This type is the most popular and frequently encountered grave memorial
found in old cemeteries. A variety of materials have been used for this
type of memorial, ranging from wood to stone. While there are many
shapes and sizes of tablets and headstones, most exhibit a few common
features. First, most are not enormous monuments. They tend to be 80 to
100 centimetres in height and vary in thickness from 8 to 20
centimetres. The headstone may be placed by itself in the ground or may
be set into a base (e.g., cement) or on top of another grave structure
such as a ground ledger. The term “headstone” derives from the
position of the stone above the interred corpse’s head. Once it was
common to use a headstone and a smaller stone a short distance away
called the footstone. Footstones were usually made of the same material
as the headstone but were much smaller. The footstone was usually
inscribed with the initials of the deceased.
Most families could afford even a modest headstone, so it is the most popular style of monument in many of the smaller pioneer cemeteries. Because of size, material and dimensions, headstones are also the most susceptible to vandalism and damage. Vandalism has been so severe that today it is very rare to find an intact 19th century marble tablet, and footstones are almost non-existent.
The following subtypes of Tablet and headstone styles:
Simple tablet – Tends to be rectangular and the same thickness throughout; no curves, angles or tapering features. Faces may be polished or plain. Simple lines of construction.
Domed tablet – Tends to have more angles and may be the same thickness throughout or thicker at the base. Tapers to a domed top having a convex shape or sloping angles.
Shouldered tablet – Tends to have far more intricate angles and cuts on the top portion of the headstone. There is much variation in this type of tablet.
Gothic tablet – Similar to the domed tablet, but the angles along the top of the headstone and the shoulders are steeper. Same styling as the Gothic arches popular in European churches.
Rustic tablet/headstone – Tends to be thicker and more robust than other designs. It is common to see these memorials with a pattern that looks almost like a stone wall. The main inscription face is usually polished and the polished section may be in the shape of a large arrow pointing upward (direct line to heaven). The hymn “Rock of Ages” is said to have inspired the popularity of rustic tablets in the 1920s and 1930s.