The Boston Post Cane

In August 1909, Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, Publisher of the Boston Post, a newspaper, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 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 received it.

The canes 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 hands of the oldest citizen. Apparently no Connecticut towns were included, and only two towns in Vermont are known to have canes.

In 1924, 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.

The custom 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.

In 1930, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well.

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Boston Post cane certificate
Certificate presented at cane ceremony by the town of Wintrhop, Mass., in 2010, photo by Bill McCurdy, license:
Article below highlights discovery of missing Boston Post cane.


Recorder Staff
Friday, May 3, 2013
(Published in print: Saturday, May 4, 2013)

GREENFIELD — More than a year after it mysteriously vanished from Town Hall, the rolled-gold top of the town’s Boston Post Cane has returned.

Its discovery is almost as much of a mystery as its disappearance.

Local historian Peter Miller knows, but he’s not telling. Friday, he stopped by The Recorder newsroom with his prize before bringing it back to Town Hall.

“It was given to me by a well-known man, who had it in his possession for some time,” said Miller mysteriously. “It just appeared. I was hoping something like that would happen. I’m just glad to have it back.”

In October of 2011, it was discovered that, though the cane sat, locked in its display case, its gold head was missing. The discovery was made when the town’s Historical Commission was considering resuming the tradition of giving the cane to the town’s oldest citizen. At the time, it hadn’t been done for about a decade.

Miller believes the case was unlocked or slid off the wall, the cane’s top pried off, and the wooden shaft returned to the case.

The thief, Miller believes, was more interested in the cane’s monetary value than its historical significance.

The canes are given yearly to each town’s oldest resident, provided that the recipient has lived in town for at least 10 years. The tradition, started by the Boston Post, dates back to 1909.

Miller said the thief likely thought he or she got their hands onto a piece of solid gold, and was sorely disappointed when they found out it was merely gold-plated.

That gold-plated head was damaged during the theft. Its engraved surface is scratched and dented, and the collar that holds it to the shaft was torn where it was pried off.

Miller said the man who returned the cane’s head to him said that it could be reasonably repaired.

Boston Post Cane

Missing “Boston Post’ cane returned to New England town

Written by Associated Press
Wednesday, 06 March-2013 16:43

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (AP) – A ceremonial gold-tipped cane given to the town of Narragansett more than a century ago has been found, 24 years after it disappeared.

The cane was found at a consignment shop near East Greenwich and placed on eBay for a short time before history buffs figured out what it was. Antique dealer Bill Wolstenholme of Lincoln, R.I., presented the cane to Narragansett’s Town Council Monday night.

The cane and about 700 like it were given to towns throughout New England by the now-defunct Boston Post newspaper during a promotion that began in 1909.

Officials then gave the canes to their towns’ oldest residents, whose names were inscribed on them. When a cane holder died, it was given to the next oldest resident.

The canes were made by J.F. Fradley & Co., a New York manufacturer, from ebony shipped in 7-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They were cut to cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, finished and polished. They had a 14K gold head 2 inches long, decorated by hand, and had 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.”

“I can’t thank Bill Wolstenhome of Rhode Island Internet Consignment & Sales, Inc., Lincoln, R.I., and Mike Collins of Waterhouse Antiques, Warren, R.I., enough,” said Shirley Eastham, of the Narragansett Historical Society, who helped coordinate the return of the cane.

Collins, who found the cane in a consignment shop, agreed to donate it to the town, saying “that is where is belongs.”

The cane will be on display at Town Hall.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts