The Zinker Project

What can the rise and fall of the popularity of these metal memorials teach us today? I’d like to find out.

In my cemetery wanderings, I discovered a type of headstone or memorial called a “zinker.”  “Zinker” comes from zinc, the metal they’re cast from. Called “white bronze” markers by the manufacturer, they were made from the 1870s until about 1914. This article has a very nice and concise overview of zinkers:

Photo by the author

I quickly became fascinated by zinkers. My dad taught welding, so I’ve always been interested in metal arts. There’s an amazing variety of sizes, types and styles, and a level of detail, not always seen in stone monuments. And if zinkers were more affordable than marble or granite, why didn’t I see more of them?

The main curiosities I have about zinkers:

  • Just how many sizes, types, and styles are there anyway?
  • How did zinkers get sold and installed across the West? How much less did they cost than stone? Could a zinker put a fancy memorial within the reach of an average family?
  • What can we learn from the zinker phenomenon that could help us today? As new technology and attitudes begin to revolutionize the death industry, can the rise and fall of zinker popularity teach us anything that could help us develop healthier and more affordable ways to deal with dying, death, burials and memorials?
Photo by the author

To answer questions like these, I’m starting what any writer does: research and write a nonfiction book. “The Zinker Project” will be that book, a sort of “cultural history of the zinker” in conjunction with an online catalog of zinker shapes, as much as I can reconstruct. (The catalog is in the works; I’ll update this post when it’s available.)

I already know quite a bit about zinker manufacture and repair. What I don’t have are the people stories behind zinkers: who made them, who sold them, who bought them and why.

Photo by the author

There won’t be many people alive today who would have sold or bought these metal memorials. If you know of any family lore, books, articles, museums or other information that would be helpful, please do contact me.

Stump and Lamb explores personal growth and meaning via travels to pioneer cemeteries of the West. Posts may contain affiliate links.

This post was originally published at

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