White bronze a.k.a Zinky

Have you ever heard of Zinkys? You may have come across one or two in your cemetery travels. I know I have, but it has only been until recently that I discovered what these beautiful stones are. That is one of the many things I love about my cemetery community, I am always learning new things from my fellow taphophiles.

St. Mary’s Cemetery, Sturgeon Falls ON ©2021

Zinkys as they are lovingly referred to is also known as white bronze. They look very similar to carved stone headstones, but they are made from a zinc alloy and are hollow. These monuments were generally less expensive than carved stone, and are a lot more durable. You will often find intricate designs on white bronze headstones, that are still perfectly legible. You can recognize a white bronze headstone by its bluish-grey color, and giving it a gentle tap should produce a hollow sound.

According to Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider, in the United States during the prohibition era, it was claimed that bootleggers would sometimes pry the panels off of these metal monuments to hide their booze.

Eyre Cemetery, Sudbury ON ©2021
“White Bronze Co. St. Thomas Ont.” Eyre Cemetery, Sudbury ON ©2021

Here in Canada, the White Bronze Company of St. Thomas, Ontario produced zinkys from 1883 to 1900. It was a child company of Monumental Bronze Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut.1 According to Connecticuthistory.org, Monumental Bronze Co. only produced white bronze between 1874 and 1914. In 1914, World War I saw the facilities turn from creating pure zinc tombstones to creating gun mounts and munitions.2 After the war, it seemed that tastes had changed, and public demand shifted to other natural materials for grave markers.

Gordon Cemetery, Gore Bay ON ©2021

These blue-grey markers are truly beautiful in person. They range in size and detail, but I always find myself fascinated by how perfectly intact they are. I have come across a couple of broken ones, where a cross or spire has been broken off, but the names of the deceased are always legible.

Since learning about them, I have kept an eye out for them in my cemetery travels, and have been rewarded a few times this summer. I look forward to finding more in my travels.


1https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313349405_The_St_Thomas_White_Bronze_Company_A_Diffusion_of_Innovations_Perspective

2https://connecticuthistory.org/monumental-bronze-company/