What Casket Was President Kennedy Buried In?


President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest in a mahogany casket. The casket was a 710 model, made of solid African mahogany, and it was manufactured by the former Marsellus Casket Company in Marsellus, New York. In May 2003, after 131 years of making caskets, the Marsellus Casket Company was closed by its then owner, Service Corporation International. On May 29, 2003, the last casket rolled off the line as the company went out of business – a model 710, “The President,” a mahogany casket polished to a high gloss and lined with pearl-colored velvet. The National Museum of Funeral History became its proud owner and is proud to display the company’s exceptionally fine workmanship. Marsellus Casket Company had a long history of making fine wood caskets including ones for notables such as Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Truman and Reagan, Governor Nelson Rockefeller and sports legends Vince Lombardi and Mickey Mantle. Service Corporation International, the largest provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services in North America, sold Marsellus’s patents, copyrights and name to Batesville Casket Company of Batesville, Indiana. Batesville manufactures wood caskets in Mexico. In 1963, Elgin provided the casket in which President Kennedy was transported from Dallas, Texas to Washington, DC. Secret Service agent Clint Hill contacted Vernon O’Neal Funeral Home in Dallas and asked that their finest casket be delivered to Parkland Hospital. The casket may have been used for Kennedy’s burial; had it not been damaged during the loading process into Air Force One by the Secret Service who removed the swing bar handles to accommodate the narrow doorway of the Boeing 707. In addition, the interior of the casket was badly damaged from the President’s open wounds. For those reasons, the Elgin casket was replaced with a new casket in Washington D.C. (the Marsellus 710 solid mahogany model). The original Elgin casket eventually was laid to rest in the Atlantic Ocean by to prevent it from becoming an object of morbid curiosity. On February 18, 1966, at the Kennedy family’s request, it was disposed of by the Air Force. They filled the casket with sandbags, encased it in a solid pine box, then drilled over 40 holes into the structure. It was also bound with metal banding tape and finally fitted with parachutes. The casket taken aboard a C130 transport plane, then flown to a selected point 9,000 feet deep and away from shipping lanes. At 10am the casket was pushed out of the C130’s tail hatch and after the parachutes softened its landing on the water it immediately sank. The C130 circled the area for 20 minutes to make sure nothing resurfaced.
The successor to the “Handley” model is still in production. A few years after President Kennedy’s death, the Elgin Company changed the flaring round corner design of the original “Handley” somewhat by giving it a more pronounced urn shape. After the Elgin company had been bought by the renown mattress producer Simmons in 1968, the “Handley” was replaced by the “Winchester” model, which differed from its predecessor mainly by some embossed ornaments. The casket is still manufactured today by VerPlank Enterprises of Tennessee and can be seen in the Online Catalog of that Company. Elgin was a very innovative company which came up with several patents. Elgin provided the caskets for two American presidents. Already in 1933, Elgin caskets were regarded as being of such a high quality that an Elgin casket was chosen for the funeral of President Coolidge. He was buried in a polished solid bronze Elgin casket. The round corner design had separately hinged caps and was equipped inside with a hermetically sealing full length oval plate glass lid. The Elgin “Handley” model provided was a double lid sealer casket (without inner glass lid) weighing more than 300 pounds empty. The exterior had a “Britannia” (that is: partially brushed) finish with a transparent amber (reddish) tint. The interior consisted of an adjustable inner mattress and a white velvet and satin lining. On 23 November, an autopsy was performed on the late President Kennedy at Bethesda Naval Hospital and a team from Joseph Gawler’s Sons Funeral Home also went there to embalm and prepare the President’s remains after the autopsy had been completed. They brought with them the Marsellus 710 coffin made out of African mahogany, which the President’s brother, Robert Kennedy selected for his burial. The deceased President was placed into this casket, and, after being transferred briefly to the White House for a viewing for the First Lady, lay in state in the Capitol in DC for two days until the day of the funeral. On November 25th 1963, President Kennedy’s was laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery.

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