NOTE: The following obituary of George Munro appeared in theFireside Companion several months after his death.
GEORGE MUNRO, the well-known and philanthropic publisher, died suddenly on Thursday morning, April 23d, at Pine Hill in the Catskills, whither he had gone to superintend repairs and improvements on his country home.
He fell dead on the road between the late Doctor Howard Crosby’s house and his own, while walking, after breakfast, to the spot where his men were engaged at work on the ground. A medical examination showed that heart failure was the cause of death.
A telegram was immediately sent by the care-taker to the dead man’s family, and the body was brought by his sons to Mr. Munro’s late residence, No. 15 West Fifty-seventh Street, New York City, and was interred at Greenwood Cemetery on Monday, April 27th.
George Munro was born in Nova Scotia, November 12, 1825. By dint of his own efforts he received the best education the province afforded, and from 1850 to 1856 he was instructor in mathematics in the Free Church College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the same time completing a course in theology. But he was destined never to occupy the pulpit.
He came to New York in 1856. He had only a few hundred dollars in his pocket, and no position assured. His first employment was with the American News Company, at a very small salary.
His position and his earlier education set him thinking of the problem of cheap and yet good literature for the masses. After a small preliminary venture with a series of cheap novels, he started, in 1867, THE FIRESIDE COMPANION. This was followed, in 1877, by THE SEASIDE LIBRARY, the first numbers of which, in the order of their appearance, were “East Lynne,” “John Halifax,” “Jane Eyre,” A Woman Hater,” The Black Indies,” The Last Days of Pompeii,” “Adam Bede”–a catholic choice of attractive but standard works.
The margin of profit in these books was small, but the business was large and increasing. George Munro became a rich man, and the American people secured the best popular literature at prices hitherto undreamed of. It is this revolution in the publishing business that gave him his reputation with the general public.
But to a narrower circle is known the use he made of his wealth. He endowed professorships of physics, literature, philosophy, history, and constitutional law in Dalhousie College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and made gifts to it for scholarships and other purposes, so that his total benefactions to that institution aggregated nearly five hundred thousand dollars. He was also a benefactor of the New York University. At the time of his death, he was a member of the council of that university.
About three years ago he retired from business, devoting his time to the care of his property interests.
He was an ardent though liberal-minded Presbyterian, and his donations to church objects were large and continuous. He was a member of Doctor John Hall’s church, and was highly esteemed by his pastor. Besides unfaltering faith and piety, his chief characteristics were courtesy, kindliness, self-control, indefatigable industry, and in business a judgment of men and affairs that is seldom surpassed.
A widow and four children–two sons and two daughters–are left behind. The sons, George W. and John, are engaged in the publishing business, in the firm of George Munro’s Sons. The younger daughter is at home, and the other is the wife of President Schurman, of Cornell University.
Source: The Fireside Companion. June 6, 1896.
NOTE: This clipping is available in the Albert Johannsen Collection in the Special Collections Department of the Northern Illinois University Library. It is included in the folder marked Beadle Novels, Volume 2. The date was written in by hand is probably wrong as Munro died in 1893, not 1896.