Oldest citizen’s cane returned to Narragansett

© Courtesy of Narragansett Historical Society

Dee DeQuattro


The cane belonging to Narragansett's oldest resident has been returned. A gold cane dating back to 1909 that has been missing for 24-years has been recovered after being posted on eBay.

The cane was given to Narragansett in 1909 by Edwin Grozier, the publisher of the Boston Post. As part of a promotional stunt Grozier gave 700 New England towns a gold-headed ebony cane to be presented to the oldest male citizen of the town and to be used by him as long as he lives or stays in town. At the citizens death the cane was to be handed down to the next oldest citizen.

The canes were made by J.F. Fradley & Co., in New York from ebony from the Congo in Africa. Each cane was inscribed with “Presented by the Boston Post to the Oldest Citizen of, (insert town name).”

The canes were extremely popular but through the years many were lost, broken or stolen. In 1930 the canes were met with controversy as it was debated whether eligibility for the cane should be open to women as well. Eventually, it was decided that women should be eligible for the cane.

The last name inscribed on the Narragansett cane was R. Blanche Sullivan, who held the cane from 1954 to 1989. After Sullivan had the cane it disappeared.

The cane surfaced again in 2002, when it was posted for auction on eBay by Rhode Island Internet and Consignment & Sales, Inc. Sarah Isherwood of the RIICS recognized that the item may have historical value so she contact the Shirley Eastham at the Narragansett Historical Society to learn more about the cane. Eastham did some research and discovered the cane's origin. She then contacted the owner of RIICS, William Wolstenholme. Wolstenholme agreed the cane belonged in Narragansett.

The cosigner and owner who was trying to sell the cane through RIICS, Michael Collins of Waterhouse Antiques in Warren agreed to donate the cane to the town of Narragansett noting, “that's where it belongs.”

The cane was presented to the town of Narragansett at a council meeting on Monday and  is currently on display at the Narragansett Historical Society.

Past holders of the cane includes “Tefft,” “Hazard,” “Gardiner,” Boss,” “Perry,” “Brayman,” “Champlin,” and “Pelag Brown.”