Boston Post Cane
Receives Boston Post Cane
Kay Silloway, her son and president of the
Council on Aging, Danny Atwood, and Selectman Bill McDevitt.
Pelham resident Kay Silloway received the Boston Post Cane during a tea at
the Pelham Senior Center
Pelham - Windham News article from October 10, 2008
Pelham Historical Society has the original Boston Post Cane.
A replica was made and is awarded as well as a lapel pin .
In August 1909, Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, Publisher of the Boston Post,
a newspaper, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 431 towns (no cities included) in New
England a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the
compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him
as long as he lives (or moves from the town), and at his death handed down to the next
oldest citizen of the town. The cane would belong to the town and not the man who
were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacturer, from ebony shipped in
seven-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They were cut to cane lengths,
seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and
polished. They had a 14-carat gold head two inches long, decorated by hand, and a
ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription, --- Presented by the
Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) --- "To Be
Transmitted". The Board of Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and keep it
always in the the hands of the oldest citizen. Apparently no Connecticut towns were
included, and only two towns in Vermont are known to have canes.
Mr. Grozier died, and the Boston Post was taken over by his son, Richard, who failed to
continue his father's success and eventually died in a mental hospital. At one time
the Boston Post was considered the nation's leading standard-sized newspaper in
circulation. Competition from other newspapers, radio and television contributed to
the Post's decline and it went out of business in 1957.
of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. As years went
by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town and not returned to the
Selectmen or destroyed by accident.
after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well.
held the cane from Jan. 2004 - 2007
The Sun - Monday, January 12, 2004
New Hampshire Sunday News, Manchester, NH - November 20, 1994
By the Associated Press
Boston Post Cane Remains a Tradition That Won't Die
Keeping track of New England's Boston Post Canes
is like mapping shells on a beach: A ceaseless and inevitable tide keeps sweeping in to
In 1909, the Boston Post newspaper distributed between 400 and
600 ebony, gold-capped canes among towns in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode
Island that asked for one. Town officials were to confer a cane on a town's oldest
resident, passing the cane again and again after its holder's death.
Today, nobody knows what became of all the canes. By 1960, only
15 were accounted for. In 1983, after two years of exhaustive research - there was never a
list of which towns got canes in the first place - a Dorchester retiree named Eleanor
Burns reported that she had accounted for 400 canes.
Since then, many of those holders have died and her research has
been erased by another tide.
But they are still out there, gripped proudly by many holders and
the subject of lore, fascination and detective work.
Although the Post limited distribution of the canes to men until
the 1930s, calling them a symbol of the ''longevity of New England manhood,'' nearly
two-thirds of the holders since then have been women.
The secret to getting a Boston Post Cane, of
course, is growing old. The secrets to that, today's cane holders say, range from genetics
Up in China, Maine, Marion Jones, who is 97, is testimony to
genetics. Her father, Linwood, held the cane into his 90s, and so did her older sister,
Lena Jones Austin.
On the other hand there is Norine Emerson, 93, of Fremont, N.H.,
who took time out last week from packing for her seventh annual trip to Florida, where she
will visit her daughter.
''Nobody in my family ever lived this long,'' she said. ''I told
my daughter I've hung on just to bother her.''
Like many towns, Fremont keeps its cane in storage. Some towns
keep them in safes or display cases in town halls or historical societies and give the
current ''holders'' plaques.
In Bedford, Mass., for instance, the cane is kept in a case at
the Town Center, according to Joanne Balkovich, director of the town's council on aging.
''We're concerned we might lose track of it,'' she said. ''It's a
valuable historical item we didn't want to lose.''
In some towns, like China, however, the holder gets to take the
''We've lost some of the history of it, but we've never really
lost track of the cane itself,'' said Debra Fischer, a town official.
Not all towns have been so fortunate.
One Boston Post cane was sold at auction in
September by Tradewinds Auctions of Manchester-by-the-Sea. Whatever town originally held
it is not known because the gold head was never inscribed with the town's name.
''If it had been, we could have notified the town that the cane
was available,'' said Henry Taron, who with his wife Nancy runs the auction firm.
That cane was sold for $660 to a buyer from the south, Taron
Vassalboro, Maine's cane came back a few years ago from
California. Word reached town in 1988 that a man in Monterey had it and would sell it for
what he had paid - $500.
Betty Taylor, curator of the town's historical society, put up
the money herself. Today, the cane is in her home, but she vows it will be left to the
historical society as part of her estate.
''The town just didn't have $500,'' she said, ''and I didn't want
to see it disappear again. This fella - he wouldn't even dicker on the price - said he was
going to melt down the head for gold.''
Out in Lee, Mass., Olga Foote, who is 99, holds a cane that is
the envy of several others nearly her age and that has a colorful history. It seems that
Lee's cane disappeared in 1931 after its last known holder, Theodore H. Fenn, moved away.
Fifty years later it turned up in a trash barrel at the Masonic
Home for the Elderly in Charlton, the town Fenn had moved to.
''Lee's lucky to have it back,'' Foote said. ''Lots of places
have lost theirs for good.''
''Mine's got a dent in it, so you know it's got a history - like
somebody walloped somebody,'' Foote said, chuckling.
In Fairfield, Maine, Gloria Blanchet, the deputy tax collector,
is trying to revive the Boston Post tradition. The town's cane was found after years and
is being held at a nursing home.
''Nobody has it right now, but we want to get it going again,''
Some canes, however, are gone for good. Burns reported in 1983
that 6 had burned in fires. Officials from 27 towns told her they had once had a cane but
had lost it.
Sometimes the canes went into attics when heirs did not realize
the meaning of an old cane found among their ancestors' possessions. Some holders left
town, took the canes with them, and died in far-flung locales.
But somehow, many keep washing back up.
Philip Bergin, librarian at the Bostonian Society, said his
organization receives a call every year or so from someone who has found a cane and
wonders about its significance.
''They stumble on one in someone's attic or antique shop, or
maybe someone's grandfather dies and it's part of his estate,'' he said. And while those
calls sometimes complete a circle started 85 years ago, there are many circles still
When Boston Post publisher E.A. Grozier introduced the canes as a
promotional gimmick in 1909, he asked that as towns handed them out, they provide his
paper with stories about and photos of the recipients. The first to do so was Sharon,
Mass., which reported that Solomon Talbot, 95, held its cane.
Today, says Shirley Davenport, the town clerk, ''I don't know
where it ended up, but I do remember it.''
Some towns that have lost their canes have kept the tradition
alive by substituting others.
In Sandwich, N.H., for instance, they hand out old Caleb
Marston's cane because that is what was available when their Boston Post went missing.
''We had one and lost it,'' said Robin Dustin, director and
curator of the Sandwich historical society. ''We don't even know exactly when.''
They do know, however, that it was still around in the 1930s. A
letter arrived then at town offices that illustrates how keen and longing an eye some
folks keep on the canes. It was from a woman, Dustin recounted, who wanted to remind the
town that her father was next in line for the cane - after its current holder died. ''This
was before the body was even dead, let alone cold,'' Dustin said.
Cummington, Mass., which had a cane and lost it, has switched to
the gold-headed A.L. Jones Cane. And Stoddard, N.H., which probably never had a Boston
Post, designed its own and started handing it out in 1987.
But it is the Boston Post Cane that is held
with most pride.
Out in Northwood, N.H., Howard Dewey, who recently turned 97,
shares ownership of that town's Boston Post with Dorothy Milligan, who is within weeks of
being the same age and lives 3 miles up the road from him.
Ask Dewey how long he plans on being a holder and he says
proudly, ''Right up till I die.''
The canes, valuable to their holders and their towns, are not
worth a great deal at auction. Dealers put their value at between $400 and $700 - a far
cry from the $48,400 paid at a recent Nantucket Island auction for a nautical cane with a
carved whale's tooth ivory handle, in the form of a hand with a snake.
But there is financial value and then there is pride and history.
Olga Foote, out in Lee, said her good friend Venita Harvey, who
is only two weeks younger, might be keeping her eye on the cane. But that does not bother
''I don't guess there's anybody here hoping they get it right
away,'' she said.
Tribune - November 28, 2003
By John Basilesco, Staff Writer
Hampstead to re-establish Boston Post Cane tradition
HAMPSTEAD, N.H. -- Local history buffs want to bring back an old tradition -- presenting
the Boston Post Cane to the town's oldest resident.
The last person to hold the cane in Hampstead was Charles Pressy,
who died at the age of 106 about 30 years ago. After the cane was returned to Hampstead
from Pressy's relatives in 1974, selectmen decided to retire the cane because of the
difficulty in determining the town's oldest resident. The cane was placed in the town's
Historical Museum on Main Street, where it remains locked and on display.
This week, Hampstead Historic District Commission members
Priscilla Lindquist and Maurice Randall Jr. went before selectmen to get their blessing on
guidelines for presenting a replica of the cane to Hampstead's oldest citizen. The replica
was made for $106 for Hampstead by someone in Peterboro, Lindquist said.
Chairman J. Douglas Gootee and Selectman Richard Hartung agreed
it was a great idea. They want to join the 15 other towns in New Hampshire, including
Derry, that continue to present the Boston Post Cane to their oldest resident.
Lindquist told selectmen that the original Boston Post canes were
made in 1909 by the Boston Post newspaper and sent to 431 towns in New England with the
intention that they be presented to the oldest male resident in each community. Women
became eligible in 1930, she said.
"The canes were supposed to be owned by the towns and only
held by the oldest resident," Lindquist said. "Over the years, many towns lost
The main reason a replica of the cane was made is so Hampstead
will never lose its original, Lindquist said.
Unknown Newspaper, Unknown Date
By David Moore, Associated Press Writer
Post Cane Tradition Nearing Retirement
CONCORD, NH -- For most of this century,
a gold-handled, black ebony walking stick has steadied the steps of Durham's oldest
Now, unable to find anyone to admit to being the oldest person in
town, officials plan to retire the cane.
The town council recently voted to end the 84-year-old tradition
by placing the Boston Post Cane on permanent display in the Historical Association Museum.
"All good things have to come to an end," said Maryanna
Hatch, spokesman for the association. "By placing the cane in some kind of
exhibit, at least people will know what it was and why it was circulated."
The Boston Post newspaper started the custom in 1909 as part of
an advertising scheme dreamed up by then-editor Edwin A. Grozier.
Ebony canes with 14-karat gold crowns were sent to mayors and
selectmen in 431 communities throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts with
instructions that they be presented to the oldest resident and passed on to the next
oldest as each holder departed this earth. A picture and article was to appear in
the Post at each passing.
Though the tradition survived the newspaper, which stopped
publication in 1957, some towns have lost track of their canes over the years.
Others, like Durham, have put them on public display.
Durham is not the only town where a local elder hasn't relished
being labeled the oldest person in town.
When a selectman tried to present one woman with Bow's cane
several years ago, "Maude took the cane and tried to hit him over the head with
it," said Walter Jones, former town administrator. "She wouldn't have any
part of it."
Others take the distinction in stride. Edward Grosvener of
Chester, who got his town's cane in 1989 at age 98, insists the honor is "no big
"It just sits up there on the shelf," Grosvener said.
"I suppose someday I'll be old enough to use it."
Candia is one of a number of towns that make a ceremonial
presentation, but keep the actual cane on public display. Robert Harrison, the
current caneholder, got a certificate instead.
Though he's 94, Harrison doesn't need a cane to get around.
In fact, he still goes daily to the workshop where he makes cabinets.
"A man has to be active all the time," he said.
"I'm still busier than a hornet."
Harrison is proud of his longevity and the hard work and healthy
living he believes is responsible.
"I don't smoke, chew or drink and I don't run around with
women," he said.
But that doesn't mean he's thrilled to be a caneholder.
"I think the idea of it is nice, I really do," he said.
"I'm just not in love with the idea of being the person to get it."
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