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*During your cemetery visit, ask your class to sketch some of the symobos and designs found on monuments. What ate the most common symbols, and what could each represent? (Doves-promise, snakes-eternity, trumpets-victory, willow trees-mourning, flowers-beauty, anchors-hope, and butterflies-freedom. Next, have your students preserve the history, art and tradition they have uncovered on your cemetery visit by creating a gravestone rubbing. (Be sure to get permission from the cemetery authorities first.)
(*From Learning89, October.)

How to Make Tombstone Rubbings
It is a wonderful way to learn about history.
There are some basic rules you should follow and some tools you need to get started.


If you plan on doing rubbings of your family or relatives then some of these won't apply.

1. Many cemeteries are private property. Be sure and ask before you start rubbing tombstones. Trespassing fines are not cheap. Many do not understand what rubbing is or have ever heard of it.
2. Treat each tombstone as if it were your own mother's. Somebody loves these people and old tombstones can be delicate.
3. Make sure and clean off all marks accidently left on tombstones. Leave the cemetery cleaner than when you got there.
4. If it is a private cemetery or a municipal cemetery, don't rub at night. Your actions will most certainly be mistaken by local law officials.


1. A soft brush. The kind you might use to polish your shoes work well. A tooth brush is also a good thing to bring.
2. Paper, White or rice paper works best. Rice paper has a really nice feel to it and can be surprisingly strong. Tissue paper that you put into gift boxes also works well.
3. Black or gray chalk or charcoal crayons. All of thers can be messy but if you're careful it makes a very nice texture. Flat black crayons and rubbing wax are the most common.
4. Scissors or exacto knife.
5. Masking tape or painters tape
6. Small spray bottle and a soft absorbent rag.
7. If you use chalk you will need Chalk spray. Krylon makes the best.³


Once you have found a nice tombstone you need to make sure it is clean. Use the soft brush and remove dirt and debris from the surface. Be gentle, and respectful, if the it looks as if you might scratch the tombstone then move on.

After you get most of the dirt off spray it with the bottle and then wipe with the rag. Let the tombstone become perfectly dry before you go on. Cut the paper larger than the tombstone itself and wrap tightly around the stone. Tape it very securely so that it doesn't move, if the paper moves when you start rubbing you will probably have to start over.

Start rubbing on the outside edges and make yourself a frame of sorts. You don't need to rub real hard, you can always make it darker by going back over it but you can never make it lighter. You should start to see the patterns emerging at this point.

Once you have the darkness down to you liking carefully spray the paper down with the Chalk spray. Be careful not to get any on the tombstone. When it is dry you can remove it and trim it in the shape of the stone or leave a border around it. This is all there is to it. Practice with it and develop your own style.

Remember the respect you show now will ensure that tombstone rubbing will always
be looked at as a way to preserve history and not as vandalism.

Rice paper is recommended but Butcher paper is a cheaper substitute. Smooth surfaces work
much better than grainy ones, though you may decide otherwise.

³There's an alternative to Krylon and that is hairspray -- "the cheapest you can find".

More Notes and Help!

Some more suggestions and addtions?
1. In the spray bottle, the specification that it should contain only water
and not detergent or chemicals of any kind would eliminate the horrible
possibility that the Ivory [or other] soap mixture will do damage and
further erode the stone's material. Carry a mirror for better lighting contrast.
Rubbing is not always neccessary to capture the image and there are some
newer techniques such as dabbing and foiling. Better that this is left on the stone.

If using this with a classrom of students, take a box of baby wipes with you for hand clean up. Also make sure you take a bag to throw the waste in.
Rubbings is from Pat Dupes-Matsumoto

Other Art Activities

  1. Tombstone decorations may be photographed or sketched.
  2. Discuss how stones have change in design and shapes through the years.
  3. Is there any symmetry of markers evident?
  4. Look for evidences of beauty and color.
  5. Look at the depth of some of the inscriptions.
  6. Look for sculptures. If found identify the style and materials in which it was made. The Sculpture Center Has a listing of some sculptures found. The four pictures below are from that site along with the information. Please viist this site for more information than is listed here.

The following are some of the sculptures found at Spring Grove Cemetery. Use these or ones found at the cemetery you will visit to do reseach about the artist, materials,and styles.

Name: Koepnick, Robert C.
Birth: 1907
Role: Sculptor
Johnny Appleseed John Chapman
Creation: 1968
Installation: unknown
Dedication: 1968
An elongated male figure raising a handful of branches to the sky with his proper right hand. In his proper left hand he carries a book at his side. His head looks up towards the sky and he is standing on a rock.
Site: Section 134

Name: McMesky, Robert
Role: Sculptor
Creation: 1970
Installation: unknown
Dedication: 1970
DESCRIPTION Two slabs of Ohio limestone are set in the ground. The edge of each slab has been engraved with images of human and animal life.
Site: Section 135

Name: Rogers, Randolph
Birth: 1825
Death: 1892
Role: Sculptor
The Sentinel
Soldier of the Line
DATES Site: Section 20 Creation: 1864
Installation: unknown
Dedication: unknown
A Union Army Sentinel stands in uniform holding a rifle with the bayonet in the air. His head is turned to the proper left.
Site: Section 21

Name: Baker, Nathan
Birth: 1820
Death: 1891
Role: Sculptor
Creation: 1845
Installation: unknown
Dedication: unknown
Lightly draped female figure stands with her eyes cast down. She represents a Roman Goddess/Nymph of water and childbirth.
Site: Section 20

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