|White Bronze |
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.
|A White Bronze Stands Out|
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|
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.
|Small White Bronze for Child|
|Another Child Stone|
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|
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.
|Monumental Bronze Company|
|Invoice for Monument|
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.
|Detroit Plant Mark|
|Four sided Monument|
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.)
|Simple 2 sided Marker|
|Elaborate Monument with Statue|
ranged in size from a few inches for name ‘stones’ to over 25 feet high with
|Marker with Name and Days|
|Fraternal Symbols Available|
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.
|White Bronze Monument Catalog|
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|
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.
|Confederate Solider at Bardstown, KY|
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|
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.
|Sales Agent's Card|
|Monuments without Panels|
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.
|Custom Name Panel|
|Monument with Multiple Panels|
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.
|Six Paneled Monument|
Love this post! I had no knowledge about these monuments, and I love learning new things. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it Laura! Once you start finding the white bronze, they become addictive! ; )ReplyDelete
Excellent article- I have a salesman's sample from the company and have seen others. Mine is a one piece casting representing a half section of a monument and is screwed into a carrying case. Evidently the original color was a dark gray- weather has lightened the color of most, almost to a blue shade.ReplyDelete
Eric, Albany NY
Thanks Eric! I didn't know they had salesmen's samples. Gonna keep a lookout for one. Thanks for sharing!!Delete
Just thought you guys might be interested in what my company is trying to do. We are looking to bring back these monuments into the modern world, Look for them coming soon. And the guy that has the sales sample I would like to contact. firstname.lastname@example.orgDelete
I've been looking for a monument for my grandfather's graveyard and finally I got a lot of options to choose from. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
The white bronze are gorgeous but, sad to say, no longer available.Delete
nice post Joy. U have post lot of samples of White Bronze monuments. Many people can get idea for there beloved memorials from your blog good work keep it upReplyDelete
Thanks! I appreciate it!Delete
I also have a salesman sample. It is a full monument (tablet style). No longer has the case and has been filled with concrete. Also a recent find is a hard bound 122 pg catalog from the Detroit White Bronze company. It pictures two styles of salesman samples - the one I own and an obelisk style. The catalog is from the early 1880s.ReplyDelete
Would love to discover one of their salesmen's catalogs. That truly is a find!!Delete
My third great grandmother, d.1899, grave is marked with a white bronze marker. The top portion of the marker is missing and I would really like to have an idea of what it looked like. Anonymous and Joy, could I send you a picture of the marker to see if you could find something similar in the catalog? Sincerely, BillReplyDelete
Bill, please do. Would love to see if we can find one similar.Delete
It sure would be great if someone would resurrect this manufacturing process - it could provide a more affordable way to have a 'stone' for a grave.ReplyDelete
Also, my hometown village of St. Vincent, Minnesota recently discovered that one of the graves has a 'white bronze' stone. It had fooled everyone in recent years, all the old-timers long gone who might have known, we had to research it. Thank you for the lovely history.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this information, I learned a few new facts!ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading!Delete
Found your site riveting, we share a love of "touring" grave yards. A friend and I discovered our first metal marker in Maine when she spotted a civil war soldier cameo on a marker. Someone has tried to color the uniform with what looked like blue marker. We only hope it was a misplaced restoration effort of a relative.Delete
Unfortunately, these markers do suffer abuse. An urban myth involves people hiding their money behind the white bronze panels. Vandals then knock them out "just to see." Coloring the uniform is the same thing. It all goes back to the Tombstone Tourist rule: Take only photos; leave only footprints.Delete
Great article about "zinkers" and wonderful pictures of them. Cemetery here in Amarillo, TX has a zinker. It was a fabulous find!!ReplyDelete
Thanks! Love these stones.Delete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
Are there any reprints of the salesmans catalog one can acquire.ReplyDelete
I would check on Ebay and other auction sites. A rare opportunity might be a library book sale. Slight chance but worth watching for.ReplyDelete
Found this site after noticing white bronze monuments here at Hillsdale cemetery in Hillsdale, Michigan. They look so untouched by age that at first I assumed they were reconstructions of old tombstones. But no, they are the original tombstones. Fascinating!ReplyDelete
My second great grandmother's headstone is white bronze and it is beautiful almost 135 years later! Thank you for the information!ReplyDelete
Does anyone make these type anymore? I would love to have one for myself and my spouse. Any leads to share?????ReplyDelete
Yes, there is one person that I know of who was doing this. His name is Dale Spencer and he is on FaceBook. Also check out the FaceBook page for White Bronze headstones at https://www.facebook.com/groups/210120245693740/ReplyDelete
There are two links on that page, one does show the headstones etc, the other "seeagrave" takes you to gambling sites and gammers sites. So that part is spam, be careful people. Thanks for the info however.Delete
Awesome report!! I have done some research on them but didn't come close to this level of completeness.ReplyDelete
Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria
We actually have six (I believe) in San Geronimo Cemetery in Seguin, Texas.ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete