Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hilltop Markers

December 1, 2009

Huntington Rural Cemetery spreads across several hillsides along the west side of Route 110, New York Avenue, in this village on Long Island's North Shore. Names familiar to the town's commercial signs and its very streets dot the landscape, giving the grounds an air of coincidental oddness.

I think this may be the only zinc marker in this place, although I haven't covered all of the grounds. It's over seven feet tall, and was raised to the memory of Hester King, the young wife of J.M. King, who died in 1886 at the age of 33.

To those of you visiting via Taphophile Tragics, a short explanation about zinc markers is in order, as they are, to the best of my knowledge, unique to the United States.

These are hollow, metal grave markers that were manufactured by a company called Monumental Bronze, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the east coast of the U.S.  They were only made for 37 years, between 1875 and 1912, and all of them came from the single foundry.  They were marketed up and down the east coast and midwest United States by sales representatives, in many designs that could be chosen from catalogs. (This was long before the Truth-in-Advertising era; though cast in zinc, they were called 'white bronze' for enhanced sales cachet.  Color-wise, they're actually closer to a light gray, or gunmetal blue.)

There were numerous advantages to using these markers: they were durable (though sometimes prone to metal fatigue in the taller examples), the bas-relief lettering is perfectly legible to this day, and convenient (the monuments had removable panels for the names of the deceased; unused panels had symbolic embossing until the space was needed).  And being made of 99% pure zinc, they wouldn't rust, and naturally repelled organic growths, so no vines or moss would ever cling to their surface.

More information about these unusual markers can be found here.
This was shot with the InfraRebel, using the 17-40L @ f4 -17mm - 1/4000 sec - ISO 400


Sharon said...

King of the hill?

Neil J Murphy said...

So why aren't you writing my headlines?

Sharon said...

In my head, I am.

Dina said...

It is a nice moody photo.
This is all new to me about zinc markers. I hope you don't have metal thieves in your area.

Shalom from Jerusalem.

hamilton said...

They sound like a perfect permanent monument. I suspect the advent of WWII did not help - the metals would all be taken over for munitions.

NixBlog said...

Thanks for the explanation about zinc markers, I hadn't heard of them before. I like your treatment of the photograph!

Ann said...

Really interesting, haven't seen anything like this. Beautiful treatment of the photo.

Sondra said...

I like the infared works very well with this shot. Interesting that I have never seen any of these markers here, YET that is. Maybe more common in the North. Very interesting post!!

Julie said...

Thanks for the historic note, Neil. I have no knowledge of zinc (!) markers here in Australia. Mostly we use some variation of rock, although in older and smaller graveyards, wood is not uncommon.

Hamilton mentioned about the need for various metals during WW2. I know people had to give up fences and house decorations. Is there any record of grave markers being requested by the federal government?

I suspect the metal markers might be safe from theft through pure ignorance.

I am glad we do not have them here in Australia. One of the things I like about wood and stone is that the 'jungle' reclaims!

Thanks for your contribution to Taphophile Tragics again this week. I do like ladels of history with my graveyards.

s.c said...

Also a very nice shot,Like it. Here we use mostly bronze or copper but these days there are a lot of thieves around. In building restorations from around 1880 I encountered a lot of zinc work as basements of columns . From the outside they looked like marble (painted) but in reality hollow and from zinc. The marble stairs and walls where also from painted wood. Only the places where you could lay you hand on where from real marble. Like the upper part of a stone (read wood painted) trap railing.

Gene said...

Nice shot, and great bit of history on the zinc markers.