Thursday, December 07, 2006

GRAVESTONE RUBBING……… an eerie hobby!

In 1971 my husband, three children and I were living in Dutchess County, NY. My mother came for a two week visit and she was excited because one of her favorite hobbies was searching out old graveyards and our area was rife with them.

Our County was established in 1786 and the older churches had gravestones dating back to even before that time, so Mother was ecstatic. We scoured the countryside and often came across “private” cemeteries. These were usually small plots with only a few headstones and often they were in disrepair. Usually they would be located on
someone’s private property and we would look but not venture in unless we had permission.

On one of our outings we came across a small graveyard, in an area known as North East, adjacent to Stanfordville. It was a square plot, perhaps 50 x 50 feet, enclosed with an iron fence & with about 12 headstones. It didn’t seem to belong to anyone so we decided to investigate.

We found, to our delight, that the engravings on the stones were just the type that would make good stone rubbings. Mother and I had done this before and we knew to use materials that would not damage the surface. We used a toothbrush to remove the moss and dirt that clung to the stone crevices and then placed our paper (white newsprint) over the image, adhering it to the back of the stone with masking tape. Using a thick wax crayon we lightly stroked the paper until the design appeared and then carefully increased the pressure until we had the desired effect.

From this small graveyard we were able to produce six rubbings worthy of being framed. We did no harm to the stones and we were very careful to leave the area as we had found it.

Unfortunately this has not been the case with many careless hobbyists...their littering & vandalism have ruined it for upcoming generations. Nowadays there are quite a few prominent sites that have been ruled off limits to rubbers and I can’t blame them. I am just sorry that so many people will miss out on the simple pleasure that was mine during those two weeks in 1971.

But, at least six people still enjoy those rubbings. They were my Christmas gifts that year!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am familiar with the technique but never tried it myself. I do enjoy, however, visiting old grave yards and taking a photograph or two when a subject catches my attention.

It is amazing how many small cemeteries there are that have been all but destroyed by vandels. Not sure what enjoyment is gained from that.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed visiting old graveyards in Baltimore. There was so much history ~ and some interesting "parting comments". What a fascinating post! :)



7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great gifts! There are many, many of those old cemeterys tucked away in the mountains of Vermont. They have such an aura about them and tell many stories.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a stunning print and I take it that's your mom doing the stone rubbing?
I love cemeteries...actually, I walk most every morning with my dogs in our island cemetery and love reading the very old stones. I'd always been interested in stone rubbing but had never tried it.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always love visiting graveyards and taking photos there. Interesting story and photos you have here

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, enjoy a wander around our old graveyards and have a little collection of photo's building up. I love the historical element, but had never thought about these 'rubbings'. I'd heard of brass rubbing, but not stone and would love to see what they look like.

Thanks for another great post, Ginnie!

12:34 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks for all the comments, but, no Terri, that's not my Mom, that's me!

4:37 AM  
Blogger gawilli said...

My mom really enjoyed this also. She did a bit of work on tracing our lineage. Willi and I visited a cemetary similar to the one you describe during his family reunion two years ago. It was a family plot that only the aunts and uncles knew about. It was hidden quite a distance from the road in the middle of a corn field. Luckily the farmer that now owns the land allowed us all to visit. I wish we would have thought to get some rubbings, but we did get some pictures...not quite the same. Nice memory for you!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm smiling...well, with the long hair you really had me
So thanks for clarifying.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More great stuff, Ginnie. Thanks for writing. Friend Robert

12:41 PM  

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