Historical Hearses

In America’s car culture, hearses emit an undeniable mystique. Whether parked on the street or passing in a funeral procession, a hearse is a stunning piece of craftsmanship built to honor the dead. A hearse makes a statement, when people are often without words.

The Museum's collection of rare funeral service vehicles traces the evolution of funerary customs, from the elegant horse-drawn funeral carriages of the 19th century to the actual hearses used in the funeral of Grace Kelly and the state funeral services of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald R. Ford. Don’t miss the elaborate glass-paneled funeral carriage made in Germany in 1850; the 1916 Packard funeral bus, large enough to hold the coffin, pallbearers and up to 20 mourners; and the 1921 motorized hearse, with opulent, hand-carved wooden panels that typify the extravagance of craftsmanship among hearse manufacturers of the era.