Source: Plaistow 2005 Annual Report, p.124.
The tradition of the gold-headed Boston Post Cane and its presentation to the oldest resident of a New England town was conceived by a publisher of the popular Boston Post daily with an eye toward increasing circulation in1909. This publisher, Edward A. Grozier, spared no expense as he hired a leading cane-maker to turn the canes from an African imported ebony, gild the tips with 14k gold with a ferule on the lower end and a gold decorated head with the inscription:
“Presented by The Boston To Oldest Citizen Of (Town Name) New Hampshire To be Transmitted”
E. A. Grozier sent one of these canes to 431 towns in New England, none having been sent to Connecticut and only two to Vermont, with the stipulation that it was to be awarded to the oldest male resident and to be held by him until his death when it was to be returned to the Selectmen for their further award.
The Boston Post was published from 1831 to 1957. No results were published as far as we know of the circulation increase of this scheme. In 1930 women were declared eligible for this presentation but so many canes were lost, removed from town or stolen that many towns locked their original canes in display cases and awarded replica canes with the same conditions of return.
This is the direction Plaistow’s Board of Selectmen took in the mid-1970s when Chairman Barry A. Sargent of the Board presented Mrs. Emma Johnson, Railroad Ave., her cane at age 94. In 1984, Mrs. Bernice Davis was presented the cane by her grandniece, Board of Selectmen Chairman Mrs. D. Joan Keezer.
Other awardees in the last half of the century included: Mrs. Ottilee Smith, Maple Ave.; Mr. John Maddox, Auburn St.; Mr. Anthony Pappadopoulas, Main St.; Mrs. Dorothy Bennett Nabers, Shady Lane; and Mr. Charles Wheeler, Autumn Circle.
Plaistow’s original cane is displayed at the Historical Society Museum, 127 Main St. The awarding responsibility still rests, as originally, with the Selectmen.
One has to acknowledge the cleverness of a newspaper publisher who never asked permission but rather sent these canes to 431 boards of selectmen forever, it seems, requiring their time to determine the oldest resident, then at his/her death obtaining the cane again – sometimes not an easy task. We have never heard of a refusal to accept the award in this town but in many others it was so unwanted it was refused by the proposed recipient.
Plaistow Historical Society