B. E. Pudney – Sidney, New York Postcard Publisher

August 12, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

B. E. Pudney was a prolific publisher of postcards depicting the scenes of Delaware County, New York and the surrounding region. Located at the village of Sidney, he was also a well-known businessman, at times operating a clothing store, a bicycle shop, a stationery store, an automobile garage and a famous music store.

 

Main Street, looking North, Sidney, N.Y.Main Street, looking North, Sidney, N.Y. Main Street, looking North, Sidney, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

Biography

 

Herbert Eugene Pudney, more commonly known as Bert or B. E., was born on February 24, 1868 at Sherburne, Chenango County, New York. He was the son of Denison E. Pudney (1823-1907) and Betsey Cordelia (Cole) Pudney (1825-1913).

 

According to the family genealogy, the Pudney family in the United States can be traced back to John Pudney (c. 1636-1712), who resided at Salem, Massachusetts in 1662.[1],[2] He married Judith Cooke (b. 1643), daughter of Henry Cooke, on November 18, 1662 at Salem. John Pudney worked as a husbandman, or farmer, and eventually acquired, according to his will, a house, farm, orchard and about forty acres of land, which he then left to his son Jonathan Pudney, of Salem.[3] The surname Pudney, or Putney in earlier days, can be traced even further back to the parish of Putney in the County of Surrey, England.

 

Denison E. Pudney, B. E.’s father, was first married to Frances E. Royce on September 8, 1847. She passed away at Sherburne on December 7, 1853 and is buried at Sherburne Quarter Cemetery in Sherburne, Chenango County, New York.

 

Denison and Betsey were married several years later on March 4, 1857 at Butternuts, Oswego County, New York. Denison worked as a farmer in Sherburne. Betsey was born on March 4, 1825 at Gilbertsville, New York. Her father, Richard Cole, was one of the pioneer settlers of Otsego County. On her mother’s side, she was descendant of soldiers of the American Revolution, for which “she was proud and often referred to it in her later life.”[4] She was a resident of Sherburne for 52 years. She passed away at Manchester, Connecticut on August 6, 1913. Both Denison and Betsey are buried at Sherburne Quarter Cemetery in Sherburne, Chenango County, New York.

 

The 1870 United States census listed 2-year-old Herbert living in the household of his parents Denison and Cordelia B. at Sherburne in Chenango County, New York. Also listed as living in the household were Herbert’s siblings, Walter, Emma, William, Frank and his twin-brother Herman. Denison was listed with an occupation of farmer and 17-year-old Walter was listed with an occupation of farm laborer.

 

The 1880 United States census listed 12-year-old Herbert living with his parents Denison and Cordelia in Sherburne in Chenango County, New York. Also living in the household were Herbert’s siblings, William, Frank, and Herman. Denison was listed with an occupation of farmer, while Herbert and Herman were listed “at school.”

 

Getting an early start in the business world, Pudney began his work in the mercantile industry as a clerk in 1884 at the young age of 16. By the late 1880s Pudney was operating as a clothing dealer on the Exchange Block at the village of Oxford in Chenango County, New York. The business, called Pudney & Brooksbank, was operated in partnership with Robert Brooksbank. This partnership only lasted a short time, and was dissolved in 1891. However, the business continued to operate as Brooksbank & Son.

 

Pudney then quickly established in 1891 the firm of Pudney and Freeman, in partnership with Edmund B. Freeman, who “is an active business man, well known in Sherburne and vicinity.” The business, located at Oxford, was also known as The Corner Store. Pudney and Freeman also opened a branch clothing store at Gilbertsville in 1891.

 

Pudney & FreemanPudney & FreemanSidney Record. November 25, 1893.

"Pudney & Freeman, Bennett Block, Sidney, N. Y.

The greatest bargain givers in central New York. Every article a bargain. Every article a prize. Every article at one price to all and that the lowest.

With every Thirty Dollars purchases of us we will give Shepp's Photographs of the World.

Pudney & Freeman are the leading Clothiers in central New York."

Sidney Record. November 25, 1893.

 

On September 1, 1893 the Pudney and Freeman partnership opened a new branch store at the village of Sidney, Delaware County, New York. It was reported that the partnership had taken a three-year lease of the large store on the north side of the Bennett block. With the store opening, Pudney and Freeman intended “ to carry a stock of goods that will draw customers from a large radius of territory . . . The firm is blessed with a good block of capital and along with it they have push and energy. They will sell the best grade of goods at very low prices, and by fair dealing they will endeavor to win a share of patronage from our village people as well as those of the surrounding county.”[5] The partnership was dissolved after a few years as of April 1, 1895.

 

After the dissolution of the Pudney and Freeman partnership, Pudney then quickly went into business for himself at Sidney, continuing to operate a clothing and shoe store. During the 1890s Pudney, who was an avid cyclist, also began selling bicycles, specializing in the sales of Victor bicycles, a product of the pioneering Overman Wheel Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. Pudney was the exclusive agent for the Overman company for Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties. He would open additional bicycle shops at Edmeston in 1900 and in the Peck building at Gilbertsville in 1901.

 

In 1894 Pudney was one of 23 charter members who established the Sidney Cycle Club. Arthur Bird was selected president of the club, Miss Lottie Johnson as Vice President and Pudney as Captain.

 

Pudney and his wife were considered to be among the best cyclists in the region. In 1894 the Pudney’s “rode on their wheels to Oneonta last Monday, returning the same day, – a distance of 45 miles, heavy roads and big head winds.”[6] In 1895 they rode from Sidney to Cooperstown, a distance of 45 miles, in six hours. They also rode from Sidney to Albany, a distance of 104 miles, in 15 hours. The Sidney Record also wrote of their notable long-distance ride to the Adirondacks.

 

“Bicycle riders who ride 75 miles per day for four consecutive days are few in the land. We refer to those of the male persuasion, and when this can be said of a lady rider, it is a record worth noting. Mrs. B. E. Pudney and her husband took a trip together to the Adirondacks some time ago. The distance from Sidney is 300 miles, and the trip was made in four days, some of the roads in the northern part of the State being the worse that the sun ever shone upon.”[7]

 

Sarah, Bert’s wife, “who by the way owns the handsomest lady bicycle in town, enjoys the reputation of being one of the best long distance riders in the State. Mrs. Pudney is a graceful rider and will readily cover a distance of 75 miles in one day.”[8]

 

Pudney received “his first Victor at a cost of $122.50; weight forty-four pounds. It had two-inch pneumatic tires, which were not guaranteed and were recommended only as an experiment.” Annual sales increased steadily over the next decade, with Pudney selling 8 bicycles in 1890; 14 in 1891; 26 in 1892; 44 in 1893; 60 in 1894; 80 in 1895; 105 in 1896; 128 in 1897; 144 in 1898; and 160 in 1899. By 1900 the Overman Wheel Company was out of business due to increased competition and the financial impact of a devastating fire that did much damage to the company’s manufacturing plant the year prior.

 

Pudney the Cycler, Sidney, New YorkPudney the Cycler, Sidney, New YorkSidney Record. May 1, 1897.

Sidney Record. May 1, 1897.

 

In describing his early bicycle business, “Mr. Pudney points out that the actual amount of cash received does not increase from year to year to any considerable extent. In other words, the decrease in prices about keeps pace with the increase in sales. Were it not for the sale of accessories he believes that selling bicycles alone would not pay store rent. He believes that no man can conduct a profitable business without repairing, renting, exchanging and selling supplies.”[9]

 

As part of promoting his business Pudney would sponsor bicycle races in the region. One such race in 1899 followed a course from the starting line at the Unadilla House to the finish line at the fountain in Sidney. The course was about 4 1/2 miles and was covered in about 14 minutes, 15 seconds. First prize, a diamond pin, was won by Frank French, of Sidney; second prize, bicycle sundries, was won by Homer Travis, of Sidney; and third prize, bicycle sundries, was won by E. J. Pratt.

 

Pudney served as the manager and trainer of the Barnes Racing Team, which utilized bikes from the Barnes Cycle Company of Syracuse, New York. In 1897 “a splendid picture” of the Barnes Racing Team was engraved and published in an issue of the Barnes White Flyer Tips, a publication with a circulation of 1,000,000 copies.

 

With his far-reaching reputation as a bicycle dealer and enthusiast, Pudney was visited in 1907 by “the world famous bicycle long distance rider, Fred J. Titus, of Middletown, Ohio.” “Mr. Titus holds a record of 27 miles in 60 minutes, and has also covered a distance of 10 miles in 20 minutes and 58 seconds. He came to Sidney to see Mr. Pudney, the leading bicycle dealer about here, who gave him a handsome order for racycles of the Miami model. Go down on our fair association track next summer and you will see Miami lightning describing circles around the race course at a John R. Gentry gait.”[10]

 

In 1899 the Sidney Record wrote that “We take pleasure in recommending Mr. Pudney as the leading bicycle dealer of this section of the state. He sold in 1898, 160 bicycles. He will sell at both retail and wholesale, bicycles and sundries. In the rear of the store he has a finely equipped repair shop.”[11]

 

In a separate issue the Sidney Record wrote more extensively about Pudney’s bicycle operations.

 

“Bert E. Pudney. While it may with truth be asserted that there is nothing new under the sun, and while upon the other hand it is held that the most modern convenience known as the bicycle, in its origin can be traced to antiquity, it is equally true that for perfection in this machine the public must look to today. And for a perfect wheel, it is necessary to go to Bert E. Pudney who occupies commodious premises in the Sidney house block and carries a large stock of the highest grade bicycles, those which have gained great popularity among all riders, such wheels as the cyclist terms perfection. Mr. Pudney also deals in cycle accessories, tools and supplies.

 

The rear of the store is equipped for repairing, enameling, brazing and vulcanizing. The business is both wholesale and retail and the advantages of cash or installment payments are put forth to customers.

 

Mr. Pudney has been identified with this business for 9 years and is energetic and ambitious to make his business the largest of its kind in this section. And the manner in which he is now working foreshadows the result he aims to attain. In addition to his bicycle interest he also carries on a general merchant tailoring business. Mr. Pudney is an enthusiastic cyclist, he is popular among his customers and adheres to the rule of commercial probity.”[12]

 

During his time in the bicycle business Pudney described himself as “a cycle dealer . . . [who enjoyed] the rush of a hustling cycle trade, selling, exchanging, renting and repairing, [taking] pleasure in washing the black oil of the cycle bearings off his hands with the use of gasoline and a slight touch of soap . . .” In the early 1900s Pudney exited the bicycle industry, selling off his entire remaining stock of bicycles and sundries.

 

Over the years Pudney expanded his business beyond just clothing and bicycles. In 1901 Pudney purchased the extensive stationery and newspaper business of Albert Birdsall at Sidney. He also bought out Harry Gross and acquired the exclusive agency to sell the “celebrated pianos” of the Babcock Brothers. That same year he would also open a piano and music store that sold just about anything related to music including phonographs, records, musical instruments, sheet music and much more. Expanding yet again, store products included stationery, school supplies, books, post cards, sporting goods, fishing equipment, shot guns and rifles, sewing machines and artists’ materials.

 

In response to his many businesses the Sidney Record wrote in 1901 that “B. E. Pudney has enough irons in the fire to keep him busy twenty-three hours out of twenty-four . . . Mr. Pudney deserves to succeed.”[13] His varied businesses took on the long name of the Sidney News Company, Cycle and Music Store.

 

On May 1, 1906 Pudney opened a branch music store at the village of Delhi. He purchased the Edison Phonograph stock and business of W. E. Finch, and advertised that he would carry a full line of Edison Phonograph goods at his new store. In September 1906 Pudney also bought the Stanley newspaper sale business at Delhi.

 

In October, 1908, “our enterprising, hustling merchant, B. E. Pudney, this week, purchased of J. E. Harper, (his leading competitor,) his entire stock of Edison phonograph records, books and postcards. This move on Mr. Pudney’s part at once places his Delhi business clearly in the lead.”[14] In 1910 Pudney would sell his Delhi music store, including stock of phonographs, records, music, books, cards and stationery to Carl D. Williams.

 

Pudney published a popular series of postcards that depicted the regional scenes in and around Sidney, New York. The postcards are still generally available today on various internet web sites. Within the “Historic Catskills Photographers” section of this website you can view a small sample of his work.

 

Photograph titled "Masonville, N.Y., View N. W. From South Road" by B. E. Pudney.Masonville, N.Y., View N. W. From South RoadPhotographer: B. E. Pudney, Sidney, New York Masonville, N.Y., View N. W. From South Road. Author's collection.

 

New Iron Bridge, Sidney, N.Y.New Iron Bridge, Sidney, N.Y.Photographer: B. E. Pudney, Sidney, New York New Iron Bridge, Sidney, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

County House, Delhi, N.Y.County House, Delhi, N.Y.Photographer: B. E. Pudney, Sidney, New York County House, Delhi, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

Mill Dam and Falls, East Sidney, N.Y.Mill Dam and Falls, East Sidney, N.Y.Photographer: B. E. Pudney, Sidney, New York Mill Dam and Falls, East Sidney, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

By 1906 Pudney’s post card business was thriving. “B. E. Pudney is making considerable stir among the Post Card dealers, as carrying both in Delhi and Sidney Music stores the largest and finest stocks in this State. The cards are the best that can be bought and are sold at popular prices. Nearly all are of the famous German gelatine photo work.”[15] By November 1906 Pudney advertised of “34,000 new views of Sidney just received at the Sidney Music Store. Mr. Pudney now has over 100 different views of Sidney. Theses cards are going over the whole world telling of our beautiful village, advantages, etc.”[16]

 

In 1907 the local newspaper noted that “very nice postal cards, with views of Floral Park, cor. River and Grand, can be obtained at Pudney’s. These excellent views are well worth preserving, especially when one considers the vast improvement which the park represents.”[17]

 

Showing the popularity of postcards in the early 1900s, it was reported in the local paper in 1908 that Pudney had ordered 140,000 postal cards of local views. Of the 140,000 cards, 23,000 were of Sidney views, 7,000 of East Sidney and 5,000 of Masonville. The cards were to be manufactured in Leipsic, Germany. In 1909 the local newspaper noted Pudney’s “post card department with stocks invoicing $2,000.00 in Delhi and Sidney stores, the most of which are local views. All are able to fine in the many card racks a choice that for variety excels.”[18]

 

In 1908 Pudney’s store had in stock “over 10,000 Christmas and New Year’s cards that he sells at one cent each, or 90 cts per 100. His holiday offerings are very attractive in all specialties. Mr. Pudney is very liberal and prompt in his dealings and has established a fine business upon a permanent basis.”[19]

 

In 1908 Pudney advertised the sale of postcards for 3 cents each, or two for 5 cents. A December 1908 sale offered Christmas and New Year’s cards for one cent each, or 90 cents per 100. In 1909 Pudney added new postcards with local views that were taken by Sidney photographer C. H. Phelps; these postcards were sold for two for 5 cents. By 1913, as the postcard craze was fading, Pudney advertised that postcards were selling for 5 cents per dozen.

 

In 1909, “B. E. Pudney moved his store, after fourteen years of occupancy of the Sidney house block, to the business center of Main Street, where, in a brick block with a large piano and music department connected by two arches with the main store, he is able to display all the goods in different departments, each to good advantage. News department, post cards, books, stationery, sporting goods, phonographs, music, pianos and organs. In each department Mr. Pudney has tried and is trying for the mutual benefit of all to excel. To a great extent his stores now surpass anything in greater New York.”[20]

 

The 1910 United States census listed the widowed, 42-year-old Pudney as living in the village of Sidney in Delaware County, New York. Pudney was listed with an occupation of “Retail merchant, stationery and books.” Around this time, for a few years, Pudney also operated a branch music store at the village at Delhi. He later operated a branch store at Oneonta for a few years.

 

In 1911 Pudney partnered with George Webb to open an automobile garage at the village of Sidney. The garage, to be managed by Webb, was located in a building behind Pudney’s Main Street music store. They opened a sales room between the Yager and Spencer blocks of Sidney for the purpose of exhibiting cars and auto supplies. This portion of the operation was to be managed by Pudney.[21]

 

The following year, in 1912, Pudney “closed one of the largest automobile contracts ever made in this section for a large portion of Delaware, Chenango and Otsego counties for the “Elmore.” This is important to those wishing automobiles, as this car being exclusive in the use of a valveless motor, having less wearing parts than any other engine, speaks for itself. That Mr. Pudney, after spending months in investigating automobiles should have decided and secured the “Elmore” is a matter of congratulation. This will help to put Sidney on the map as a center for automobiles, supplies, etc.”[22] Pudney’s automobile business likely did not last long as it was reported that the garage was rented to another party by the summer of 1913.

 

In 1914, after 14 years of ownership, Pudney sold his interests in the book, stationery and sporting goods portions of his store to J. H. Rushton, a former bookkeeper with the Sidney Novelty corporation. Pudney retained the rights to the music portion of the business, which he continued to operate. In addition to the main location at Sidney, a 1916 advertisement noted that Pudney was operating branch locations at New Berlin, Milford, Delhi, Owego, Oneonta and Earlville.

 

Pudney actively supported his country during World War 1. Locally, “he has taken an active part in Sidney’s patriotic efforts being a member of the local military company and on various committees in war activities and an energetic worker in every instance.”[23] Between January and June 1918 he gave 175 different speeches to the public on various war issues. One 1917 newspaper article even affectionately referred to Pudney as “Sidney’s Four-Minute-Man” for his talks on thrift stamps and war saving certificates.

 

While beyond the age of service for the Army, Pudney also volunteered for the U.S. Army Y. M. C. A. service. He served at Camp Dix, New Jersey, on transport ships between the United States and France, and overseas in Europe for approximately six months from January to June 1919. He made several cross-Atlantic trips to Europe. While overseas, he traveled through the battlefields and the ruined cities of northern France.

 

B. E. Pudney, Oath of AllegianceB. E. Pudney, Oath of AllegianceB. E. Pudney's passport application in 1919. Oath of Allegiance, Bert E. Pudney, U. S. Passport Application, 1919.

 

Due to his service Pudney closed out all his store branch locations by the end of 1918, leaving only the Sidney store in operation. The Earlville location closed in July; New Berlin closed in August; and the Delhi and Oneonta locations closed in September. The Milford and Owego locations were closed before December, 1918. His wife ran the remaining Sidney store while he was overseas.

 

E. F. Van Horne, Pudney’s direct supervisor while at Camp Dix, offered generous praise about his service.

 

“The first few months of his [Pudney] service were under my direct supervision, and as an educational worker I had none on my staff during my more than two years of service who did a better or more far-reaching piece of work than Mr. Pudney. He was at all times indefatigable in his efforts to promote the program as set forth by those in charge of the Educational Department. His main idea and controlling motive, as I observed his work, was, “Help the Boys.” He made friends of all he met and all liked him. At all times he was courteous and pleasant, and his cheerful “Good morning” made the day brighter for many a homesick boy, and his kindly “Good night” helped them to bed with lighter hearts. His smile was contagious and there was no place for gloom in his presence, and he smiled at times when it was hard to smile. Mr. Pudney never failed to receive most generous and heartfelt applause when he addressed the boys – a thing that many renowned speakers failed to receive.”[24]

 

Chaplain Paul J. A. Leduc also commended Pudney for his efforts on the U. S. S. Montana, an armored cruiser of the United States Navy. During World War I the U. S. S. Montana served as a convoy escort, and after the war had ended, the ship was repurposed to serve as a transport ship, taking American soldiers back home from the battlefields of Europe. The U. S. S. Montana made six round-trips to and from Europe, returning 8,800 American soldiers home.

 

“Gentlemen: When your representative, Overseas Secretary Bert Pudney, went down the gang plank of this vessel he carried with him the esteem and the love of all on board.

 

Mr. Pudney was not only a hard, willing worker, he was also a good cheerful shipmate. We all regretted to lose him and now that he is gone we want to express to his superiors our great appreciation for the work he performed here among us.

 

As a Chaplain, I am greatly indebted to Mr. Pudney for his kind assistance in helping me to put across my religious and morale work.

 

The “Y” has done the most possible for the officers and men of this vessel. Renewing the expression of our gratitude and thanking you in particular for what you did in the days when I was alone to do all the welfare work, I remain

 

Gratefully yours, Paul J. A. Leduc.” [25]

 

Upon his return from Europe, Pudney lectured on his experiences in various churches and nearby towns. He later wrote in the South New Berlin Bee about how his time in Europe taught him the need for perseverance.

 

“Carry On. On the battle fields of the world’s war, as the soldiers of England were dying, their last message to their comrades was Carry On. So to us there is a message left, Carry On. Sickness, sorrow, death, comes among us. A message is left as a force, a heritage that calls out to us. Take from the best we have left and with it Carry On. B. E. Pudney.”[26]

 

Pudney authored in 1919 a lengthy opinion article titled “Autocracy’s Guilt” as part of an advertisement for his business. The article provides some valuable insight as to Pudney’s thoughts on business, capitalism and politics.

 

“Visit European battlefields and devastated cities. Look upon beautiful landscapes caused by the God of War. Here and there great cemeteries stand by the side of the graves of those that you once knew in your homeland.

 

Realize deeply that all of this was caused directly through military power in Germany becoming Autocratic, domineering, absolutely selfish. For half a century the German people had become subservient to the military, when it was utterly crushed. The people’s will had been enslaved to their great War God and Kaiser. Then other fields must be theirs over in the battlefields of Europe and defeat. It took four years to crush this Autocracy. Right conquered, as it always and ever will.

 

Hew to the line and let the chips fall where they will. Autocracy of wealth and capitalism have learned their lesson and they know full well that their power and influence is subservient to the government and the people for the good of all. That profiteer who alone and in combines attempts or succeeds in cornering food and necessities of life is an autocrat and those who help him to finance it as capitalists are traitors to a people, and should be and they are treated as criminals.

 

All efforts of autocratic capitalist wealth to increase their wealth in this way should be met and stopped. When the capitalists or a stock bond holder attempts to make unreasonable profit by using his power to hold back labor from its honest due, then he has started an autocracy that must be met and made to yield to the good of all, all else advancing yet six per cent in the legal interest rate. On approved security there is millions to loan. Sugar would have been twenty-five cents per pound, flour would have been twenty-five dollars a barrel. Who held this down? Uncle Sam. No autocracy of wealth can exist with us, for Uncle Sam is awake on his job.

 

Autocracy organized labor, for years holding sway in our land, for years has had the sympathy and confidence of American people. When our nation was forced into war and in her greatest stress, in a crisis as it were, organized labor issued from its central stronghold an ultimatum to Congress and President that unless certain papers and bills were signed at 10:00 a.m. on a certain date, the wages highest in our history, hours of day’s labor the shortest.

 

When all Europe’s world was in danger of Autocracy of Germany’s military, we ourselves became slaves of German powers, they would stop every railroad, every factory and every dock and every ship as far as possible. For a moment in its crisis our Congress and President weakened – the bill was signed. Never again. This was Autocracy of the most dreaded kind. Four million members of labor unions throughout the United States became discredited by it. Because of this unreasonable spirit of demand or we strike, collective bargaining of bodies of men to be controlled by leaders who can do with them as majority wishes, practically making slaves of the minority, must become illegal and unlawful.

 

Uncle Sam may have been held up for the moment, but Uncle Sam is now awake. No autocracy of wealth, however combined, no autocracy of organized labor, is to tell him where he can get off or get on. All must succeed to exist for the common good or go down to defeat, same as Germany’s autocracy military has, the same as all autocracy. Turn back the scroll of history, my reader, and from the world’s beginning learn thereby that disaster comes to all who for selfish personal reasons start out to take from others that which belongs to them.

 

The writer wants success to come to labor and capital alike when they are in the right, on the other hand, just punishment and defeat when either or both are in the wrong.

 

After the great Roosevelt was elected President of the U. S., he was invited to a banquet by certain labor organizations. One of the speakers said now the doors of the White House will swing open easier for us. Immediately Roosevelt was on his feet, exclaiming “Yes, but just as easy for the capitalists.” There should be no distinction. The laborer is a capitalist. Neither gets more out of life than the other. Hand in hand they must go, realizing this, that they exist for the common good of all; that labor unions’ membership totals only four million, so-called capitalists much less; that Uncle Sam clothes and feeds over a hundred and ten million of his own people, as well as other millions. Prosperity of the richest and best kind is ours and the great middle classes, which represent over a hundred million, will have the final say in this grand republic of ours.

 

The best in capitalistic forces, the best in organized labor, will come to the front and clean out the radical elements and stand with a firm determination for our national welfare. Their very existence as organized forces depend on it.

 

Yours, B. E. Pudney.”[27]

 

In 1919 Pudney helped establish an Employment Bureau at the village of Sidney. The bureau was available to every line of work, including farmer, factory, mercantile, railroad, housekeepers and professions. The expense was limited to 50 cents for each person seeking a position that submitted an application, and another 50 cents for each person from anyone who hired a job applicant. Within a week it was reported that the employment bureau “has started off with a good rush.”

 

The 1920 United States census listed Pudney as living with his wife Katherine at the village of Sidney in Delaware County, New York. Also in the household was Bert’s 5-year-old daughter Louise and his 2-year-old daughter Katherine. Pudney’s occupation as a “Merchant, retail music store.”

 

Business at this time, following the World War 1 years, was growing rapidly for Pudney. In one January 1921 advertisement he noted sales of $28,000 in 1919 and $66,000 in 1920, while setting a goal for $100,000 in 1921.

 

B. E. Pudney's Piano & Music Store, Sidney, N.Y.B. E. Pudney's Piano & Music Store, Sidney, N.Y.

B. E. Pudney's Piano & Music Store, Sidney, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

In 1922 The Morris Chronicle carried an amusing anecdote about Pudney, with a well-known reputation as a salesman, having seen a beautiful buck deer.

 

“Saw a Buck Deer. Wednesday morning the 23d inst., B. E. Pudney, while driving his Brockway truck on the state road near the Sackett farm, between East Guilford and Rockdale, at about ten o’clock saw an unusual and beautiful sight.

 

It goes without saying that B. E. P. clapped on the brakes to take in the show. Coming across the Sackett River flat was seen a splendid full grown buck, with large branching antlers. It was a pretty stunt to see how easily and gracefully the big fellow cleared the fences. No guns, no dogs after him, he was in no hurry, cool as a sliced cucumber on ice.

 

Ex-mayor Pudney was so thrilled in admiration that he didn’t even try to sell him a phonograph.”

 

During the 1920s Pudney, in addition to his commercial interests, began to offer lectures to the public on a variety of topics. One “of his famous lectures” was titled “Something Hidden, Go and Find It.” Another popular lecture was known as the “Three Links,” in reference to the concept of “friendship, love and truth” of the Odd Fellows, an organization that Pudney was a member of. Pudney was “a noted speaker and needs no introduction, as he has spoken in several nearby towns. Do no fail to hear him.”[28]

 

In 1928 Pudney’s music store, that had been located at 40 Main Street in Sidney for the prior 12 years, moved to the Melnick block on Division Street.

 

In 1928 “ex-mayor B. E. Pudney of Sidney has accepted an appointment to the Republican Publicity bureau, tendered by the New York State Republican committee. Mr. Pudney will be assigned to the field work following the State convention to be held in Syracuse, 28th inst.”[29]

 

Despite operating a successful business for nearly 40 years, by 1929 Pudney faced numerous financial challenges, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. The bankruptcy petition, filed at federal court in Utica, listed Pudney with $25,971 in liabilities and $13,534 in assets, including $6,000 in real estate and $7,534 in contracts with various customers in many villages. The federal court, in a finding by Judge Frank Cooper of Albany, determined that Pudney had conformed with the bankruptcy law and was therefore entitled to a clean financial slate and a new start, free from debt.

 

In 1930 United States census listed Pudney living with his family at the village of Sidney in Delaware County. Also listed in the household was Bert’s wife Katherine A., his two daughters, Louise and Katherine E., and his son Clinton. Despite his prior bankruptcy, Pudney’s occupation was listed as “Retail merchant, music store.”

 

By late 1931 Pudney was beginning the process of closing out his business, taking the “opportunity as a Sidney merchant, to thank his many customers and friends who, for 38 years, have been faithful and helpful during his association with them.” [30] In July 1932 an auction was held to sell off all the remaining stock of the Pudney’s store. That same month, upon completion of the auction, the local newspaper noted that Pudney “has closed out his store business in that village [Sidney] and for the first time in over forty years is not carrying a store key in his pocket.”

 

Throughout his career Pudney was an avid believer in the value of marketing. His advertisements could be found in local newspapers on a weekly basis. At one point he boasted of advertising in between 14 to 25 different newspapers at the same time. He routinely sponsored free band and orchestra concerts in front of his store, at the Congregational church or in some of regional villages. He gave away records with the purchase of a phonograph. He accepted, at 100 cents on the dollar, Liberty Loan Bonds that were issued in support of World War I. For several years, in order to promote his line of sporting goods, he sponsored a fishing contest with cash prizes for the largest catch and the largest trout.

 

Pudney's New Piano and Music StorePudney's New Piano and Music StoreThe Otsego Journal. April 30, 1914.

Pudney's New Piano and Music Store of Sidney, N.Y. The Otsego Journal. April 20, 1914.

 

In one notable marketing event on August 5, 1920 Pudney made arrangements to fly over the villages of Guilford, Oxford, Norwich, North Norwich, Sherburne, New Berlin, South New Berlin, Mt. Upton, Rockdale, Sidney and more. At each location, from an elevation of 3,000 feet, he dropped a flag, and any person returning the flag to Pudney’s store would be entitled to $10 credit towards the purchase of a phonograph, piano or sewing machine. In total Pudney dropped 16 flags over 80 miles of flying in 75 minutes.

 

Earlier in his career, in order to promote his line of bicycles, Pudney conducted a popular guessing contest at the village of Edmeston. Pudney placed a large number of beans, shot and pins within a sealed glass can. For 5 cents per guess, anyone who guessed the correct number of items in the glass can would win a Pennant bicycle. One person spent close to $10 in trying to win. In the end, there were 3,694 items in the can, with the winner, F. H. France of Cobleskill, coming closest with a guess of 3,697.

 

Pudney was married twice, with his first marriage being to Sarah De Etta Stratton. She was born in Smithville on August 4, 1865, the daughter of Thomas and Ruth Stratton. She passed away suddenly in 1907 and is buried at Riverview Cemetery in Oxford, New York. Upon her passing the local newspaper wrote a glowing tribute to her.

 

“Mrs. Pudney had many warm friends, who admired her untiring energy, her cheerfulness in a ceaseless routine of work, at the store as well as at home. In her daily affairs she came in contact with large numbers of people and commanded the friendship and respect of them all.

 

. . . It is difficult to pay a fitting tribute to the memory of one so worthy; one whose every day life was embellished by the best attributes of womanhood. She ran the journey of her life in forty-two years. It was a path marked with deeds of kindness and cheer. Flowers, not thorns; sunshine, not shadow, she scattered about her. Truth was the inspiration of her life and by kindness she exemplified its great worth.”[31]

 

Pudney remarried on October 24, 1912 to Katherine A. Bennett, daughter of Marvin Bennett and Josephine L. (Hammond) Bennett. The ceremony took place at Church of the Transfiguration, more well known as the “Little Church Around the Corner.” For the five years prior to their marriage Katherine had worked as a school teacher in New York City. Katherine passed away in 1984 and is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Sidney, New York.

 

Clinton L. Pudney, Bert’s son, was killed on June 16, 1943 during a training flight while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. Pudney had been awarded the George Cross for his actions earlier that year, in January, for heroism during a previous training action. The award citation reads: “While engaged on a practice flight, the Halifax aircraft in which Sergt. Pudney was flying as a mid-upper gunner struck high ground, crashed and burst into flames. Three members of the crew were killed, and the others, with the exception of Sergt. Pudney, were too severely injured to extricate themselves from the burning wreckage. Though suffering from severe lacerations on his face, and in spite of loss of blood and shock, Sergt. Pudney entered the blazing aircraft several times, and finally succeeded in bringing all his companions out. He then struggled over rough moorland for two miles to obtain help.”

 

Katherine (Pudney) Thomas, Bert’s daughter, was born on October 10, 1917 at Sidney, New York. Katherine earned a nursing degree from the University of Buffalo, New York in 1941 and later earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Cincinnati in 1966. She worked as an instructor at the St. Francis School of Practical Nursing for ten years and later became a nursing instructor at the College of Nursing and Health at the University of Cincinnati. Katherine retired from the University of Cincinnati in 1980, but continued to work as an advocate for the American Diabetes Association and remained active with St. James Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. She married Everett A. Thomas in 1942. Everett worked as a ceramic engineer. Katherine passed away at 94 years of age on November 11, 2011. She is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

Emily Louise (Pudney) Day, Bert’s daughter, was a graduate of Sidney High School and passed the New York state nursing board examinations in 1936. She began her career at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City, New York. She later worked as a registered nurse for many years at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey. She retired in 1984. She had lived in Belmar and Wall Township, before moving to Point Pleasant, New Jersey about 40 years before her death, likely after the passing of her husband in 1969. She married George James Day in 1934. George, a graduate of Sidney High School and Coyne Electrical School in Chicago, worked at the C. L. Reynolds Radio Testing Station at Binghamton, New York and was later employed for 27 years as a program manager at the Army Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Emily passed away at 95 years of age on June 20, 2009 at Meridian Hospice in Brick, New Jersey.

 

Merton W. Pudney, Bert’s twin brother, passed away at 93 years of age on January 5, 1962 at East Hartford, Connecticut. He had lived at East Hartford for 45 years and was employed at Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company until his retirement in 1948. He was a member of the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church. He was survived by his wife, Katherine (Mildrum) Pudney and two sons, Delos Pudney and Dennison Pudney, both of Syracuse, New York. He is buried at Center Cemetery in East Hartford, Connecticut.

 

Pudney was active in the community, at times serving as fire chief, village trustee and as mayor for several terms for the village of Sidney. He volunteered as the superintendent of the Sunday school program at the Congregational church. Through various fundraisers he supported the local chapter of the Epworth League, an organization that was founded in 1889 and was comprised of Methodist young adults. He served on the local Chamber of Commerce, and was on the child welfare committee, giving “much of his time for the betterment of children’s conditions over the county.”

 

In 1919, Pudney, along with several others, helped found a local troop of the Boy Scouts at Sidney. In 1922 he was elected to serve as president of the Sidney Automobile Club. He served as Secretary for the annual Pudney and Church family reunion for 34 years from 1899 to his passing in 1933. He was active with both the Knights of Pythias and the Odd Fellows community organizations.

 

Part community service and part marketing, Pudney often provided free musical concerts to the community. Pudney commented during a series of 1914 concerts at Unadilla, Gilbertsville, Morris, Garrattsville and New Berlin that the “music will be as free as water and his purpose is to have people learn to love music more and to know better what the latest musical instruments can do.”[32] At times the concerts were conducted in front of his music store.

 

Pudney donated many musical instruments to various organizations and schools over the years. In January 1916 it was reported that he had donated at least 60 instruments in the prior three years. Some of the recipients included the Sunday School at East Guilford (piano), the Rockdale school (six octave organ), the Women’s Relief Corps (square piano), and the Gilbertsville district school (organ).[33]

 

Legacy

 

Upon his passing it was written that Pudney was “one who served our community faithfully and well, promoting to the best of his ability, its welfare during 39 years . . . the news of his unexpected demise proved a distinctive shock, causing deep regret wherever learned. Men, no matter how interested in public welfare, quite often fail of appreciation while living, only when they pass away, but too late do we realize the value of their services. His keynote was cheerful encouragement to all with an ever ready laugh, a merry gloom chaser, if there ever was one. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce and K. of P. Lodge, his suggestions were valued and his aim was always to aid the destitute and needy and his delight to make the juveniles happy and lead them only the right way.”[34]

 

Pudney passed away at 65 years of age on May 21, 1933 at the hospital at South Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut while visiting his nephew, Milton Freeman. He had been in poor health during the preceding winter, and while at South Manchester took ill with bronchial pneumonia. The body was brought to the Carr & Hare funeral chapel at Sidney.

 

Funeral services were held at the Congregational Church in Sidney, with Reverend E. R. Holden officiating, assisted by Reverend Father Hogg, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Reverend F. W. Connell, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Knights of Pythias conducted the ritual burial service of the order in honor of their departed brother. Pudney is buried at Riverview Cemetery in Oxford, Chenango County, New York.

 

[1] Pudney, W. D; C. G. Stevens. Prospective History of the Pudney Family. Cleveland, Ohio, 1900.

[2] Sullivan, Dr. James. History of New York State 1523-1927. Vol. 6. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1927. pp. 156-157.

[3] The Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. 51. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1915.

[4] “Mrs. B. C. Pudney.” The Otsego Farmer (Cooperstown, New York). September 19, 1913.

[5] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). July 29, 1893.

[6] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). May 26, 1894.

[7] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). July 13, 1895.

[8] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). May 19, 1894.

[9] “A Pleasant Anniversary. B. E. Pudney Received His First Victor Ten Years Ago – Loyal to the End.” The Cycle Age. Vol. 25, no. 6. June 7, 1900.

[10] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). March 6, 1897.

[11] “Pudney’s Liberal Offer.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). April 22, 1899.

[12] “Bert E. Pudney.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). February 25, 1899.

[13] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). February 9, 1901.

[14] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). October 10, 1908.

[15] Delaware Gazette (Delhi, New York). October 24, 1906.

[16] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). November 10, 1906.

[17] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). September 28, 1907.

[18] Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). March 20, 1909.

[19] Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). December 19, 1908.

[20] Unadilla Times (Unadilla, New York). March 26, 1909.

[21] “Sidney.” Oxford Times (Oxford, New York). October 25, 1911.

[22] “Elmore Car Agency in Sidney.” The Earlville Standard. February 12, 1912.

[23] “Mr. Pudney Has Offered Services.” The Otsego Journal (Gilbertsville, New York). June 27, 1918.

[24] “A Glowing Tribute.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). December 6, 1919.

[25] “An Appreciation.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). July 19, 1919.

[26] “Carry On.” South New Berlin Bee (South New Berlin, New York). July 31, 1920.

[27] “Autocracy’s Guilt.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). November 29, 1919.

[28] “Burlington.” The Otsego Farmer. October 21, 1927.

[29] “Vicinity News Briefly Told.” Unadilla Times. September 28, 1928.

[30] “To Close Out.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). November 12, 1931.

[31] “The Late Mrs. B. E. Pudney of Sidney.” Oxford Times (Oxford, New York). January 1, 1908.

[32] “A Week of Music.” The Unadilla Times (Unadilla, New York). November 13, 1914.

[33] “A Public Benefactor.” South New Berlin Bee (South New Berlin, New York). January 29, 1916.

[34] “Then Came The Final Summons.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). May 25, 1933.

 


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