Boston Post Cane History
In August, 1909, Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, forwarded to the Selectmen in 700 small New England towns (no cities included) 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 made by J.F. Bradley 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-karat 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, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine towns were the primary recipients. No Connecticut towns were included and only two towns in Vermont are known to have canes.
Once considered the nation’s leading standard-sized newspaper, the Boston Post eventually entered into decline and went out of business in 1957.
The custom of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. But as the years went by, many canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town, otherwise not returned to the Selectmen, or destroyed by accident.
In 1930, after some controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well as men.
While many consider the cane an honor, candidates sometimes refuse to accept the cane because they consider it a curse. In November, 2001, three New Hampshire recipients all died on the same day – Nov. 14th.
In another New England twist, the Boston Post Cane made an appearance in Stephen King’s novel Needful Things.
Barbara Staples has written a number of books on the Boston Post Canes.
Source: Maynard, Massachusetts Historical Society
The Kingfield Boston Post Cane “Resurfaces”
The Town of Kingfield was one of the original recipients of a Boston Post Cane. Over the years, it became lost to the Town, although resident Beulah E. Moore traced it back to a family she knew that used to have it, but said she was told to “drop it because they didn’t want to talk about it.”
Moore was able to obtain an “original gold knob from a friend out of state and had it engraved at Trask Jewelry Store in Farmington, reconfiguring a Kingfield cane. It was then presented to the Town of Kingfield on September 1, 2002, during a dedication to a monument honoring soldiers of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish American War. At Moore’s request, the actual cane is always to be kept at the Town Office, with the oldest resident receiving a special certificate.
During the 2002 dedication, the new “Boston Post Cane” was presented to the oldest Kingfield citizen at the time, Floyd Ellis, then 99, who passed away on September 4, 2007, at the age of 104.
This brings us to the next eligible recipient, Kingfield resident Richard E. “Dick” Lambert, who celebrated his 100th birthday on September 15, 2007. This presentation took place at Webster Hall on September 18, 2007.
Mr. Lambert was born on September 15, 1907 in West Freeman, the son of Harry E. and Jenny Gray Lambert. He attended Strong schools and married Lucille Mitchell of Phillips at age 20. The couple had two children, the late Rosalind L. Starnes and Maurice Lambert.
He worked at Starbird Lumber Co. for 35 years, serving as the foreman of the garage, engineering and overseeing the building of the debarking plant; doing electrical work and acting as the foreman of the upper long lumber mill for 13 years.
Mr. Lambert then moved to Kingfield, running the Esso Gas Station on Main Street for 20 years with son Maurice, retiring in 1972. Mr. Lambert joined Farmington Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon for 14 years. He was recognized for his milestone birthday and long service to the church with a special Sept. 16 gathering in Farmington. Mr. Lambert also was a corporator for Kingfield Savings Bank and served on the Kingfield Budget Committee.
The couple moved to Strong, and Lucille died in 1996. Lambert moved back to Kingfield in 2006 to make his home with Maurice and his wife, Dot. Mr. Lambert’s hobbies include reading western novels. His favorite author of that genre is Louis L’ Amour.
And so, with the presentation of a symbolic cane in the form of a certificate, we continue the Kingfield honor roll that was started at the beginning of the 20th century.
The above personal information on Richard Lambert comes from an article by Laura Dunham, appearing in the Sept. 5, 2007 issue of The Original Irregular. – Greg Davis,CPM, Administrative Assistant
In April, 2009, Beulah Moore donated a maple case, constructed by Sten Jespersen of Farmington, to house the cane at the Town Office.
Tynne Neimi Pillman, Age 98
Date of Birth: July 10, 1910
Presented on March 12, 2009
Tynne Pillman was born July 10, 1910 in Viamaro County, Laitilia, Finland, the daughter of John and Kristiina Niemi. She attended some school in Finland. At the age of 11. she arrived at Ellis Island in New York with her mother in 1921. In October of that year, they took the two-day train ride to Kingfield, where she attended school.
In 1928, she moved to Quincy, Mass. where she married Alfred Pillman in 1930. Tynne became a naturilized American citizen on Feb. 10, 1949 in Farmington. Her husband died feb. 26, 1978 after 48 years of marriage.
The couple worked together in the timber industry for 40 years and she also worked at the H.G. Winter Mill and Wing PSpool & Bobbin woodturning mills.
Many remember the couple’s steam bath (sauna) business they operated in Kingfield for a number of years.