The tradition of open casket funerals began when the first
Europeans to settle in North America brought with them the
tradition of laying the body out inside the home before it was
buried. It was during this time that neighbours could visit the
home of the bereaved and take a final look at the deceased.This act
of viewing the dead soon became part of what modern funerals call
Because there was no modern funeral home, cabinet and furniture makers were commissioned to "undertake" the task of building the caskets for the deceased, which would require them to go to the home and take measurements of the body before building the caskets in their shops.
Eventually, as the modern funeral home began to take form after the Civil War, funeral homes continued to use the tradition of the "wake", which was once a three day/night vigil to ensure the deceased was in dead as loved ones "watched" over the body.