On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the Gray Town Council voted to approve a new Boston Post Cane Policy, thereby restoring a New England tradition.
The Boston Post Cane tradition started as a publicity stunt for the Boston Post newspaper in 1909. The publisher of the Boston Post, Edwin Grozier, issued a special cane to the Board of Selectmen in over 700 New England towns; no cities were included. The cane was constructed of imported ebony from Africa & the head was made of 14K gold with an inscription that read, “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) – To be transmitted.”
The Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and present it as an honor to the town’s oldest citizen. The person would hold the honor as long as they lived and upon the person’s death, the cane would be awarded to the next oldest citizen. Many of the original canes have been lost, destroyed, stolen or possibly even buried with the holder!
Recent research by Town Clerk Elizabeth Bullen and the Gray Historical Society indicate that our own Boston Post Cane may have gone missing many decades ago. Barbara Staples has written several books on the BPCs; she reported the Town of Gray’s cane as missing and believed to have been burned in a fire in the 1920s.
Our town’s first recipient of the cane was John W. Frank. He was a Civil War veteran and a California Gold Rush ‘49er. Frank died in December 1923 at the age of 89 and that was about the same time that our cane went missing.
This year, the Town purchased a replica Boston Post Cane with plans to bring the tradition back to Gray. While not ebony and 14K gold, the replica cane is wooden with a gold-colored head. The original inscription is the same and “Gray, Me.” is engraved on it.
Those who proposed the revival of the Boston Post Cane tradition - Elizabeth Bullen, Karen Taylor of the Gray Historical Society, Ann Elkanich, and Debi Curry - believe that bringing back the BPC tradition to Gray will serve to honor our eldest citizens.
For more information, visit the Boston Post Cane Information Center sponsored by Maynard, Massachusetts.