October 2, 2006
This symbol, which looks like a dollar sign ($), is actually the letters I, H, and S superimposed over each other. These represent the Greek letters Iota (Ι), Eta (Η) and Sigma (Σ), which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. See IHS Monogram for more information.
Photo: from the grave marker of Atala Blow Noble (1862-1909) and Louis S. Noble (1865-1934), Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
September 26, 2006
The Jewish tradition of leaving a pebble or stone on top of a tombstone signifies that someone has honored the deceased person’s memory with a visit to the grave. A nice example of this is shown at the end of the movie Schindler’s List.
Photo: from Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
For more information on this tradition see: Why do we place pebbles on grave stones? by Rabbi Tom Louchheim
September 23, 2006
This photograph is of a Masonic Knights Templar symbol showing a cross within a crown inside a Maltese cross, which has the Latin phrase, “in hoc signo vinces.” The phrase means “in this sign you shall conquer” and was used by Constantine as a military motto in the early 4th Century. The phrase was also used by the original Knights Templar military order that was founded during the Crusades. The Freemasons began using Templar rituals and symbols in the late 1700s.
Knights Templar legends and myths are quite popular in movies and books such as The Da Vinci Code, Foucault’s Pendulum, National Treasure, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Some also see parallels between the Jedi Knights of Star Wars and the Knights Templar military order.
Photo: from the mausoleum of Dr. J.G. Locke, Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
September 18, 2006
The menorah is a seven-branched candelabra often seen on Jewish tombstones, especially those of women. The menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism. Instructions for making a menorah are given in chapter 25 of Exodus. On older grave markers you may see menorahs with less than seven branches.
Photo: from the tombstone of Sam L. Meyer (1877-1961) and Ida L. Meyer (1883-1962), Emanuel at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
September 12, 2006
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization of honorably discharged Union Civil War veterans. Some of their rituals were based on Freemasonry. The GAR was founded in 1866 by Benjamin Franklin Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois. By 1890 they had 409,000 members. The GAR was involved in charity and politics, and they lobbied for soldiers homes and pensions. They also began the tradition of Decoration Day on May 30th, now called Memorial Day. Five presidents were members of the GAR: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley. The last GAR member, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at age 109 (although census research indicates he may have been 106 or 108). He was also the last undisputed surviving Civil War veteran on either side.
For help finding Civil War records see: Online Civil War Records, Indexes and Rosters of Soldiers
September 12, 2006
The six-pointed Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, is frequently found on Jewish tombstones. It is also called the Shield of David (Magen David in Hebrew). Sometimes you will see the Hebrew abbreviation “Peh-Nun” inside the star like the example here. This abbreviation stands for either “poh nitman” or “poh nikbar” and means simply, “here lies…”
For more information on Jewish tombstone iconography see: Reading Hebrew Tombstones.
Photo: from the headstone of Rose Simon (1906-1934), Emanuel at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
September 9, 2006
Women of Woodcraft was a female auxiliary to Woodmen of the World (WOW), which was founded in 1897 by Joseph Cullen Root. Women of Woodcraft covered the nine states of the Woodmen’s Pacific Jurisdiction: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In 1917 Women of Woodcraft changed their name to Neighbors of Woodcraft (NOW). In 2001 NOW returned to its roots and merged with WOW.
Photo: from the headstone of Nettie Curran (1881-1916), Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado