Wilton is accepting applications for the Boston Post Cane, which is given to the town’s oldest living resident. The cane, seen here on Friday, March 22, was established in 1909 with over 700 canes distributed throughout New England by The Boston Post. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

WILTON — The town of Wilton is now accepting applications for a Boston Post Cane recipient. Applications must be filled out and returned to the Wilton Town Office, located at 158 Weld Road, by 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 18.

The Boston Post Cane is an honor given to the oldest living town resident. The criteria for the award for the town of Wilton are as follows:

• The holder of the cane must be the oldest known Town of Wilton citizen. [If the oldest known citizen does not want to receive the honor, the cane will be awarded to the next eldest citizen that wishes to hold the title].

• Candidates must have been a resident of the Town of Wilton for at least the past five consecutive years. [The exception to this is if the recipient resides in a hospital, nursing facility, or other long-term facility or if they are living with family in another community].

Town Manager Maria Greeley presented the nomination papers to the Wilton Select Board on Tuesday, March 19, with two adjustments made to the language of the application.

The first adjustment was made in the Select Board designating the town manager as the person to present the cane to the recipient during the ceremony.


The second adjustment was in allowing recipients that meet the criteria of five consecutive years, but are forced to reside in a hospital, nursing facility, or other long-term facility or if they are living with family in another community, to keep the cane despite the change in location.

The Select Board voted unanimously on the application with the amended sections. According to the Wilton Town Office, the last recipient of the cane was Frederick Cunliffe. Cunliffe received the cane in 2009, and passed away in 2011. The last eligible recipient for the cane, Doris Cushman, turned it down.

The Boston Post Cane was established by Edwin Grozier in August of 1909. Years prior to this, The Boston Post was on threshold of going out of business.

Grozier had purchased the controlling interest in The Boston Post in October of 1891, during a period of low readership with the newspaper on the brink of bankruptcy. During his time of ownership, Grozier managed to turn the once failing newspaper into the largest circulating morning newspaper in the country around the turn of the century.

In 1909, Grozier had 700 ornate, ebony-shafted, gold-capped walking canes made and distributed to selectmen in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island towns.

The Boston Post Canes were given with the request that they be presented in a ceremony to the town’s oldest living man. In the 1930s, after some controversy it was decided that women could be eligible to receive the cane.


Since its inception in 1909, several canes have been lost or stolen over the years. For example, the cane belonging to the town of Bar Harbor was lost in a fire in 1947, but the town continues the tradition with another cane.

Other towns issue plaques or certificates to the official “cane-holder”, keeping the original Boston Post Cane within the town’s possession. Wilton, for example, has the original cane as well as a duplicate that it gives to the recipient. This is done to prevent heirs and other living relatives from keeping the cane and not returning it to the town.

Some towns have even put their cane under the protection of their respective historical societies.

Still, more than 500 towns in New England carry on the tradition with their original canes they were awarded in 1909. Even though The Boston Post ceased publication in 1957, the tradition of the cane carries on.

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