Friday, September 5, 2014

White Bronze - A Monument for All Time


(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2011 on those gorgeous White Bronze Monuments.)

White Bronze
A White Bronze Stands Out
Cemetery wanderers throughout the U.S. and Canada can probably remember the first time they came across a white bronze monument.  The oddness of the marker draws you in, fascinates you, and makes you want to learn more.

Although not white, and not made of bronze, these memorials are usually very detailed, always different, and found in very good to excellent condition. 

For a Family Marker
Small White Bronze for Child
White bronze monuments are easy to spot once you start looking for their telltale bluish-grey color.  They come in many different sizes from small name ‘stones,’ to ornate 4-sided monuments, to statues. Even though they are constructed from metal, they are actually hollow! And interestingly enough, the same company manufactured every one of them.

Another Child Stone
Intricate Details
White bronze monuments were most popular during the 1880s to 1900, a time when many people considered granite and marble stones to be too expensive.  Zinc, which is the element that makes up 99% of a white bronze monument, offered a less expensive alternative for a custom designed and detailed grave ‘stone.’  But there were those who looked down on the white bronze marker as being a cheap imitation of a solid granite stone.  Some cemeteries even banned them, probably due to the urging of local granite and marble monument companies.

Bridgeport, CT Plant
Monumental Bronze Company
The technique for constructing these zinc monuments was developed in 1873 by M.A. Richardson of Chautauqua, New York.  Richardson, along with two business partners tried to get a company off the ground but failed.  In 1879, the rights were sold and a new company, the Monumental Bronze Company, was incorporated in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

Invoice for Monument
Detroit Plant Mark
The original casting of the zinc monuments was done at the Bridgeport headquarters, while subsidiaries - the foundries and assembly plants, were located in Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and St. Thomas, Canada. Each plant could place its name on the base of the monument to show where it had been assembled and shipped from.

Four sided Monument
Simple 2 sided Marker
To create a white bronze marker required several steps.  An artist would begin the process by carving similar designs used on traditional granite and marble headstones into wax forms.  Plaster would be poured into the wax forms and allowed to set, creating a plaster cast.  A second, identical plaster cast would then be made. This would be the cast that the sand molds were made from and cast in zinc.  The zinc castings were then assembled and fused together with molten zinc.  Once assembled and fused, the monuments were sandblasted to create a stone-like finish. And the final step, a secret lacquer would be applied to chemically oxidize the monument, creating the bluish-grey patina – hence the name white bronze. (Much more romantic sounding than zinc.)

Elaborate Monument with Statue
Marker with Name and Days
Monuments ranged in size from a few inches for name ‘stones’ to over 25 feet high with statues.

Fraternal Symbols Available
White Bronze Monument Catalog
Every white bronze marker was made to order. With over 500 monuments to choose from the possibilities were infinite. To begin, a base and monument shape would be chosen.  Then selected panels would be placed onto the monument with special screws. These panels included images of flowers, fraternal symbols, religious designs, and other Victorian motifs.

Catalog Drawing
Custom Epitaph
Panels with the person’s name could be created, or relationship panels saying ‘Mother,’ ‘Father,’ ‘Baby,’ were available.  Epitaphs or religious verses could also be put on a panel.

Ad for White Bronze Soldiers
Confederate Solider at Bardstown, KY
But white bronze markers were not just for individual or family graves.  Towns in over thirty states across the U.S. purchased white bronze Union or Confederate soldiers to place in their veteran’s cemeteries or local parks to honor their war dead.

Monument Creeping
Stress Fractures
Although white bronze monuments weathered well, they have one flaw known as ‘creep.’  This occurs when the weight of the top of the monument bears down onto the base and it begins to bow or bulge – very slowly, over the years.  The only way to rectify this is to place a stainless steel armature inside the base to help support the upper weight.

Catalog Drawing with Price
Sales Agent's Card
Unlike traditional gravestones and markers, there were not any stores where you could go to see or purchase a white bronze monument.  These zinc markers were sold only through company catalogs and in person by sales agents. If you wanted to see a white bronze marker, you would have to go to the cemetery. The sales agent would provide catalogs for the buyer to select the type of monument wanted, what designs were wanted on the panels, and names to be used. Prices ranged from $2 to $5,000.

Monuments without Panels
Custom Name Panel
White bronze monuments were made for only forty years, from 1874 to 1914. With the advent of World War One came their demise.  Zinc was needed for the war effort and the Monumental Bronze Company was taken over by the government to manufacture gun mounts and munitions.  Although the company did continue to exist until 1939, they never produced another monument.  Instead, they tried to maintain the industry by crafting panels for existing monuments.

Monument with Multiple Panels
Six Paneled Monument
The Monumental Bronze Company always claimed that the white bronze monuments were superior to granite and marble gravestones.  And after 100 years, this claim has proven true.   The outstanding quality and durability of the white bronze monument has indeed survived, and become even more popular, right into another century.


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Look Back at the Vicitms of Jack the Ripper

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2012 about the Victims of Jack the Ripper.)

This Sunday marks the 126th anniversary of the first of the ‘official’ murders attributed to an unidentified serial killer, given the monikers, "Leather Apron, "The Whitechapel Killer," and “Jack the Ripper.”  Almost a century and a quarter later, the five murders remain unsolved.  Many suspects have been identified, but no one has been undeniably determined to have been “Jack the Ripper.”

The “Official” Five
Nichols Body Discovered
Mary Ann Nichols
It was in the middle of the night on August 31, 1888, when 43-year-old Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols was found murdered in the Whitechapel district of London.  Nichols, a local prostitute, was found lying in front of a stable on Buck’s Row, with her skirts raised.  Her throat had been cut twice and her abdomen slashed deeply several times.  The coroner placed the time of death around 3 A.M.

Marker for Mary Ann Nichols
City of London Cemetery
Nichols’ body was held at the Whitechapel Mortuary until the following Thursday.  She was buried on September 6, 1888 at the City of London Cemetery in Ilford.  Nichols death was the first police officially attributed to “Jack the Ripper.”

Annie Chapman
Where Chapman was found
About 1:45 on the morning of Saturday, September 8, 1888, 47-year-old Annie Chapman found herself without money for lodging.  Worse for drink, she headed out into the streets to earn the necessary funds. Her body was discovered around 6 A.M. Her throat had been severed by two cuts, and her abdomen had been laid open.  It was later discovered that her uterus had been taken. 

Manor Park Cemetery
Annie Chapman was buried at Manor Park Cemetery on Friday, September 14, 1888. Her funeral was kept secret by her family in order to avoid crowds. Chapman’s grave no longer exists; it has since been buried over.  

Searching for suspects
Headlines of the Day
It was after Chapman’s death that the police realized the same person could have committed both her murder and that of Mary Ann Nichols.  The two crimes were so similar that the investigations were merged into one and officials began searching for one suspect.

Police News Headlines
After Chapman’s murder, the public, panicked by the thought that a murderer was loose on the East End, began observing curfews, careful to travel in groups.  The police began investigating any lead that came their way, many hoaxes dreamed up by those wanting to trick the local police.  But after three weeks without a murder, it seemed that maybe the worst was over…. 

Elizabeth Stride
Discovery of Stride
The night of September 29th was wet and cold.  Forty-four-year-old Elizabeth Stride had been drinking with friends that Saturday evening, spending the money she’d earned earlier in the day, cleaning rooms.   Around 11 P.M. she was seen working the streets.  At 12:45 A.M. on September 30th, Stride’s body was discovered. She was lying by a fence in the yard near the International Workers Educational Club.  Her throat had been gashed deeply, but it appeared the murderer had left quickly.

East London Cemetery
Grave of Elizabeth Stride
Elizabeth Stride was buried on Saturday, October 6, 1888 in the East London Cemetery at Plaistow.  The local parish provided for her short funeral and burial.

Catherine Eddowes
The police had just arrived on the scene of the Stride murder when yet another murder was occurring nearby. Forty-six-year-old Catherine Eddowes had spent her Saturday evening in a cell for drunks at the Bishopsgate police station. She was released at 1 A.M. when she was able to stand and walk out of the station unaided.  At 1:45 A.M. Eddowes mutilated body was found by a beat cop in the corner of Mitre Square.  Her throat had been cut, her face disfigured, her abdomen laid opened, and the intestines pulled out and laid over a shoulder. Her left kidney and most of her uterus had been taken.

Marker for Catherine Eddowes
City of London Cemetery
Catherine Eddowes was buried on Monday October 8, 1888 in the City of London Cemetery in an unmarked grave.  A plaque was placed by cemetery officials in 1996.

Kelly's Room
The last murder officially attributed to Jack the Ripper occurred sometime during the early morning hours of November 9, 1888.  Twenty-five-year-old Mary Jane Kelly had gone out about 11 P.M. on Thursday, November 8th.  She returned to her room in Miller Court around 11:45 with a man.  She was heard singing in her room around 1 A.M. and was reportedly seen taking another man to her room sometime after 2 A.M.  A neighbor reported hearing the cry of “Murder” about 4 A.M. and someone leave the room close to 6 A.M.

Mary Jane Kelly
It was almost 11 A.M. Friday morning when a man sent to collect Kelly’s rent, looked through her window and saw what was left of her mutilated body on the bed.  Police determined that she had been killed by a slash to the throat before the mutilations were performed.  It was reported that her heart was missing.  Kelly’s body was the most maimed and disfigured of the five.

St Patrick's Catholic Cemetery
Marker for Mary Jane Kelly
Mary Jane Kelly was buried on Tuesday, November 19, 1888 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone.  No family attended her funeral.  During the 1950’s, the cemetery reclaimed Kelly’s grave.  A small plaque was placed in the cemetery in the 1990’s.

Murder Location for Emma Smith
Other murders might have been committed by Jack the Ripper, beginning with 45 year old Emma Elizabeth Smith on April 3, 1888 in Whitechapel.  She was attacked, sexually assaulted, and died the next day of peritonitis at London Hospital.   Her killing was the first recorded of the “Whitechapel Murders.”

Surgery Implements
Although the M.O. (modus operandi) does not follow the Ripper’s later actions, it could be that he had yet to settle on a technique.  It is considered more likely that the media made the connection for added interest to the Ripper murders during the autumn attacks.

Martha Tabram
The other murder, prior to the “Autumn of Terror”, involved 39-year-old Martha Tabram.  She was murdered August 7, 1888 in Whitechapel.  She died from 39 brutal stab wounds.  Police thought that the closeness of the date to the five attributed murders, along with the savagery of the attack, a lack of motive, and the location warranted it to be considered as a Ripper murder. 

Discovering Another Body
It is worth noting that both women fit the victim profile; dark hair, single, heavy drinker, prostitute.  No one was ever arrested in either murder.  The other “Whitechapel Murders” included Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, and a woman who was never identified.

The Murders
Location of 1888 Murders
The “Whitechapel Murders” occurred from April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891. A total of eleven women, all prostitutes in the Whitechapel area, were brutal murdered. Five were attributed to Jack the Ripper, the others were considered to likely be Ripper victims.

Police questioned over 2,000 people during and after the murders. Of those, over 300 people were investigated; eighty were taken in and detained.  Although scrutinized, most were not believed to be seriously involved. Some were considered but had alibis, and a few have remained top suspects for well over 100 years.  But no one was ever charged with any of the murders.   
After 126 years, it is doubtful that the identity of Jack the Ripper will ever be known.  It appears the murders of this serial killer will remain part of a historical whodunit for all time.

~ Joy