game would last 9 innings. Jackson, a prosperous lawyer, contracted with Tiffany Studios, just months before his death, for the erection of this fine and massive monument at the price of $8,300, the equivalent of $215,000 in 2019 money.

The imposing Jackson Memorial at Green-Wood. A cross is cut into each of the four sides; it is smooth and polished, in contrast to the rough-cut surfaces on the rest of this monument. It is of Tiffany granite. Requests addressed to Green-Wood Cemetery in late 1913 and early 1914,  just months after Jackson’s death, from Tiffany Studios, ask that a foundation be constructed by cemetery workers to support this monument. Note that all of the photographs in this blog post can be enlarged –just click on them to do so.

Tiffany was partial to lilies, both as a motif for his stained glass windows and on his gravestones.

This marker dates from late in 1915, as per documentation in Green-Wood’s records. According to a sketch in Green-Wood’s files, the foundation for this stone is 34 inches across and 18 inches from front to back. It is in section 67, lot 3919–visible from Central Avenue–and just a few hundred feet from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s own grave at Green-Wood.

The Chapman gravestones presented a mystery. Alice Mason Chapman ordered the gravestone for her husband, Alfred Bright Chapman (see above), soon after his death in 1915. On cursory examination, they appear to be by the same hand. However, closer examination of them–as Coffman notes–leads to the conclusion that the stones for Alfred and Alice do not match–they are of a slightly different stone, the carving is deeper on Alfred’s stone than on Alice’s, and the patterns of the lilies are close, but not exact, matches. Indeed, Alice did not die until 1947, when Tiffany Studios had already been out of business for a decade. This supposition that the marker for Alice is not by Tiffany is verified by a note in Green-Wood’s archives, dated 1948, on the letterhead of William Henry Deacy, who had a “consulting office” on 57th Street in Manhattan and a studio in Scarborough, New York, concerning the installation of the “Chapman marker” (the one for Alice)–to be lined up with that of Alfred Chapman in the adjoining grave. Deacy is described in his 1967 New York Times obituary as an architect who specialized in memorials and commemorative art. Given that this stone is a good copy of Tiffany Studio’s monument for Alfred Chapman, he must have had access to very skilled carvers.

The Chapman markers, side by side.

In the same lot is this Tiffany gem:

The Mason Memorial combines two of Tiffany’s favorite designs: lilies and crosses. It dates from 1903–early for a Tiffany stone. Section 67, lot 3919.

Detail of the Mason Monument. Note the lilies here–also featured in the Chapman gravestones above and the Marshall stairs and headstone below.

Tiffany-designed crosses dot Green-Wood’s grounds:

The Young Cross stands 4 feet high and dates from 1909. Note how well the design ties the cross, the tablet, and the wheel together.

The Wenner Cross, with little decorative carving, is an early Tiffany Studios piece, dating from 1904.

The Pullman Cross–an early example of a Tiffany Christian Wheel Cross, also dates from 1904. Unlike the Childs Cross below, here there is no decorative carving of its surface. But its elegance and simplicity make its design successful.

The Gunther Cross, another example of elegant line and detailing. This is the back of the monument–the inscription is on the other side.

Detail of the Childs Cross, of Tiffany Granite. As per Tiffany Studios’ drawing in Green-Wood’s archives, it stands 7′ 6″ tall. The manager of Tiffany Studios’ Ecclesiastical Department, in a letter dated 1913, refers to this as a Passion Cross; it is decorated with finely-carved Passion flowers.

Tiffany Studios created elegant cross, with an octagonal shaft, in honor of Charles Boyd Curtis, a Civil War captain and later a diplomat and lawyer. Of Westerly granite, it rises about 20 feet–the tallest of the Tiffany Studios crosses at Green-Wood. Section 125, lot 31938–opposite the Mackay Mausoleum.

Detail of the top of the Curtis Cross.

Alexander Ector Orr, a native of Ireland in whose memory this Celtic Cross was erected, was a Green-Wood trustee and a leader in creating New York City’s subway system. This piece dates from 1915. Establishing that this was by Tiffany Studios was a bit of a challenge. Coffman had documented in her thesis that a “Mrs. A.H. Munsell” (Tiffany records, even when they listed the customer on an order, often did so as “Mrs.” and then the husband’s name, creating identification problems) had ordered two markers and corner posts from Tiffany. However, Coffman was unable to find any record of such a person at Green-Wood. Jim Lambert, our volunteer who did such careful research on the Tiffany stones at Green-Wood, found an “Alexander O. Munsell” interred in lot 22684. He then searched Green-Wood’s burial orders for that lot and found a letter from Tiffany Studios’ manager of the Ecclesiastical Department, asking that a foundation be installed for their “Orr cross” in that same lot. In that same file were the Tiffany Studios plans for that cross, to be of Tiffany Granite, with a “combination fine hammered and rubbed finish.”

This double headstone, topped by a graceful cross, was ordered from Tiffany Studios in 1931 by Mrs. W.E. Roosevelt. It cost $2000, equivalent to $33,696 in 2019. The blueprints identify the stone as “Westerly Rhode Island Granite.” Notice the similarity of the shape of the cross to that of the Young cross above–but here without the wheel. Section 177, lot 24694.

The Edwards Cross, described as a Celtic Cross by the manager of Tiffany Studios’ “Monumental Department,” dates from 1909 and is of red Westerly granite. It stands 7′ 3″ tall.

The Noyes Celtic Cross, an imposing stone. This design was used by Tiffany Studios in at least 3 other commissions, as per Coffman.

It is possible to confirm the identity of Tiffany-designed and executed gravestones based on the style of the lettering carved into them. This “Tiffany Studios font” appears on many of its cemetery markers–not invariably, but often enough to help in the identification of its work. Note the similarity of the lettering in the markers below that have been verified, by documentation in Green-Wood’s archives, as the work of Tiffany Studios.

The inscription at the base of the Celtic Cross for Alexander Ector Orr and Margaret S. Orr.

Chauncey Marshall’s gravestone.

This Tiffany Granite stone was ordered in 1916. Note the rough-cut stone at the base; that was supposed to be below the surface, but erosion over the century since its installation has exposed it. As per Coffman, this piece is referred to as a “marker” in one Tiffany record and as a “headstone” in another.

Tiffany’s marker for Theodore Jackson. The lettering here seems to be different from that used for the Orr, Marshall, and Hodge markers, shown above. However, note the characteristic five-pointed stars on both the Marshall  and Jackson stones, used to highlight their dates of birth.

In addition to working in stone at cemeteries, Tiffany occasionally featured a favrile glass mosaic in his cemetery monuments. This the only Tiffany mosaic at Green-Wood:

The Houseman Monolith combines two elements typical of Tiffany design: a cross and carved lilies. It dates from 1915. The mosaic, a small butterfly, is above the cluster of lilies at the left.

But what makes the Housman Memorial very special is its rare favrile mosaic by Tiffany. Sadly, this mosaic has not survived well, despite the assurances of Tiffany Studios to the contrary; little of the glass is still in place a century after it was created.

Certainly one of the most wonderful Tiffany Studios designs in any cemetery are the stairs–and the accompanying monument–in the Marshall Lot–section 118, lot 17428, just off Atlantic Avenue and down Lotus Path to the northwest. These spectacular stairs appear to be unique:

These stairs, featuring deeply cut lilies, memorialize Chauncey Marshall, who died in 1915. They are 4 feet by 6 feet by 8 feet.

Detail of the Marshall stairs. Note that these stairs were carved from a single large stone; there is no seam at the end of each stair, where it meets the arms. Also note how extensive the carving is–it covers much of the inside of the arms, their tops, and their outside. Holes on the outside of each of the arms indicate that a bar fence–now gone–was installed to surround this lot. Chauncey Marshall died in 1915; based on paperwork in Green-Wood’s archives, this installation occurred in 1916.

The stone at the right was designed and carved by Tiffany Studios soon after his death in 1915 to mark the grave of Chauncey Marshall. The stone at left was carved in the 1940s by a monument maker who tried to match at least the spirit of the Tiffany Studios work–but failed to do so. Neither the artistry (and depth) of the carving nor the extent of the carving are comparable to  Tiffany Studios’ work. The 1943 gravestone, at left, when Tiffany Studios was no longer in business and therefore could not be commissioned, is by the J.L. Wegenaar Company of Brooklyn. It allows a visitor to further appreciate the quality of the Tiffany work here.

Tiffany Studios also decorated large stone slabs as monuments–either as table or ledger stones. Below is the Beard Memorial–a table monument with the slab lifted off the ground by eight stone supports. The cross, cut down into the stone, is alone on the top; the inscriptions run along the sides. Unfortunately, Tiffany designers seem to have failed to consider the need to make sure that water from rain would run off the stone; even granite, a very tough stone, is not immune to damage from water sitting on it, as you see here:

Tiffany also crafted ledger stones–large flat stones laid even with the surface of the ground, supported by brick or concrete foundations:

Noyes ledger stones. They lie in front of the Noyes Monolith, described and pictured above.

Many of the monuments by Tiffany Studios were designed and installed in the calendar year of the death of the person to be memorialized, or in the next year. So it was here; John Kendrick Bangs died in 1922 and this monument was placed at his grave in 1923.

The Olyphant Ledger Stone, a 9 foot slab, is elaborately carved and was likely very expensive. However, it has suffered outdoors since its installation in 1907–its darkening is due to water sitting on it after rain, and it has cracked, apparently from being poorly supported by its foundation.

Ever since I first saw Louis Comfort Tiffany’s own gravestone at Green-Wood several decades ago, as well as the matching gravestones in that same lot, I suspected that he had designed those gravestones himself. First of all, his parents’ gravestone and that of his first and second wives, as well as two other relatives, were placed at Green-Wood while he was still alive. Would such an artist–who created a business designing grave markers–have allowed someone else to design these memorials for his loved ones? I doubted it. Further, their polished black speckled granite is rare (I have only seen it at one other grave–in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago) and fine–characteristics one would expect in the designs of this extraordinary artist. Moreover, the design is simple and elegant (four-sided, with a tapered roof-like top), the simplicity and elegance that one would expect of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Further, Green-Wood’s archives contain a note from Louis C. Tiffany, dated 1911, on his personal stationery (“Louis C. Tiffany, Fifth Avenue, New York”), showing his interest and involvement in the gravestones in this lot–he requests that Grant Pitbladdo, a monument maker active at Green-Wood, whose place of business was just across the street from Green-Wood’s main entrance at 25th Street and 5th Avenue, be allowed to remove a stone already in the Tiffany family lot so that an inscription for Hilda C. Tiffany could be carved.

Indeed, documentation in Green-Wood’s archives proves that these gravestones, with one exception, were designed and executed by Tiffany Studios:

The 7 gravestones in the Tiffany Lot, 6 of which are the work of Tiffany Studios. Louis’s mother, Harriet Young Tiffany, died in 1897, and was the first person interred in this lot whose grave was marked with one of these distinctive stones. Her gravestone, which she shares with her husband Charles, is the large stone behind that marking the grave of Louis Comfort Tiffany (though it is the same granite as the other stones, its front appears as gray, rather than black, because its surface is rough-cut, not polished). The last stone installed in this lot–that for Louise H. Tiffany, a sister of Louis Comfort Tiffany, was placed there in 1937, as per a dated sketch in Green-Wood’s archives. Louis had died in 1933, and Tiffany Studios made no stone markers after 1935. So another monument maker had to be found to match Louise’s marker with the stones already there. Tiffany family members hired the Harrison Granite Company of 607 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which on its sketch describes this marker as “extra dark Quincy granite, all exposed surfaces polished, inscription on front Y cut letters.” That headstone was “to duplicate others now on lot.”

The top of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s gravestone, a subtle but elegant, and unusual, gravestone design.

Early in his career, Louis Comfort Tiffany devoted his skills as an artist to interior decoration–making homes more beautiful. Later in life, he devoted some of his skills–and those of his employees at Tiffany Studios–to making exteriors–and as discussed above, specifically cemeteries–better-decorated. We owe a big “thank you” to Eileen Wilson Coffman, whose thesis on Tiffany grave markers helps us better understand Tiffany’s stone art that so enhances Green-Wood’s grounds.

 

2 thoughts on “Tiffany in Stones

  1. How wonderful to know this. Ive been walking around Green-Wood Cemetery for several decades. Ive come across these memorials many times. The one that has always stood out to me is the Chauncey Marshall lot and the magnificent detail on the steps and memorials. Many times I have examined that lot and thought to myself how unique and beautiful, just so beautiful. What a detailed magnificent work of art. To find out it is a Tiffany is so gratifying. Thank you for posting this and for you and Jim Lamberts great research. A big thank you to Ms. Coffman for her excellent thesis.

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