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Ossipee selectmen hope to revive Boston Post Cane tradition

May 15, 2014
OSSIPEE — Selectmen here are hoping citizens will help as they try to find the oldest living resident in Ossipee. Selectmen want to revive the tradition of presenting the Boston Post Cane. Back in 1993, after both of the oldest residents in Ossipee at that time declined the gift, the Cane was given by the selectmen to the Ossipee Historical Society for safekeeping.

A website dedicated to the story of the Boston Post Cane and the whereabouts of the canes today details how the tradition began and continues today. "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," according to Maynard Historical Society "The Boston Post Cane" website at http://web.maynard.ma.us/bostonpostcane. That website is also frequently updated as historians work to try to locate the whereabouts of all 700 original canes.

Ossipee Selectmen discussed at both their May 5 and May 12 meetings their hesitation about giving the cane away for fear it might not make it back to the town's possession. Though no final decision has been made, it appears the board is in agreement with historical society members that the cane be "presented" to the oldest resident along with a certificate and photo opportunity.

Anyone who might know the oldest residents in town is asked to call Ossipee Town Hall at (603)539-4181 and give that information to staff.

Appointments and resignations

In other selectmen's meeting news this week, the board regretfully accepted the resignation of Martha Eldridge from her position on the budget committee and announced that committee appointed former selectman Kathleen Maloney. There is still at least one seat to fill on the committee and Julie Rosiak attended the selectmen's meeting to let the board know why she would like to fill the vacant position. Rosiak, who said Town Meeting is her favorite day of the year, said she regularly volunteers to help with community volunteer work but wants to be more involved with town government. Ultimately, it is up to the budget committee members to vote who will be appointed to the seat.

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