History of the Boston Post Cane
In 1909, a circulation-boosting campaign launched by Boston Post publisher Edwin Grozier started a tradition that is still being followed throughout New England.
Mr. Grozier came into possession of 700 walking canes, which were made of black ivory and tipped with 24-carat rolled gold heads. Mr. Grozier had the canes mailed out to 700 towns throughout New England (with the exception of Connecticut, where the Post did not circulate), and the selectmen of each town were entrusted with the task of awarding the cane to their town’s eldest male citizen, to be passed upon his death to his successor. On the head of each cane was stamped, “The Boston Post Cane,” and, “To the oldest resident of Colebrook.”
The Post wrote that the men who held the canes would “present an interesting Galaxy of the vigor and longevity of New England manhood.” With each presentation of the canes, the Post would run a story and photograph of the recipient, in hopes that the man’s friends and fellow townspeople would buy the newspaper. The stories usually consisted of an interview with the recipient, in which he would attribute his longevity to either abstention from alcohol and tobacco, or daily use of them. The first man to receive a Boston Post cane was Solomon Talbot, age 95, of Sharon, Massachusetts.
In 1930 the rules governing passage of the cane were expanded to include women. The publicity stunt that brought about the cane passing tradition apparently didn’t work, as production of the Post ceased in 1956. According to research conducted by Eleanor Burns of Dorchester, Mass., most of the Boston Post canes are still being passed along as originally intended. Some have vanished over the years, either lost in closets or attics, taken out of New England when families moved, burned in fires or buried with the holders. Mrs. Burns has made a hobby of keeping up on the locations of the canes, and has been able to find 400 of them. in two instances, the families refused to give the canes up, and in one or two other cases, Mrs. Burns believes the present cane is a substitute. Her research does prove, however, that most New England towns are still carrying on the tradition of passing along the Boston Post Canes according to Mr. Grozier’s wishes.
— Information in this history derived from Newspaper Row, copyright 1987 by Herbert Kenny.
For further information on the Boston Post Cane, you may wish to read “The Granite State’s, Boston Post Canes, A New England Tradition” by Barbara Staples.
Colebrook presents a duplicate of the Boston Post cane ceremonially and the holder is given a plaque with an inscription about the cane. You may see the cane at the Town offices on display in a glass case.
First recipient: David Noyes, at the age of 91
The oldest citizen of Colebrook, David Noyes was born in 1818 at Columbia, where he received his schooling. Later, he moved to Colebrook. Mr. Noyes was married twice and has 12 children, none of whom are living. Always an industrious and energetic man, Mr. Noyes has been a successful farmer his entire life. Despite his advanced age he has the appearance of a man of 70 years and enjoys good health. He believes his longevity is due to a clear conscience, payment of his bills and voting for 70 years the democratic party. (Boston Post, 10/31/1909.)
Mr. Noyes married first Lucy Walling and had 11 children; his second marriage was to Mrs. Sarah Rowell and they were parents to three children, making him father to 14 children. Mr. Noyes has been a life long Democrat, and is at this age quite a politician. (The Berlin Reporter, 9/23/1909.)
Mr. Noyes was born January 16, 1818, the son of Samuel Noyes. He died on March 4, 1915 at the age of 97.
Following is a list of the Boston Post Cane holders in chronological order:
— Samuel Hall, 1916
— Elizabeth Bridge, 1924, 98 years (Oldest person in Town, unknown if she actually held the cane.)
— Henry Eastman, 1925, 95 years
— William Aldrich, 1833 – 1930, 96 years
— Edwin Lull, 1929, 92 years (Oldest man in Village.)
— John Gould, 1932, 95 years
— Seth Grapes, 1935 (Oldest man in Town.)
— Bridget Shallow Hilliard, 1936, 95 years
— Hannah Jane Ripley, 1941, 98 years
— Alma Martin, 1955, 94 years
— John Bannister, 1956, 94 years
— Irving Brackett, 1956, 94 years
— Hollis Stevens, 1958, 93 years (Declined the cane.)
Cane was not released again between the years of 1958-1967 per then Selectmen Beaton Marsh
— Jennie Walker, 1961, 94 years (Oldest citizen) Did not receive the cane per her daughter-in-law
— Orphie Hook, 1967, 100 years
— Melinda Hicks, 1973, 95 years
— Josephine Carlton, 1976, 98 years (Oldest resident, unknown if she actually held the cane.)
— Jed Lyons, 1980, 103 years old at death
— Harry Marsh, 1983, (Oldest citizen. Son, Beaton, says he did not receive the cane.)
— Alma Jackson, 1985, 101 years
— Bella Shallow, 1988, 102 years (Daughter, Bertina Jondro, says she did not receive the cane.)
— Ida Gould, 1990, 101 years old at death
— Ada Baker, 1993
— Gerald Young, 1994
— Florence Hebert, 1994, 96 years
— Erwin Bennett, 1998, 96 years
— Ruth Walker, 1998, at age 97 years
— Yvonne Paquette, 2000, 96 years
— Viola Sutton, 2005, 95 years
— Thelma Fogg, 2006, 95 years (Died 2010 at age 99)
— Ervena Rainville, 2010, 99 years (Died 2011 at age 100)
— Mary Keazer, 2012, 97 years (Died 2017 at 102)
— Leonie Laura Beloin Riendeau, Received Cane June 2017 (Died July 2021 at the age of 105)
— Ruth Brooks, 2023, 100 years