Frederick Grader Zinc Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY
By Jane Anello
June 10, 2018
Monumental Bronze Company monuments were NEVER sold through Sears. They were sold by licensed agents throughout the country and even in Canada.
They advertised through post cards, calling cards that sometimes had zinc coins or zinc monument images on them, local and state fairs and the St.Louis Expo, booklets that included household hints, and ads in phone books and newspapers.
A real coup for them was a complete article in the Scientific American, including a cover full of images of their works. Recently on ebay, there was even a boxed monument sample that an agent could show to morticians and cemetery caretakers. In addition to Bridgeport, CT, they had foundries in Detroit, Des Moines, St. Thomas (Canada), and possibly St. Louis.
They were often contracted to create Civil War monuments for towns and villages.
One of the main reasons they went out of business was that the government took control of foundries in order to make weapons, ammo, etc. for WWI, turning the zinc foundries into iron foundries, and the cost for returning them into zinc foundries was prohibitive.
White Bronze Grave Markers
By Don Hall
The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery (online June 2018)
The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT produced sand cast zinc grave markers (sold as "White Bronze") from 1874 to 1914. The company's product is in cemeteries from coast to coast both in the United States and Canada. Usually there are just two or three examples in a cemetery, if any at all. Mt. Hope Cemetery has 12 burial sites that are marked with zinc.
Zinc grave markers stand out in a field of stone markers because of their characteristic blue gray color. After the markers sections were cast and assembled, they were sandblasted to roughen the surface, then treated with a metal finishing process called "steam bluing" which consists of covering the surface with a thin film of linseed oil, then hitting the surface with steam under a minimum pressure of 50 pounds per square inch.
The metal is nearly 100% pure. It weathers very well, and monuments made from zinc frequently look as good today as they did when they were first installed. They age better than marble, and are equal to the lasting qualities of granite. The markers were sold with the claim that they would last a long time, were about 1/3 less expensive than an equivalent marker carved from stone, and were modern and progressive. Their disadvantage is that zinc is brittle so the markers can be broken. Also, over time, large markers "creep" (sag), and so require an internal structure to support them.
Most of the markers have bolt-on panels so that an older monument could be kept up-to-date with newer burials. The panels themselves were made through 1939. A special tool, looking vaguely like a screwdriver but with a negative rosette bolt head where the end of the screwdriver blade would be, was used to loosen and tighten the cast zinc nuts.
Metal Monuments of Greenwood Cemetery
By Mark Culver
(Online June 2018)
Unlike their stone counterparts, these monuments have resisted weathering and most survive in excellent condition. These metal tombstones are over a century old and are rust-free. Ten of these monuments are labeled as White Bronze. They are not made of bronze however. These monuments were casted from pure zinc. Zinc forms a coating of zinc carbonate, that when it is left exposed, is rust resistent. The monuments have taken on a bluish-gray color that is a result of the zinc-carbonate. The term "white bronze" was used only to make the monuments sound more appealing.
These monuments range in shape and size, but possess many of the same characteristics. These zinc sculptures range from two feet high to as much as fourteen feet tall. Most of them are in the shape of an obelisk, four-sided monolithic pillars that taper as they rise. All have the family name molded on to them, usually at the base of the monument. The base of the sculpture is often cast to resemble rock.
Epitaphs are commonly found above the base of the sculptures. In the middle of each there is a tablet which contains names of family members, dates of birth and death, or symbols.
All monuments contain symbols, most of a religious nature. Some are topped with crosses, while others have Biblical scriptures quoted on their base.
One commonly found symbol, is a bushel of wheat. Wheat is used instead of bread to symbolize the body of Christ. On the grave monument it is used to show remembrance and gratitude for his sacrifice. It can also be used to symbolize that the great harvest has come and life has ended.
Another symbol commonly found is that of the rose. Roses symbolize beauty, and can also symbolize the Virgin Mary. Crosses are present on many of the metal monuments throughout the cemetery. The Latin cross is used as the symbol of Christ’s redemption for the sin of mankind. The letters I.H.S. can be found on a number of the crosses. These letters are an abbreviation for the Greek spelling of Jesus.
Other symbols commonly found on the monuments are hands. Scenes in which hands are clasped are meant to state that the union of love and family is stronger than death. Other symbols include wreaths, lilies of the valley, and angels.
The price that these monuments could be purchased ranged from under $10, to as much as $5,000. There were no showrooms to buy these monuments. Neither Bridgeport nor its subsidiaries sold these monuments directly. Instead sales-agents were used and were the backbone of the selling efforts. People chose the design of their monument by looking at ones already set up in the cemeteries. They could also choose designs through catalogs.