The History of Wicker Coffins

wicker coffin gothic model cabinet of curiosities dundas ontario

You may have noticed the incredible wicker coffin in our recent photoshoot- and yes, it is a real coffin! 

This particular one dates to about the 1890s and is in phenomenal shape! Clearly I really need one in baby pink for my apartment.


Wicker coffins or transfer baskets were used to store bodies before being moved for burial or while waiting for a doctor to come pronounce the individual dead. These light weight coffins were especially common during the Civil War as they were easily moved and a lower cost to produce than wooden coffins.

Made of woven willow or other sturdy plant materials, bent and shaped usually around a wooden frame. This coffin had a wooden interior back and strong hinges. Some had leather straps for keeping the coffin closed during transport.

wicker coffin gothic model cabinet of curiosities dundas ontario gloomth

In the Victorian era and post Civil War these coffins were primarily used for viewings, where guests would come pay their final respects to the deceased while their body was placed in the coffin “on view” for the attendees. These wicker coffins were still used up until the 1930s for removing bodies from crime scenes, before bodybags became ubiquitous with that task.

There’s a current movement in funerals back towards “natural” burial options including wicker coffins. Individuals don’t want their bodies preserved unnaturally but to decay and contribute to the circle of life. Below is a modern one:





Store where you can find this exact coffin- The Cabinet of Curiosities

2 thoughts on “The History of Wicker Coffins

  1. Hello,
    I have recently inherited a wicker coffin, which I have been told looks like it is from the civil war era. I am looking for resources to help me see if it indeed is, and if so how much it might be worth. I am looking to sell it.
    Thank you in advance,
    Jenn Castano

    1. Where are you located? I know someone local to Ontario who could evaluate it for you. Also I’d be super interested in buying it! 🙂

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