Made of white bronze, hollow tombstones remain in Oakwood Cemetery

Pictured is the tombstone of Dr. David Terry as it lays in Oakwood Cemetery. Terry was born in Trenton, New York where he practiced medicine for several years before opening a lucrative practice in Syracuse. By the time of his death in 1878, he was a known medical professional in both Oneida and Onondaga County. When he passed, the Syracuse Standard wrote that “Death did not find him unprepared, he was ready, fully prepared to exchange worlds.” He was just 49 years old.

Terry’s tombstone was cast from a mold using a zinc alloy known as white bronze. This was a popular trend in the late 1800s as it offered an inexpensive alternative from granite or marble stone structures. Most all models were sold by The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were sold through catalogs and sale agents only, where shoppers chose a specific monument including the design and panels.

Tombstone made of white bronze in Oakwood Cemetery

A company catalog published in 1890 provided a scientific review from a local professional who stated: “I can see no good reason why these monuments should not last as long as the Pyramids of Egypt.” Although popular for some time, because of the affordability and aesthetics, they soon became known as cheap imitations, peculiarly because they were hollow on the inside.