Aug. 2, 1909: Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, sends a gold-headed ebony cane to the Board of Selectmen in each of 700 towns in New England, asking each board to present the cane to the oldest living male resident of that town.

Upon that man’s death, the cane is to be transferred to the next-oldest man in town. The tradition is expanded to include women starting in 1930.

J.F. Fradley and Co. of New York manufactures the canes from 7-foot lengths of ebony shipped from Africa.

Grozier does not send the canes to cities, only towns. Also, current research suggests that no towns in Connecticut or Vermont are included in the distribution.

More than a century after the distribution of the canes, many Maine towns still carry on the tradition by giving it to their oldest residents.

Historians in Maynard, Massachusetts, maintain a Boston Post Cane Information Center on their town’s website. Having sent out an appeal for information about the canes’ whereabouts, the group reports that as of 2016, 517 of the canes have been tracked down, and 227 of them are in towns in Maine.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.