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White Bronze Headstones


Have you seen a White Bronze headstone? I just love to find them when I visit a cemetery. I enjoy seeing photos of them, so I have started a facebook group so we can share photos and hear what people think about them.

Between 1874 and 1912 the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT made headstones that were meant to “weather”. Made of sand cast zinc, they called them White Bronze for marketing purposes to make it more appealing to customers. The zinc carbonate gave the headstones a bluish gray color. Ionization of the metal would build in the welds to make for a sturdier hold on all joints.


They copied the same shapes and styles as marble and granite monuments, but were more durable with only a couple of problems. They are quite brittle and may break if hit by a falling branch. Also, after many years the unsupported weight could creep or sag causing some of the larger monuments to bow and crack. In this picture you see a chip most likely from the lawn mower.


These monuments were never really accepted by the public. Some cemeteries passed regulations that prohibited the use of these markers. Time has shown that these inexpensive zinc monuments have remained in excellent condition for over a century with fresh crisp details.


These monuments were ordered from a sales agent with a catalog, these salesman didn’t make a lot of money because the headstones where so inexpensive. They were so inexpensive some people felt it was not a proper way to honor their loved ones. The company mass produced them using molds. Having individual sections that could be bolted on so that custom panels with text or symbols could be added. The customers could make a choice and change the panels later if other family members died and could be laid to rest at this monument. In this picture you see the opening where one of these panels was stolen.


The Monumental Bronze Company opened other locations. Detroit Bronze opened in 1881 and closed in 1885. American Bronze operated in Chicago from 1886 to 1909. Western White Bronze Company opened in Des Moines 1886 and closed in 1908. The government took over the plant in 1914 for the manufacturing of munitions during World War I. After the war the demand for the monuments had faded however they continued to make individual panels for family members who died after the monuments were ordered. The company turned to making castings for automobiles and radios until it closed in 1939.





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Zinc Headstones – A

Tombstone Tuesday: Zinc or White Bronze

Book: Zinc Sculpture in America, 1850-1950 by Carol A. Grissom

Introduced in the United States as a new material for statuary in the mid-nineteenth century, zinc has properties that allowed replication at low cost. It was used to produce modestly priced serial sculpture displayed throughout the nation on fountains, public monuments, and war memorials. Imitative finishes created the illusion of more costly bronze, stone, or polychrome wood. This first comprehensive overview of American zinc sculpture is interdisciplinary, engaging aspects of art history, popular culture, local history, technology, and art conservation. Included is a generously illustrated catalogue presenting more than eight hundred statues organized by type: trade figures and Indians, gods and goddesses, fountain figures, animals, famous men, military figures, firemen, cemetery memorials, and religious subjects. The compilation of data on these statues will be valuable to scholars, filling the current void in research libraries. The author’s experience as a conservator will also make this an essential resource for historic preservationists seeking to repair statues now damaged by years of outdoor exposure.


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