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Robert Edwin Bonner (1824 – July 6, 1899)[1] was an American publisher, now best known for The New York Ledger, a weekly story newspaper. He owned famous trotting horses and he was a prominent supporter of the Presbyterian Church and Pastor John Hall.[2]

Bonner was born in Ireland on April 28, 1824, near Derry; his ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians. He arrived in America in 1839, where his uncle owned land in Hartford, Connecticut. Bonner became an apprentice in the printing trade and worked at the Hartford Courant. There he was an extraordinarily fast compositor.[3] Completing his apprenticeship in 1844, he moved to New York and worked for the organ of the new American Republican Party (later Native American; Know-Nothing) while he lived by "practicing the most rigid economy".[3] When it suspended operation he found work at The Evening Mirror, a daily launched in 1844. He began writing and contributed to various newspapers in other cities.

He worked at The Merchant's Ledger, a financial weekly, in the advertising department and became involved with printing that newspaper. He purchased it in 1851 and changed the name to The New York Ledger in 1855, when he sought a wider readership by running articles by well-known writers. He also used advertising to raise the profile of the paper and increase the circulation.

Around 1856 Bonner became interested in horses and, in particular, the "trotting" form of harness racing. He paid large sums for his horses; one of the most famous was Dexter, a gelding that cost him £35,000.[4] He did not gamble or race for money, but there was a rivalry between Bonner and Commodore Vanderbilt over who had the best horses.[5]

Bonner was a philanthropist who preferred not to make his donations public, but he was a known supporter of the Princeton University and contributed $131,000 towards the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.[6] He was also president of the Scotch-Irish Society of America.[7]

Bonner married Jane McConlis in 1850 and they had six children although one child, Martha Agnes, died in infancy.[8][3] Bonner's wife Jane died in 1878.[9]

In 1887 he passed the Ledger to his three sons. Robert Bonner's Sons published dime novels, too.

Pastor John Hall died September 1898 in Ireland and one son, Andrew Allen Bonner, died in December 1898. According to his obituary, Bonner never recovered from the shocks; his health and interest failed. He was confined to a bed at times during June and he died on July 6, 1899. He was survived by sons Robert Edwin and Frederick and daughter Mrs. Francis Forbes.[1]

Bonner is the namesake of the city of Bonner Springs, Kansas.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Bonner is Dead". The New York Times. July 7, 1899. Page 1 obituary.
  2. ^ "Breeder and sportsman". San Francisco, Calif. : [s.n.] July 2, 1882 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b c Shields, Kevin. "Robert Bonner". Ramelton Tidy Towns. Ramelton Tidy Towns. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Dexter is Dead" (PDF). The New York Times. April 22, 1888. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Mr Robert Bonner" (PDF). The New York Times. December 26, 1888. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  6. ^ Jessup, Henry Wynams (1909). History of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of New York City, from 1808 to 1908. New York: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. p. 55. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  7. ^ The Scotch-Irish in America. The Scotch-Irish Society of America. 1895. p. 1. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Martha Agnes Bonner (1858-1859)". Find a Grave. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Mrs Robert Bonner" (PDF). The New York Times. April 3, 1878. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  10. ^ Morgan, Perl Wilbur (1911). History of Wyandotte County, Kansas: And Its People, Volume 1. The Lewis Publishing Company. p. 320.

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