Rock of Ages 8: White Bronze

Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY, 1905

White Bronze: It’s All the Rage

Markers that appear to be made of a bluish-grey stone are actually made of molded metal.

Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY, 1905
Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY, 1905

The material was called “White Bronze,” to make it more appealing to customers, but it was really pure zinc. The metal was heavier than iron but lighter than lead. [56] They were sold as modern and progressive, equal to the lasting qualities of granite, aging better than marble and about one-third less the expense, [57] , [58] but these markers were later perceived as “cheap and faddish” [59], [60] and were even prohibited in some cemeteries. [61], [62]

The White Bronze Company of St. Thomas, Ontario had obtained the sole Canadian franchise for the products of the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, but it was the Bridgeport plant alone that was responsible for making all the monuments. [63]

Left exposed to the elements, the monuments rapidly formed a tough and very durable skin of zinc carbonate that protected the underlying metal, giving the characteristic bluish-grey colour.

The majority of zinc monuments date from 1875 to 1912, but there are a few as late as the 1930s that can be located in cemeteries across the United States and Canada. [64]

Due to its brittleness, breakage and seam separation are the most common damages to these monuments followed by corrosion and “creep.” [65] Repair work for these problems requires professional conservators and is very expensive.

[56] Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY [Internet] http://www.fomh.org/AboutUs/zinc/
[57] Culver, Mark. Metal Monuments of Greenwood Cemetery. 1998. University of Iowa (updated 2008 Dec 07) http://www.uni.edu/connors/metalmon.htm
[58] Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY [Internet]
[59] King, Greg G. Michigan Historic Cemeteries Preservation Guide. 2004: McNaughton & Gunn Inc, Michigan
[60] Sinan, Alma. “Symbols in Stone: White Bronze Monuments,” The Raven’s Call (Winter 2010, Toronto, ON)
[61] ibid.
[62] Milk Row Cemetery Guide, Somerville, Massachusetts (2002, Somerville Historic Preservation Commission)
[63] Stewart, William G. The White Bronze Monument Company 1883-1900 St. Thomas, Talbot Times. Dec 1988: 7(4) Newsletter of Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society [Internet] http://www.elginogs.ca/talbottimes/talbottimes1988dec.htm
[64] Johansen, Lynn. Zincmarkers (2008) [Internet] http://www.zincmarkers.com/
[65] King, Greg G. Michigan Historic Cemeteries Preservation Guide. 2004: McNaughton & Gunn Inc, Michigan
When a monument’s underlying support system is inadequate, zinc has the “unusual characteristic” of sagging. This is called “creep.” As it slowly sags under its own weight, it deforms.

2 Comments

  1. Any contact info for persdon/companies doing conservation work on White bronze monuments? I need to try and find a replacement panel for a monument in Oakville ontario. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s