New Hampshire (like New England) has historically been home to iconic people, events and objects. Grouped together they make our home wonderfully unique, unconventional and distinctive. Among these is the tradition of the Boston Post Cane. If you live in New England you’ve probably read something about it, but you may also have been misinformed.
Instead of rehashing what others have written, I will present to you the original story as written by the Boston Post itself. The newspaper article claims to have sent out 700 gold headed canes to various towns in New England, whereas recent stories report that total between 300-600. It is known that canes were sent to selectmen of towns in the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. Also some stories claim that canes were sent to Vermont and Connecticut, where I have not found a single incidence of that, though I know of at least one New Hampshire recipient who, at death, was buried in Vermont. I also could not find that any canes were sent to “cities” in any of those states. Today at least 517 towns in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island continue to ‘report’ their Boston Post Cane recipients.
Though the promotion speaks of presentations to the “oldest citizens,” keep in mind that the cane was distributed in a time when most women were not allowed to vote and have full rights. A Boston Post newspaper article published after the canes were distributed focuses on “the most common question…as to whether box sexes were eligible for the canes. The intention of the Post from the outset has been that the canes should be presented to the oldest male citizen. The word “citizen” has been intended by the Post to mean the oldest registered male voter of the various towns.” It would not be until the 1930s that women would first be included among the Boston Post Cane recipients.
Many writers state that the Boston Post Cane was purely a marketing event for the newspaper, but one has to wonder if the cost of the canes and their distribution really was outweighed by the ensuing newspaper subscriptions. Edwin Atkins Grozier was a philanthropic man who was a Mayflower descendant and he helped build the Pilgrims monument in Provincetown MA. Perhaps there was a bit of just Yankee appreciation in him for the wise and aged citizens of New England. When Edwin Grozier died, his son Richard took over the publishing of the newspaper and promotion of the cane recipients.
–The Original Boston Post Cane Announcement–
Boston Post, Wednesday, August 18, 1909, Boston, Massachusetts, United States Of America, page 1, 7.
THE BOSTON POST GOLD HEAD CANES
Presented to the Oldest Citizens of Seven Hundred New England Towns Through the Selectmen
The Boston post recently forwarded to the chairmen of each of the 700 New England towns a fine Gaboon ebony cane with gold head, with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the Oldest Citizen of the town.
A great deal of interest has been aroused all over New England by this presentation. Almost without exception the selectmen of the various towns have expressed their cordial approval of the idea, and have very willingly accepted the informal trust.
In many towns the Post cane has already been presented to the Oldest Citizen, the occasion in numerous instances being marked by a special gathering and the presentation being publicly made. In a few instances there has been some doubt as to who was entitled to the cane. After a little investigation the problem has usually been solved by the Selectmen, who from their familiarity with the citizens of their town were naturally in the best position to determine the matter
The inscription on the head of each cane is as follows:
BY THE BOSTON POST
OLDEST CITIZEN OF
The letter to the chairmen of the Selectmen was as follows:
“Dear Sir–We take the liberty of requesting of you and other members of the Board of Selectmen of your town a little favor, which we trust you may be able to grant.
The Boston Post desires to present, with its compliments, to the Oldest Citizen of your town, a gold-headed cane, and as you are doubtless well informed as to the citizens of your town, we ask that you make the selection and presentation.
The cane is a fine one, manufactured especially for this purpose by J.F. Fradley & Co. of New York, which are generally recognized as the leading manufacturers of fine canes in this country. The stick is of carefully selected Gaboon ebony from the Congo, Africa, and the head is made of rolled gold of 1-karat fineness.
“The head of the cane is artistically engraved as presented by the Boston Post to the Oldest Citizens of your town (to be transmitted). The idea is that the cane shall always be owned and carried by the Oldest Citizen of your town, and that upon the decease of the present Oldest Citizen it shall be duly transmitted ot the then Oldest Citizen, remaining always in the possession of whoever is the Oldest Citizen of your town. Upon the head of the cane a blank space has been left where the name of the owner may be engraved locally, if desired. We request that in an informal way your board act as trustee of the cane, and see that the stick is duly presented and duly transmitted when such a change of holders becomes necessary. We do not suggest any formal trust or any legal or financial responsibility on your part, but simply that you act in the matter in accordance with the plan outlined as your best judgment indicates. There is no charge whatsoever by the Post to your board or to the holder of the cane.”
“In case your board will undertake to act for us, as suggested, we would request that you notify us to that effect, a directed envelope being enclosed. We also include a blank, leaving space for data as to the holder of the cane, and requesting that at your convenience after the cane is presented, you will fill it out and forward to Gold Cane Department, The Boston Post, to be filed in our archives. We would also be pleased to receive a photograph of the citizen to whom you may award the cane, with his name and address written upon the back. We are sending similar canes to various other towns, and as opportunity serves it is our purpose to publish some of the sketches and photographs.”
“A description of the cane is also enclosed, explaining the method of its manufacture and presentation, which we would be pleased to have you hand to your local paper for publication, if deemed worthy. It is possible that there may be sufficient interest in this matter to make the presentation of the cane an occasion for an informal meeting of the friends of the recipient. This lies of course wholly within your discretion.
We are forwarding the cane, express paid, to your address. If for any reason you are unable to act for us in this matter, kindly notify us at once and hold the cane until we may be able to make other arrangements for its presentation.”
Trusting, however, that you may favor us by acting as requested, We beg to remain, Very respectfully yours,
By. E.A. GROZIER, Editor and Publisher
Description of the Cane
The cane is a splendid specimen of such manufacture. It is made by J.F. Fradley & Co. of New York, who are widely recognized as the leading manufacturers of fine canes. The materials used in the Boston Post cane are the best obtainable. The sticks are of Gaboon ebony from the Congo, Africa. They are shipped to this country in logs, about seven feet long, and then cut into stick lengths. They are allowed to dry for six months, so they will be thoroughly seasoned. After this they are carefully examined, and all cracked, warped, or otherwise imperfect sticks are discarded. The perfect ones are then turned to the desired sizes on a lathe, and allowed about three months for further drying. They are given a coat of shellac and rubbed down with pumice, coated with the finest quality of French varnish and then polished by hand with very fine pumice and oil. It takes about a year from the time the ebony logs are cut to produce a perfect stick.
The gold in the heads of the Post canes is of 14-karat fineness. It is rolled into sheets, cut to the desired size and soldered in a conical tube, then placed in a sectional steel chuck or form, which admits of its being drawn into the exact shape of the finished head. The tops are first cut into discs, and then soldered to the cane after it has been shaped. They are then filled with a hard composition and “chased,” or ornamented, by hand, after which this this composition filling is removed and they are sent to the polishing room for final finishing. The Boston Post cane is not merely an ornamental cane. It is designed for every day usage and will last for many years.
The following blank was enclosed with the correspondence:
THE BOSTON POST CANE
Town of …………
Name of oldest citizen …………….
Age ………. Place of birth …………..
How long a citizen ………………
Date of cane presentation………………..
INCIDENTS IN LIFE OF OLDEST CITIZEN
Please state here anything in the life of the Oldest Citizen that might be of interest. Offices held, if any. Societies?: G.A.R. record? Health and habits? ESPECIALLY TO WHAT DOES HE ATTRIBUTE HIS LONGEVITY?
(Please fill out and forward to Gold Cane Department, The Boston Post, for filing in its archives. If convenient, a photograph, with the name and address of oldest citizen written upon the back, would also be appreciated).
A large number of reports have already been received. From time to time, as opportunity serves, the Post proposed to publish in its daily and Sunday editions some of the photographs of the venerable men, who now possess the Post cane. They will present an interesting galaxy of the vigor and longevity of New England manhood.
From August to October of 1909 the Boston Post newspaper published many photographs and brief biographies of some of those who had been the first cane recipients. I am including the names of the recipients, the town that presented the cane to them, and their age in 1909, organized by state. These men would be the FIRST in their respective towns to receive the cane. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This list is not complete, it is simply a list gleaned from various Boston Post newspaper articles advertising the first recipients].
–The First Maine Recipients of the Boston Post Cane–
Mark Avery, Garland Maine 86 years
Rosewell M. Baker, Norridgewock Maine, 89 years
Daniel Barnard, Chesterville Maine, 94 years
William E. Bates, Strong Maine, 88 years
Lorenzo Baxter, Burnham Maine, 92 years
James Beals, Frankfort Maine, 93 years
Reuben Bemis, Harmony Maine, 90 years
George Brooks, Orrington Maine, 94 years
Peter B. Buck, Norway Maine, 89 years
Moses Briggs, Winthrop Maine, 95 years
Moses Carr, Sangerville Maine, 99 years
George Chadbourne, Gorham Maine, 88 years
Elbridge A. Chandler, Exeter Maine, 89 years
Matthias T Crocker, East Machias, Maine 86 years
Isaac W Comery, Waldoboro Maine, 89 years
Elijah Cook, Windham Maine, 91 years
Charles Copeland, Holden Maine, 82 years
Franklin A Copp, New Gloucester Maine, 93 years
James G. Curtis, Bucksport Maine, 91 years
Jonathan Day, New Portland Maine, 89 years
James Duffy, Houlton Maine, 94 years
George S. Fairbanks, Monmouth Maine, 94 years
Abel Farrington, Mexico Maine, 82 years
Samuel L. Foster, Demariscotta Maine 90 years
Albion P. Fuller, East Livermore Maine 92 years
Cyrus W Gilman, Sidney Maine, 86 years
David Glidden, Newcastle Maine, 90 years
Albion P. Goodhue, Stockston Springs Maine, 86 years
Elias Gould, Hiram Maine, 98 years
Stephen W. Grant, Leeds Centre Maine, 84 years
Albert Ham, Dresden Maine, 90 years
Elisha Hawes, Stoughton Maine, 93 years
Hiram Haws, St. Albans Maine, 92 years
Lyman Hooper, Sanford, Maine, 93 years
Joel Howard, Presque Isle Maine, 86
John Inglee, Machias Maine, 92 years
Oliver S. Keay, Mars Hill Maine, 83 years
Finley B. Keller, Islesborough Maine, 87 years
Samuel Kennedy, Whitefield Maine, 93 years
Samuel F. Kilborn, Bridgeton Maine, 88 years
James Leadbetter, Skohegan Maine, 90 years
Nicholas H. Lenfest, Thomaston Maine, 93 years
Perley W Locke, Starks Maine, 83 years
George W. Lunt, Orono Maine, 90 years
Eben R. McKay, Ashland Maine, 83 years
Constant A. McLaughlin, China Maine, 93 years
Robert McLaughlin, Scarboro Maine, 86 years
Jotham L. Merritt, Milbridge Maine, 83 years
Amos Moody, Standish Maine, 87 years
Nahum Moore, Rumford Maine, 83 years
Augustus M. Morgan, Yarmouth Maine, 89 years
Henry W. Norcross, Greenville Maine, 86 years
Erick C.A.Olivebaum, New Sweden Maine, 81 years
Capt. William Otis, Brunswick Maine, 98 years
Pierre Ouellette, Van Buren Maine, 83 years
Charles Preble, Enfield Maine, 88 years
Stephen Purinton, Harpswell, Maine, 95 years
William Rand, Winter Harbor, Maine, 90 years
William Remick, Eliot Maine, 90 years
Franklin Richardson, Canton Maine, 83 years
Thomas E. Ridlon, Alfred Maine, 84 years
Stephen Rowe, Bryant’s Pond Maine, 94 years
Warren E. Savage, Rockport Maine, 86 years
Asa Shaw, Washburn Maine, 86 years
Thomas Shields, Oakfield Maine, 91 years
Hanson C. Sibley, Monson Maine, 83 years
William Spearin, Greenbush Maine, 81 years
John B. Stanwood, Winn Maine, 85 years
John Stevens, Paris Maine, 93 years
Adam Storer, Warren Maine, 86 years
James P. Thomas, Bowdoinham Maine, 87 years
Joseph B. Tripp, Kennebunk Maine, 87 years
Captain Peter P. Tufts, Farmington Maine, 97 years
Levi Taylor, Pittsfield Maine, 92 years
Benjamin R. Tibbetts, Palermo Maine, 91 years
Henry P. Waldron, Limington Maine, 91 years
Levi Weeks, Corinna Maine, 89 years
Joseph M. Welch, Boothbay Harbor Maine, 88 years
Emery S. Wilson, Cherryfield Maine 86 years
Thomas J. Winchell, Topsham Maine, 98 years
Elias C. Young, Jay Maine, 87 years
–The First Massachusetts Recipients of the Boston Post Cane–
John Adams, Gardner Mass, 93 years
Capt Alexander Anderson, Scituate Mass, 92 years
Lloyd E. Allen, Marshfield Mass, 94 years
David Ashcraft, Whatley Mass, 88 years
Daniel F. Barker, Concord Mass, 91 years
Luther Billings, Acton Mass, 88 years
William H. Bishop, Warren Mass, 87 years
Almon Black, Groton Mass, 88 years
James A. Bosworth, Wellesley Mass, 93 years
Barnabus E. Bourne, Falmouth Mass, 92 years
Dexter Bullard, Spencer Mass, 93 years
Daniel E. Burbank, Longmeadow Mass, 83 years
Warren A. Campbell, North Reading Mass, 86 years
Alanson C. Chaffee, Hampden Mass, 82 years
Ariel P. Cheney, North Andover Mass, 90 years
Jonathan S. Chickering, Southboro Mass, 90 years
George Clark, Sherborn Mass, 93 years
Benjamin Clow, Dalton Mass, 82 years
William E Cole, West Bridgewater Mass, 87 years
Gustavus Corey, Kingston Mass, 92 years
Alpheus Cowles, Hatfield Mass, 89 years
Charles X. Davis, Dartmouth Mass, 96 years
Capt. Josephus Dawes, Duxbury Mass, 89 years
Ephraim N. Eames, Bourne Mass, 91 years
Augustus Eaton, Needham Mass, 86 years
George Edwards, Dudley Mass, 89 years
George Estabrook, South Hadley Falls Mass, 89 years
Orman Ewings, Littleton Mass, 91 Years
Captain William Freeman, Brewster Mass, 89 years
Absalom B. Gale, Harvard Mass, 94 years
Martin L. Gaylord, East Hampton Mass, 86 years
Thomas H. Gladden, Williamsburg Mass, 87 years
Samuel Goodwin, Merrimac Mass, 91 years
John C. Gorton Lanesboro Mass, 86 years
Edward F. Green, Berlin Mass, 88 years
Theodore M. Hamblett, Westfield Mass, 90 years
Mason D. Haws, Leominster Mass, 92 years
Ephraim B. Hitchcock, Belchertown Mass, 86 years
John Hopkins, Orleans Mass, 93 years
Charles Hubbard, Chelmsford Mass, 91 years
Timothy Ide, Medway Mass, 94 years
Captain Samuel James, Hull Mass, 88 years
William Jeffrey, Hudson Mass ,89 years
David L. Johnson, Hubbardston Mass, 89 years
Amos Jones, Pembroke, Mass, 97 Years
Andrew T. Jones, Ashland Mass, 99 years
Thomas Jubb, Adams Mass, 94 Years
Sabin Kelton, Warwick Mass, 91 years
Alexander Kilgorek, Hopkinton Mass, 89 years
John B. Lake, Topsfield Mass, 88 years
Stilman Lincoln, Easton Mass, 89 years
Ezra P. Lyon, Attleboro Mass, 91 years
John P. Lyon, Abington, Mass, 94 years
J.M. Manning, Raynham Mass, 84 years
William Mayo, Westminster Mass, 92 years
Jeremiah McCarthy, Wrentham Mass 89 years
Rev. N.J. Merrill, North Wilbraham Mass, 92 years
George Mitchell, Groveland, Mass, 91 years
Alpheus Moore, Montague Mass, 90 years
John Newell, North Attleboro Mass, 86 years
Hiram Nye, Barnstable Mass, 93 years
Samuel Palmer, Enfield Mass, 85 years
Abner Peck, Shelburne Mass, 89 years
Eliab M. Pond Franklin Mass, 90 years
Edward F. Porter, Watertown Mass., 90 years
Joseph Rice, Wayland Mass, 86 years
D.L. Richards, Dana Mass, 88 years
John Savery, Wareham Mass, 93 years
William T. Shepardson, Lenox Mass, 90 years
Otis W. Skinner, Lynnfield Mass, 87 years
Alvin Studley, Natick MA, 90 years
Solomon Talbot, Sharon Mass, 95
Daniel Taylor, Ashfield Mass, 92 years
Cornelius Tirrell, Weymouth Mass, 90 years
James C.W. Walton, Wakefield Mass, 90 years
Benjamin F. Wardwell, Andover Mass, 93 years
George W. Wilkins, Carlistle Mass, 82 years
Henry Wilkins, West Brookfield Mass, 90 years
Christopher L. Willard, Ayer Mass, 90 years
Wentworth Winchester, Peabody Mass, 90 years
Ashley H. Wood, West Boylston Mass, 90 years
Lucius F. Wood, Townsend, Mass, 93 years
Isaac B. Young, Chatham Mass, 91 years
–The First New Hampshire Recipients of the Boston Post Cane–
Peabody H. Adams, Pittsfield NH 89 years
Joseph L. Avery, Wolfeboro NH, 92 years
Morrison Bennett, Alton NH, 87 years
Benjamin Bickford, Epsom NH, 90 years
John Brown, Loudon NH, 89 Years
Nathaniel W. Cheney, Franconia NH, 87 years
Levi Coleburn, Webster Mass, 86 years
John A. Cook, Lyme NH, 87 years
Elbridge Coolidge, Troy NH 82 years
William Cummings, Northumberland NH, 90 years
George W. Currier, Hopkinton, N.H. 93 Years
Richard B. Currier, Deerfield NH, 86 years
David E. Dudley, M.D., Northwood NH, 89 Years
George S. Eastman, Warner NH, 86 years
Sumner C. Eastman, Conway NH, 91 years
Azel R. Emerson, Alstead NH, 87 years
Warren L. Fiske, Dublin NH, 83 years
Oliver Fowle [Towle], Hampton NH, 94 years
Patrick Gillespie, Derry NH 92 years
Wyer Gove, Henniker NH, 95 years
Mark Ham, Strafford NH, 94 years
Nathaniel Hobart, Brookline NH, 87 years
William Hurlin, Antrim NH, 93 years
Charles W. Johnson, Campton NH 94 years
George H. Ketchum, Ashland NH, 88 years
Charles Kimball, Salem NH, 87 years
James F. Kimball, Belmont NH, 86 years
John P. Knowlton, Sunapee NH, 88 years
Elihu Libby, Gorham NH, 83 years
Tristram Little, Hampstead NH, 94 years
John N. Lyons, Bath NH, 89 years
James B. McGregor, Newport NH, 108 Years
George N. Merrill, Jackson NH, 83 years
Horace Metcalf, Gilmanton NH, 92 years
John J. Merrill, Barnstead NH, 99 years
Gilman K. Morrison, Littleton NH, 88 years
Joseph W Moulton, Hampton Falls NH 84 years
Addison Nason, Freedom NH, 90 years
Charles C. Noyes, Lancaster NH, 90 years
David Noyes, Colebrook NH, 91 years
Jonas B. Piper, Peterboro(ugh) NH, 88 years
Stillman Parkhurst, Bedford NH, 93 years
Hervey Putnam, Milford NH, 89 years
William J. Rockwood, Merrimack NH, 96 years (from local history)
John Roberts, Stark NH, 88 years
Charles Robey [Roby], Alexandria NH 81 years
Judson A. Senter, Hillsboro NH, 91 years
William E. Shattuck, Hancock NH, 83 years
James V. Smith, Boscawin [sic Boscawen] NH, 91 years
John R. Smith, Grafton NH, 80 years
Gilman C. Stone, Epping NH, 86 years
Joseph L. Thompson, Tilton NH, 92 years
Rev. Henderson B. Streeter, Hinsdale NH, 96 years
Peter Upton, Jaffrey NH, 93 years
Reuben S. Whicher, Northfield NH, 84 years
Zachariah F. Whitney, West Rindge NH, 93 years
Charles A. Wiggin, Tuftonboro NH, 87 years
Stephen Willey, New Durham NH, 82 years
–The First Rhode Island Recipients of the Boston Post Cane–
Albert Blackmar, Foster RI, 97 Years
J. Buel Buckingham, Barrington RI, 83 years
Josiah H. Hawkins, North Providence RI, 90 years
William P. Lewis, New Shoreham RI, 87 years
John O’Connor, Burrillville, RI, 90 years
The Boston Post Cane Information Center
I have heard of this, but didn’t know all the details. So where are all those canes now, I wonder!
Amy, which canes? The missing ones or others?
I guess any of them—do the towns still give these to their oldest citizens?
Amy, Yes, the towns that still have the canes give them out, OR a replica OR do a photo op with the cane and give them a certificate. Each town has its own method.
In the newly-published history of Brookline (NH), we have a section on the Boston Post Cane and its awardees – copies are available through the Brookline Town History Committee. There is an excellent series of books about the canes including one by Barbara Staples entitled The Granite State’s Boston Post Canes: A New England Tradition (1999, Flemming Press).
Roy thanks for letting me know about Brookline NH’s newly published history. As for the Staples books, I have heard of them but have not read any of them. All my work is performed from scratch so I prefer not to be influenced by other writers. Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog.
Fascinating. I had never heard of the Boston Post Cane. I was curious whether any of the canes ever went astray and ended up for sale/auction on eBay. I didn’t see any in my precursory search.
Actually I did hear of one that was sold on ebay. The buy in turn offered to back to the town who purchased it and now holds it in a display case. The sales would be rare, as the canes were not the property of individuals but of a town and so there might be a question of theft if they were turned in. The ones returned have been mostly done anonymously. I think probably misplaced or when an estate is being broken up not even knowing what it was.
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Is it possible to comply a historical listing of all annual recipients for a specific town in NH? If so, how would I go about getting the information.
Gail it is probably possible, but extremely time intensive. You start by contacting the town itself, town haall, historical society or commission to see if someone has already made the list. Second, look at town reports, newspapers, if no list already exists visit the senior center and perhaps a little ad in the local newspaper that you are looking to create such a list. Then the real work starts, researching them all to create a little bio. I did that for Merrimack only.
It is the town historic society who is looking for the info.
Which town, Gail?
When we did the history of Brookline, published last year, we gathered research from various sources, including the local historical society and newspaper entries. For which town are you seeking information?
https://www.bostonpostcane.org/the-canes/new-hampshire may have a list started — and if they don’t have a complete list, I’m sure they would love to know what you find!
interesting, so in all these 700 towns back in 1909 there was only *1* identified person over the age of 99…and he was 108. (in Newport NH). Pretty amazing.
Joanie, yes it appears so. Just remember that at this time no women were allowed to possess the canes, so this just reflects the oldest man in each town.