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Purple Funeral Lights?


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I stumbled across an article recently that detailed this use of purple colored lights on hearses and funeral procession cars in the US and Canada.  Somehow this bit of historical info had escaped me for all these years, although California statutes also recognize and allow it, for decades apparently.  Historically purple lights have been associated with funeral processions in many states.   I've since found many vintage examples of rotating beacons, loli-pop style flashers, purple sealed beams and headlamp covers designed for the final ride.  All pretty interesting. 

Of course today the use of flashing purple LED's seems much more prevalent in the trade.

 

purp1.jpg.f87155e5942dacae234c9f39c34e479e.jpgpurp2.jpg.fde3e41e8055ed6e8b3e7e2bf2a3b6de.jpgpurp3.jpg.5dea7bd32ae741105ad57cc0599a381f.jpgpurp4.jpg.2f51d2e633168128d7e5a23045921a38.jpg

 

I'm curious to know how many here have seen this use of purple lights.  Is it currently (or was it) in common use in the area where you live now or perhaps a different area you know of, earlier in your life?   

Maybe it is more of a regional thing?

Cheers, Greg

 

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Purple is a color of mourning. I do remember funeral homes using small purple flags on a hearse and sometimes on the family cars in the mid 20th century. 

In 1937 North Carolina added a section to the Motor Vehical Act which refers to purple flags and purple lights.

Edited by Phillip Cole (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, Phillip Cole said:

Purple is a color of mourning. I do remember funeral homes using small purple flags on a hearse and sometimes on the family cars in the mid 20th century.

Yes, Phil, I found several of those as well when I searched the purple lights.

 

funeral-flag-purple2.jpg.fd636b89a67f48c31f290cb8fabda098.jpg

 

 

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With todays traffic, and half the people that dont know how to drive, a strobe is a necessity. Cant say about tact, but def. a safety issue.  I have seen the purple lights in funeral cars in my area. Along with the purple flags.

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In a former lifetime, I was an embalmer in California. We didn't have any special lighting or flags on any of the livery at any mortuary where I worked or encountered. Short processions were usually unescorted and the people were instructed to follow the hearse which in the trade is called a coach. Longer processions were escorted by private escorts on motorcycles. In the event of the death of a police officer or a fireman they would usually provide an escort

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We made  a pair of the headlight covers when we restored a '58 Caddy flower car.  They were commonly known as "Silent Sirens" and held onto the headlight lenses with suction cups.  We lathed them out of a chunk of clear Lexan then painted the purple and white.

Purple strobes were also known as conspicuity lights.

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Our local funeral homes use the lights, usually just on the family car in front of the hearse and occasionally the flags.   To me they seem like a signal of respect and if colour were a sound, they are the colour of silence.   There are not as many processions any more with far more cremations happening.  What is somewhat surprising in our me first world though, is that the oncoming traffic does actually pull over and stop and wait for the procession to pass to pay their respects.  Now if it was an emergency vehicle with lights and siren on they'd turn left directly in front of it!  

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The funeral home my family used had small flags with magnetic bases.  When mourners arrived, one of the home's staff asked if they would be joining the procession.  If so, they were directed to park in line behind the hearse.  During the service, a staff member would go down the line and stick a flag on each car's fender.  During the graveside service, he/she would again go down the line collecting the flags.

 

It was a rural community so some of the burials were in family or church cemeteries some distance from the home.  Don't recall them using purple lights but in those cases, the sheriff sometimes provided a squad car escort with its lights going - think that was mostly a safety measure for the procession traveling the highway outside town.

Edited by CHuDWah (see edit history)
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My grandmother born in 1898 absolutely hated the color purple and refused to have anything that color in her house. I suspect it dated to her childhood and a funeral or wake in the family home and the use of that color.

 

Howard Dennis

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/14/2021 at 3:26 PM, GregLaR said:

I stumbled across an article recently that detailed this use of purple colored lights on hearses and funeral procession cars in the US and Canada.  Somehow this bit of historical info had escaped me for all these years, although California statutes also recognize and allow it, for decades apparently.  Historically purple lights have been associated with funeral processions in many states.   I've since found many vintage examples of rotating beacons, loli-pop style flashers, purple sealed beams and headlamp covers designed for the final ride.  All pretty interesting. 

Of course today the use of flashing purple LED's seems much more prevalent in the trade.

 

purp1.jpg.f87155e5942dacae234c9f39c34e479e.jpgpurp2.jpg.fde3e41e8055ed6e8b3e7e2bf2a3b6de.jpgpurp3.jpg.5dea7bd32ae741105ad57cc0599a381f.jpgpurp4.jpg.2f51d2e633168128d7e5a23045921a38.jpg

 

I'm curious to know how many here have seen this use of purple lights.  Is it currently (or was it) in common use in the area where you live now or perhaps a different area you know of, earlier in your life?   

Maybe it is more of a regional thing?

Cheers, Greg

 

Great post. Thanks for the information.

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I don't recall ever seeing any purple lights used in funeral processions. I've been in quite a few in the last 45 years in California. Every car in the procession was slapped with a "FUNERAL" sticker in the top corner of the front windshield and rear glass. I managed to sneakily remove one once from my car. I still have it in my desk drawer at home. It's nothing really fancy at all. Just a white sheet of paper stock with black lettering.

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In thought it was uncommon not to use purple lamps or colors some place or it's a cheapo funeral home.

 

Horse drawn,white coach hearse funerals are a bit common in my town still and purple window drapes and coffin covers and sometimes the horses even have purple spiked head dresses.

Not PC to point out ,but it usually is our dark skin brothers and sisters that use the horse drawn hearse the most ,where I live.

 

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