Yes, you could buy just about anything from Sears, Roebuck & Co, the largest mail order business in the country and that included a grave marker for your Uncle Louie.
We erect monuments to be seen, striving for some sense of immortality. We mark the grave in a desire to perpetuate the person buried there, publicly recording a life and death through the use of words and symbols.
They began with the 1902 “Sears, Roebuck & Co. Tombstones and Monuments catalog” where prices for a tombstone started at only $4.88.
Even distant rural customers could afford a marker for their family. Because back in the day, shipping a tombstone by rail across the country was very economical, averaging only 75 cents to $1.50 per 100 pounds.
For the next 47 years, Sears, Roebuck & Co. would continue its tombstone & monument catalog, offering “A fine selection of handsome headstones or markers at prices ranging from $4.88 to $40, with some very choice designs from $5 to $8; a grand variety of monuments at from $8.95 to $173.30, many new and elegant designs……”
In 1920, Montgomery Ward began issuing their own similar catalog, “Monuments: Tombstones and Markers” in which they offered a pre-need payment plan so as to not “leave the grave of your loved one unmarked just because you haven’t the money to pay the full price of a memorial stone.”
With the depression, catalog sales for grave markers decreased dramatically, with fewer customers able to afford hand carved or even mass manufactured stones. Today, makers of just any size are considerably more expensive. Even a modest grave marker can cost over $5000.