Embalming: Principles and Legal Aspects by M.L. Ajmani (1998)

Chapter 1: The Origin and History of Embalming (by Edward C. Johnson, Gail R. Johnson, Melissa J. Williams), taken from Robert G. Mayer's Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice (1987, 1990, 1996)

pages 42-43:

Felix Aloysius Sullivan (1843-1931)

Sullivan was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1843, the son of a Scotch [Irish] immigrant undertaker [and wagon-maker] and an Irish mother. He unquestionably had the most interesting, controversial, riotous, and successful career as a practitioner, writer, teacher, and lecturer of embalming and related subjects. His career was so full of incidents that it would be impossible to recount all but a few highlights.

After the usual parochial school education and some experience working with his father, Sullivan, together with several other friends, crossed the border into the United States and enlisted in a New York cavalry regiment during the Civil War. Military records verify his service but reveal he deserted to service near the end of the war. He claims to have assisted in embalming while in the service, but the claim can neither be affirmed nor denied as it lacks proof.

After the Civil War he followed various occupations and traveled. He eventually drifted to New York City where he secured employment with various casket companies and finally became a funeral director for hire. He studied anatomy and other medical sciences and, by 1881, became an embalmer of some local repute. He was hired to go to Cleveland, Ohio, to reembalm President Garfield, who died from an assassin's bullet, and seems to have been successful in this venture. Sullivan attended Clarke's embalming class in New York City in 1882 to learn how such a class of instruction was conducted. Sullivan, together with Dr. W. G. Robinson, opened the New York School of Embalming in 1884 and a year later was again involved in the embalming of a president, this time President Ulysses Grant (see previous information on Clarke's career). He then entered and left a long list of employers. In 1887 he was in Chicago when the anarchists who had bombed the police in 1886, killing and wounding police and civilians, were condemned to die. One exploded a dynamite cap in his mouth in jail and the others were hung. He prepared all bodies and was praised for his plastic surgery on the "mad bomber".

Sullivan continued his erratic employment or work habits, working for one firm, quitting, and then working for another. By 1891 he was again a lecturer/demonstrator, this time for the Egyptian Chemical Company. By 1892 he reached the height of his career as a lecturer, speaking and teaching in more cities to larger classes than anyone previously had. He was expelled* from the State Funeral Directors convention in 1893 in St. Louis, Missouri, and a resolution was passed to forbid ever inviting his return. Sullivan settled in Chicago and opened a school of embalming. Local papers relate his arrest there together with a female companion (not his wife) on charges of adultery and wife and child desertion. When he finally settled the charges he underwent a cure for alcoholism and resumed teaching in a succession of short-lived appointments at various schools.

In 1900, the O.K. Buckhout Company of Michigan, a manufacturer of embalming chemicals, had Charles A. Renouard under contract to lecture, and sent him to London, England, to present a 3-week course of instruction that was very well received. Renouard returned home to attend similar engagements in the United States. The Buckhout Company had to find someone to continue the successful course of instruction in England, and the position was offered to Sullivan, who immediately accepted. Sullivan began teaching in London on October 8, 1900, a career that would extend to 1903. He lectured throughout the British Isles and helped to organize the British Embalmers Society as well as a journal entitled to [sic] British Embalmer.

He related that when Queen Victoria died in 1901 he was consulted about the possibility of embalming her. He recommended against it since it was impossible to guarantee perfect results. When he returned to the United States, he purchased an embalming school in St. Louis, Missouri, but the venture proved unprofitable. He then moved to Denver and Salt Lake City and eventually back to St. Louis, where he died. Sullivan wrote hundreds of articles plus eight books, taught thousands to embalm, and probably received more gifts from his classes than any other teacher before or since his time.



*apparently, because he was drunk