There is, it turns out, such a thing as burial humor, and the Congressional Cemetery is all about it.
While the historic cemetery in Hill East boasts such impressive tenants as Tobias Lear, the personal secretary to George Washington, and William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol—-not to mention 16 senators, 68 representatives, and two vice presidents—-these days it can’t get by on star wattage alone. That, anyway, might explain ad copy like this: “You don’t have to be rich or famous to be buried in Congressional Cemetery. You just have to be dead.”
According to program director Lauren Maloy, Congressional Cemetery has been using the ad slogan for a few years, running it in the cemetery’s quarterly newsletter, Heritage Gazette, and the Hill Rag. The ad ran in a Capital Community News community guide in April. A Reddit user posted a photo of the ad Sunday.
Maloy says that because of the cemetery’s history, many people incorrectly assume that a person has to be a well-known politician or government official to be buried there. “We are trying to emphasize that you just have to be dead,” she says. “We try to draw people in with a bit of a lighter touch.”
The cemetery was founded in 1807, and for more than 60 years it was the burying ground for members of Congress and other top government employees, according to a cemetery history. Politicians stopped using it as a burial ground after a national cemetery system was established during the Civil War. Despite its designation as a historic site, the Congressional Cemetery now serves as a burial ground for anyone.
There are currently about 55,000 people buried in the cemetery, and Maloy says there’s room for about 1,000 more. Plots range from about $4,000 to $8,000.
Hilariously, another of the cemetery’s ad campaigns calls on people to “join the District’s oldest underground community.”
Top photo courtesy of Congressional Cemetery. Bottom photo by Darrow Montgomery.