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Millinocket's Boston Post Cane

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

In 1909, the editor of the Boston Post sent letters to about 700 New England towns (no cities). His idea was to have the selectmen present a cane provided by the Post) to the oldest male resident as a way to increase newspaper circulation. (In the 1930’s, women were made eligible to reserve a cane). The canes would be held by the recipient as long as they lived or moved from town. Then the next in line would receive the cane.

The canes were made of African ebony, polished and varnished. The head of the cane was covered with 14 carat gold (rolled into sheets, cut in to discs and soldered to the top of the cane. The top of each cane was engraved with: “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of…. To be transmitted.”

Millinocket was one of the towns that received a cane and that cane currently resides on display at the Millinocket Historical Society Museum! It was given to the museum upstairs in the Millinocket Municipal Building in 1986 by the town. It had been in the town office vault for several years.

Which former Millinocket residents had the honor of holding Millinocket’s Boston Post cane? It would be nice to have a list and information about each one. Who is currently Millinocket’s oldest resident? We know there are several 90+ and one or two 100+. When did the practice of presenting the cane in Millinocket come to an end? The Millinocket Historical Society has many questions and is hoping for help to find answers.

Over the years, many of the original canes have been lost, not returned, or destroyed by accident. Bar Harbor lost their original cane in the big fire of 1947. Some towns required a person to be born there.

Many are now preserved by local historical societies and instead of giving out the canes, a plaque or certificate is presented to the oldest resident. A number of Maine towns have carried on this tradition for many, many years. There is currently a list on-line which gives information by town (nothing on Millinocket yet). If you would like to help gather a list of former Millinocket cane holders, contact MHS!

The Millinocket cane is part of a new museum display that also includes photos and postcards of early churches, buildings, Penobscot Avenue and other early town scenes. There are paper items from Millinocket’s 25th, 50th and 100th celebrations and the 1930’s new Post office. An original stained-glass window displayed is from the first (or one of the first) houses in town, the Dr. Ryan & Rosalie (Rush) Ryan house (no longer standing), on the corner of Central St. & Highland Avenue. Stop in and check it out!

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