The year was 1909. Edwin Atkins Grozier, owner and publisher of The Boston Post, launched his most famous and longest lasting advertising campaign to increase readership of his paper: The Boston Post Cane. A letter was sent to the chairman of the of selectmen in many New England towns. With this letter Mr. Grozier asked them to become trustees of a fine ebony cane with a top of 24-caret sheet gold. He stipulated the cane was to be given to the oldest citizen of the town. Upon the death of that citizen the cane was to be returned to the town and quickly transmitted to the next oldest citizen. The canes were separately expressed to each town.
Some time prior to August 1909 Mr. Grozier had arranged for the manufacture of some 700 canes by J. F. Fradley & Co. of New York, widely recognized for their fine canes. The cane itself was crafted from ebony grown in the Congo of Africa then brought here, cut into the desired length, and seasoned for 6 months. Good specimens were then turned on a lathe to the desired size and allowed to season again. They were then given a coat of shellac, rubbed with a pumice, and coated with French Varnish. Each town received an identical cane except for the name of the town embossed on the head of the cane. The cane for Hudson read: “The Boston Post to the Oldest Citizen of Hudson ” in the center. Around the top edge was “New Hampshire” and on the bottom “To be Transmitted’ This cane was not just an ornament, it was designed for daily use by the holder.
Within a few weeks Mr. Grozier made it clear who was eligible for the cane. The intention from the beginning was for the cane to be presented to the oldest citizen, meaning the oldest registered voter in the town. In 1909 women could not vote so the cane was presented to the oldest male voter in town. Even after women could register to vote most towns continued the tradition of presenting to the oldest male voter. As far as Hudson is concerned the award of the cane followed the original intent until 1999 when the Historical Society assumed the responsibility of presenting the cane.
Mr. Grozier remained as owner of the newspaper until he passed suddenly in 1924 at which time his son Richard, also a newspaper man, took on the responsibility until 1946 when he also passed suddenly. The paper was then sold, circulation declined, and publication ended in 1956. What started as a campaign to increase circulation of the newspaper has turned into a century long tradition, outlasting the newspaper itself!
Hudson’s Selectmen in 1909 were James P. Howe, P. J. Connell, and George F. Blood. Soon after receiving the cane the selectmen presented it to Benjamin A. Merrill, Hudson’s first holder. Mr. Merrill passed in late October 1909; the cane was then presented to Hiram Cummings who held the cane until he passed January 7, 1910.
Some towns kept a record of the recipients of their cane. I have not found nor have I heard of any such early records being kept for Hudson. So, in an attempt to create such a list, I did some research. The remainder of this article shares my results.
Following Hiram Cummings (d:1910) research shown the honor was passed to Daniel Greeley (d:May 1916), Kimball Webster (d:June 1916), and Robert A. Andrews (d:1920). The next recipient I found was Clifton Buttrick who passed in May 1935 at the age of 89. Logic tells we there is an unknown recipient between Robert A. Andrews and Clifton Buttrick. Following Mr. Buttrick we have Willis P. Cummings (d:1939), Edwin Gowing (d:1940), David Monroe (d:1941), Charles L. Spaulding (d:1942), Charles Leslie (d:1948), Arthur S. Andrews (d:1949), Aldon Cummings (d:July 1950), Irven Smith (d:Aug 1950) and Charles Edward Cummings (d:1953). After the death of the younger Cummings brother in 1953 I found no further record of a presentation of the cane by the board of selectmen.
According to accession records of the Historical Society our Boston Post Cane was donated to the Historical Society by the Town of Hudson in 1971. It has been on display at the Hills House since that time; being used only occasionally for special presentations.
In 1999 the Society re-activated the tradition of the Boston Post Cane with updated eligibility rules. Both ladies and gentlemen are candidates with the requirement they be a resident of Hudson for the previous 20 years. The recipient is honored with a proclamation from the selectmen, a pin/tie clasp replica of the cane and his/her name engraved on a plaque. This presentation is made at the convenience of the recipient’s family.
Since 1999 we have 10 recipients. James Glispen was honored in 1999 at the age of 100. Lillian Leaor was Hudson’s first lady to receive the honor in 2005. Following Mrs. Leaor the recipients are: Ella Connell, Thelma Lemire, Ida Hill, Paul Wheeler, Mildred Emanuelson, Laura B. Landry, Clara Charest, and at present Doris Widebeck.
Before leaving the history of honoring our oldest residents I share a couple of events which occurred during the 1970’s. The first event was Founders Day in 1973; a week long celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of Dunstable. For this event Hudson sponsored a parade which proceeded from School Street down Lowell Road, to Jacques Field. Being the oldest native of Hudson Ralph Steele (d:1999) was selected as the Grand Marshall.
The second event was the Bi-centennial in 1976; again celebrated with a parade from School Street to the site of Memorial School. The grand marshal for this event was 96 year old William D. Tandy. Mr. Tandy(d:1978) had previously been recognized by the Hudson Lion’s Club as early as 1974 as the oldest man in Hudson.
If any readers have additional information or insights into missing Boston Post Cane recipients please contact me via email at HudsonHistorical@live.com. The photo of the cane was taken by Sue Misek and is part of our collection at the Hills House. Written by Ruth Parker this article appeared in the August 16, 2020 edition of the Nashua Telegraph.