When is a headstone not a stone?
Photo by Anastasia Stanmeyer
Short answer: When it’s a “zinkie.” Our search for unique cemetery monuments made of zink turned up numerous examples in the Berkshires. Pittsfield’s Wahconah Cemetery has several with names such as Parker and Hemenway. More can be found at Adams’s Maple Street Cemetery, including the names Crawford and Alger. And tiny Tyringham Cemetery has a surprising collection of zinkies, including the Steadman and Dowd plots. Other cemeteries in Becket, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, North Adams, and Sheffield have zinkies, too.
Experienced cemetery researchers say that the little-known monuments are often taken for slate or granite. A Bridgeport, Connecticut, firm produced the metallic grave memorials between the 1870s and about 1914. Perhaps because zinc sounded cheap, they were sold as “white bronze,” ironic in that they were neither white nor bronze. But the monuments stood the test of time, and they are equally attractive as many stone markers, even after a century weathering the elements. Zinkies were the subject of a humorous urban legend as well—that criminals used the hollow interiors to store contraband.
Spooky October is a fine time to enjoy a cemetery walk in the brisk air and brilliant foliage, and you can make it a search for zinkies. Look for ornate memorials with greenish-gray tints and tap gently on the plates with a finger. A hollow metallic sound will confirm that you have found an historic zinkie. Once you have found one, you will easily identify others. If you find no zink monuments, it may be because some cemeteries banned the “cheap” metal markers.