Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"White bronze" by any other name is plain old zinc

 Someone asked yesterday about cast-metal tombstones in the Chariton Cemetery, which gives me an excuse to write again about one of my favorite monuments and to make reference to two of Lucas County's most sensational murder cases --- not a bad combination (from a story-teller's perspective).

That's James Stanley's wonderful confection above --- a pristine museum-quality (if there were a tombstone museum) example of a Monumental Bronze Co. zinc design manufactured with special order embellishments not long after James died during 1885.

Monumental Bronze called its creations "white bronze" because it sounded classier than zinc --- but zinc they are --- and remarkably durable. Zinc, when exposed to the elements, forms a very tough and durable skin of zinc carbonate that protects the underlying metal and gives it that unmistakable blue-gray coloring.

I've convinced myself that there are three of these zinc tombstones in the Chariton Cemetery, but could find only two on Tuesday and abandoned a search for the third after endangering three pedestrians by driving slowly around peering off to the side while looking for it. Help me, Martin Buck (the resident expert on zinc tombstones).

Another zinc monument, much smaller, is quite near the Stanley marker and commemorates Rosend, wife of Paul Krile, who died during 1886.

Both of these monuments would have been ordered from a catalog carried by a Monumental Bronze Co. representative who would not have been popular with local purveyors of tombstones. 

Monumental Bronze manufactured these monuments --- as well as related products including statues, fountains and other garden and outdoor decor --- in Bridgeport, Connecticut, from 1874 until 1914. It also established subsidiaries in Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Thomas (Canada) and --- Des Moines. The Des Moines branch, known as Western White Bronze Co., opened in 1886 and closed during 1908.

Both of these monuments are stamped "Western White Bronze Co., Des Moines."

There is some disagreement about exactly where the monuments were produced. Some writers insist that all the casting was done in Bridgeport and only finishing work was carried out by the subsidiaries. However, rail cars loaded with zinc rolled regularly into Des Moines from Kansas with material for the Western White Bronze Co., so it sees likely that casting occurred there, too.

Zinc monuments have proved to be extraordinarily durable and their inscriptions and and decorations remain almost as sharp and crisp now as when manufactured. They did not catch on, however, perhaps because consumers looked upon them as a tinny substitute for the real deal --- marble or granite.

They have two disadvantages. Zinc is brittle and can break. If you look at Rosend's monument, you'll note that it has cracked. Surface wounds suggest that it was struck by some cowboy riding a lawn mower. In addition, larger top-heavy monuments --- and these came in many sizes --- can sag, also resulting in damage.


I'm going to come back another day and write more about zinc tombstones, but will end this morning by pointing out the juxtaposition in the photo of Rosend's monument of three types of tombstone ---  zinc in the foreground, Charles Archibold's white marble tombstone (also dating from 1886) in the middle and the later tall granite Milthorpe family stone in the distance.

Eternal neighbors in the Chariton Cemetery, Rosend and Charles also share another somewhat bizarre link --- their relationships to two of Lucas County's most sensational murder cases, both of which I've written about previously.

Rosend's husband, Paul Krile, was convicted of manslaughter after killing Israel Hixson with a gunstock blow to the head on Dec. 30, 1875, out in Cedar Township.  You may read about that case here. And Charles Archibold was murdered by his neighbors, Thomas and Margaret Kelley, during April of 1886 in Chariton. Here's the link to more of that story.


Martin said...

My unorganized notes have five in the Chariton Cemetery: Stanley, Krille, Clouse, Mrs. Clouse, and Goodale. All are in the same general area, just as you pass through the gate. There are only a few more scattered around Lucas County--a nice one at Brownlee Cemetery, a Mary Elizabeth Keatie and a simple one at Niswender, a William Taylor.

Frank D. Myers said...

Thanks! I'm going to go take a look.