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The Genius of Frank E. Campbell

By Todd W. Van Beck:

Talk about branding! Frank E. Campbell. The name says it all, well at least with New Yorkers and funeral professionals around the world. Walk down any street in the boroughs of New York City and ask anybody you meet this questions, “Name a funeral home in Manhattan?” Chances are very good that the response will be, “Frank E. Campbell.” Now ask any funeral director, “Who is the most famous funeral director ever?” The response will most often be: Frank E. Campbell. Added to all this is that the policy of the New York Times, when they run obituaries of the rich and famous is to NOT mention specific funeral home names, unless the funeral is being conducted by Frank E. Campbell. The clientele of Frank E. Campbell reads like a veritable who’s who of the rich and famous. Here is a very small idea of celebrity and social luminaries who have been cared for by Frank E. Campbell, The Funeral Chapel: Elizabeth Arden, Yul Brenner, James Cagney, Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, John Lennon, Judy Garland, J.C. Penny, Mae West, and of course Rudolph Valentino. Today the Frank E. Campbell building at 81st and Madison Avenue in Manhattan is very discrete and draws little attention to itself. The founder however, Frank E. Campbell was not discrete at times, and certainly was an expert at drawing attention to himself and his firm. Frank E. Campbell is still the reigning funeral home in Manhattan, but the man himself has been dead for over 80 years. It is time that his story be told, and what a story it is. We begin by asking some interesting questions. Who was Frank E. Campbell? How did he become a funeral director, and how did this one funeral director attract such a lustrous clientele? What was Frank E. Campbell like as a real live human being, and why was Mr. Campbell’s remains not permanently buried until almost seventy five years after his death? This work attempts to answer these and a myriad of other questions about the life and career of Frank E. Campbell. In the annals of funeral service history it is generally conceded and accepted by students of the subject that one man Frank E. Campbell, Mortician (he himself preferred mortician to funeral director) produced one of the most profound and lasting impacts on American funeral service practices in the late 19th, and the early 20th century. This is a fascinating story about a famous funeral director!

3 FD CE.

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