Portrait courtesy of the New York Public Library digital collections.
Sporting a flowery name that sounds more at home with English nobility than American public service, Royal Macintosh Pulsifer was for many years a leading business figure in Massachusetts, where he was the business manager and part-owner of the Boston Herald Co., publisher of the like-named newspaper. Pulsifer would be elected to two consecutive terms as mayor of Newton, Massachusetts in the early 1880s, but later encountered financial hardship due to bad investments and business speculation. Pulsifer would die at his mansion in 1888, aged just 45, with many newspaper reports reporting that he took his own life.
Born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts on June 2, 1843, Royal Macintosh Pulsifer was the son of Nathaniel and Lydi Anne (Smith) Pulsifer. He removed with his parents to the neighboring town of Saxonville at age three and here attended public schools. One of Pulsifer's obituaries (published in the Erie County Independent) denotes his studying at a commercial college for a time, and while at college was headhunted by E.C. Bailey, the owner of the Boston Herald, for a post in the paper's accounting department.
Royal M. Pulsifer married in Massachusetts in 1866 to Clara Stacy Keyes (born 1844). The couple were wed until Pulsifer's death and had two sons, George Royal (1867-1923) and Lewis Warren (1869-1905)
After coming aboard the Herald, Pulsifer worked as a bookkeeper until 1869, and in that year he and several partners "were taken into the proprietorship of the paper", with Pulsifer remaining affiliated with its publication until his death. That same year saw E.C. Bailey sell off his interest to the new partners, and Pulsifer himself was selected as the Herald's business manager. His near two-decade connection to the Herald saw it gain "the largest circulation and largest income from advertising" of any newspaper being published in New England at the time, and with this success, Pulsifer amassed a fortune. This fortune allowed Pulsifer to reside with his family in a luxurious mansion complete with boathouse, stables, fountains, and a small park complete with deer, with the New York Herald designating the home as "probably, taken all in all, the most palatial of all the myriad of palaces in Boston's suburbs."
In addition to his connection to the Boston Herald Pulsifer branched out into other fields, including banking. He would serve as a director of the Commonwealth National Bank and the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company, and as a resident of Newton, Massachusetts, was active in the affairs of the local Swedenborgian church, called the Newtonville New Church society. Pulsifer was also active in the formation of the Cottage Hospital in Newton in the 1880s, and the Newton Club.
Royal Pulsifer made his first foray into Bay State politics with his election to the Newton board of aldermen in 1874. He served a one year term and was also a committee member that proved instrumental in obtaining the Newton City charter. He was elected as Mayor of Newton in late 1879, with his first term extending through 1880. He would win a second term that year and served through 1881, with both of these mayoral elections noted as "being practically unanimous."
From "Newton, Garden City of the Commonwealth", 1902.
Following his terms as mayor Pulsifer encountered financial misfortune through a series of bad investment choices. In the years prior to his death, the New York Herald noted that:
"Mr. Pulsifer allowed himself to be drawn into financial enterprises of almost every concievable sort--Mexican mines, North Carolina railroads, local land speculation and steamboat ventures. He appeared to think, like the ancient philosopher, that nothing human was foreign to him."This series of financial missteps eventually caught up to Pulsifer, and several months prior to his death was voted out as the Herald's business manager at a stockholder's meeting. With Pulsifer's "outside entanglements" distressing the stockholders, Pulsifer remained president of the Herald in name only and was reported to have been deeply hurt by being largely cut out of the business he'd headed for so many years.
Royal M. Pulsifer died at his mansion in Newton on October 5, 1888, aged just 45. The particulars of his demise were widely reported in newspapers of the time, and his sudden death led many to believe that he'd committed suicide. The most in-depth of Pulsifer's obituaries also remains the most confusing. In the October 21, 1888 edition of the New York Herald, Pulsifer is remarked to have committed suicide by an overdose of opium, and that:
"When the sad discovery was made it was evident that he had been dead some hours. The body, attired in a dressing gown, lay upon a bed, and all evidence pointed to a sudden and painless end. It is a sad fact that to-night, as the news has become known to those outside the newspaper offices, people are saying ''I am not surprised." Those conversant with the dead man's unfortunate speculations and with his most recent embarrasments, have, they now say, looked for some such tragic ending of this phenomenal career.''Despite this obituary denoting Pulsifer's use of opium "to end his troubles", a postscript is to be found at its conclusion, mentioning:
"The Herald will say tomorrow--"In the opinion of the medical examiner and the family physician, who made a careful examination of the remains, there was not the slightest evidence to lead to any conclusion other than death resulted from natural causes."Still more contradictory reports are to be found in the Abilene, Kansas Reflector, which notes that Pulsifer shot himself through the heart and that a "revolver was found on the bed beside the dead man." As a testament to Pulsifer's prominence in Massachusetts and the mystery surrounding his death, reports of his demise made it into newspapers as far away as Kentucky and Tennessee. Whatever the cause of Pulsifer's death, his demise at an early age robbed the Boston vicinity of one of its leading public men. He was survived by his wife and both sons and was interred at the Newton Cemetery in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
From the digital collection of the New York Public Library.
From the Clarksville Evening Chronicle, October 23, 1888.
Portrait from the "Iron Age", 1898.
Featured on this site's Facebook page back on June 2, 2015, Royal Day Cone possesses a name that may bring to mind a regal, elaborately decorated ice cream cone! A native of New York, Cone removed to Minnesota in 1855, where his business and political ambitions were realized. A bank director, wagon company executive, and merchant in the city of Winona, Cone was elected to two terms as mayor of that city in the late 1860s. Born in New Berlin, Chenango County on November 8, 1821, Royal Day Cone was the son of Benjamin and Emily (Root) Cone.
Young Royal Cone would spend his formative years on his family's farm in New Berlin, and attended schools local to that area. During his youth, he took employment as a clerk in a New Berlin store, and in June 1849 married Ruena Merchant (1823-1870), to who he was wed until her death. The couple had four daughters, Ida Emily (1856-1899), Etta Maria (1858-1883), Frances Royal (1860-1885), and Hattie Ruena (1863-1886).
Cone would leave New Berlin to go into business for himself in Rochester, New York, and until 1855 partnered with his cousin Horace in the firm of H.C. Cone and Co., "Wholesale and Retail Dealers in Plain Tin and Ornamental Japan Wares." Envisioning a bright future for himself in the American midwest, Cone removed with his wife to Winona, Minnesota in 1855, and resided there for the next four decades. Establishing himself in the hardware business in that city, Cone would later found the R.D. Cone Co., a general hardware corporation "built up by his careful supervision and direction." Cone's decades of residence in Winona saw him branch out into other areas of business, serving as director of the Winona Wagon Company, the First National Bank of Winona, and the Winona Western Railway Company until his death.
Royal Day Cone was first called to politics in Winona with his election to the local school board, and was later elected to multiple terms on the board of aldermen. In 1865 he won his first term as mayor of Winona, and during his two consecutive terms, 1866-68, "carried into the administration of city affairs that careful thoroughness, fidelity, and efficiency which so prominently characterized his whole business life."
Active in the affairs of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Cone was for over two decades its treasurer, and at various times was called to serve as a Sunday school teacher, steward, and church trustee. Several weeks prior to his death Cone's health failed significantly, and he was later removed to Hudson, Wisconsin for treatment at that city's sanitarium. He died there on November 21, 1898, aged 77, having outlived his wife and three children. He was survived by his daughter Ida and was interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona, Minnesota.
From the North-western Christian Advocate, Volume 46.