The Boston Post Cane

Hampton Union, Thursday, June 14, 1956

[Photos courtesy Bill Teschek, Lane Memorial Library - 2004]

[NOTE: Photographs were not in the original article.]
Mr. Charles Boynton, High Street, who celebrated his 92nd birthday last week, was presented the Boston Post cane Friday afternoon by Selectmen Donald Ring and Harry Munsey in behalf of the town of Hampton.

In a brief and informal presentation, Chairman Ring offered his congratulations to Mr. Boynton who had attained the honor of becoming the oldest man in Hampton and hoped that he would hold the cane for many years to come.

Mr. Boynton, when informed that he was eligible to receive the Post cane which was presented to the Town of Hampton. many years ago to be given to the town's oldest resident, seemed reluctant to accepting it as he didn't need it. However, when he learned that it is presented with intent of honoring and recognizing one who has reached an enviable position of being the fully accepted stating that he was the town's oldest resident, he gratefully accepted it and was both pleased and honored.

Though not too active, both Mr. and Mrs. Boynton, now in their 66th year of married life, enjoy good health. Mrs. Boynton carries on her daily tasks of the devoted, homemaker and Charles, whose general appearance belies his 92 years, keeps their second floor apartment in tip top shape and makes occasional visits about the neighborhood.

He attributes hard work, which he claims "never hurt anyone," as the main reason for his long life and he watches from his kitchen window the progress of the new elementary school because he spent nearly 70 years in construction work as a mason.

Though dates are a bit vague, the Boyntons estimated that they have been residents of the town for 50 years, coming here from Marblehead, Mass.

The Boston Post Cane in the cabinet in the Town Office Building.

The Boston Post Cane

Circulation 'gimmick', Now Americana

By Brendan DuBois

Hampton Union -- March 28, 1984

HAMPTON — The Boston Post cane is one of those arcane parts of New England history that remains alive today.

In 1909, the publisher of The Boston Post decided to distribute 431 canes to towns in New England as part of a circulation promotion.

The canes, made of African ebony and capped with 14-carat gold heads, were given to the selectmen of the towns, with a request that they be distributed to the oldest male resident in the town.

In the years following 1909, the canes in many towns have been passed on to subsequent senior citizens.

In Hampton, however, the Boston Post cane has been residing in the vault at the town office building for the past several years.

Town Clerk Jane Kelley said the cane has been in the vault since she started as town clerk over seven years ago. Kelley said she believed superstition helped retire the cane.


"People started to fear getting the cane," Kelley recalled. "The cane would be given out, and within a week, that person would be dead. It was awful."

Selectman Ashton Norton said he believed the last time the cane was handed out to a Hampton resident was back in 1973 or 1974. Norton said a mixture of complaints and confusion made selectmen retire the cane.

"We were having problems with people in nursing homes, and there was no way to find out who was the oldest or who was a native," Norton said. "Then we'd give the cane out, and we'd get complaints that we didn't give it to the right person. It got to be so much trouble the board decided to leave it in the town office building.

Hampton has not been alone in its decision to retire the cane.

In an article in the March, 1983, issue of "Yankee" magazine, it was reported that extensive research had come up with an accounting of where 400 of the canes ended up.

There is no record of where 31 of the canes went the article said. Out of the remaining 400, 27 where given to towns that lost track of them, three were destroyed by fire, two of the canes were in possession of people other than the oldest residents. 182 were being kept by women who were the oldest resident in their towns, and 74 were being kept by men who were the oldest in their towns.

Like Hampton, 112 of the canes were being kept by either selectmen or historical societies in the towns, the article said. The Boston Post folded in 1957, but its name lives on with the canes.

Norton said it is up to the selectmen to decide if the cane should be removed from the vault and the tradition of giving it to the oldest resident be started again.

"But it's caused a lot of problems," Norton said. "we need at least 25 of them."

[POSTSCRIPT: The Hampton's Boston Post Cane is currently on display in a glass case in the selectmen's meeting room of the Hampton Town Office Building,
100 Winnacunnet Road, Hampton, NH.]