Thomas A. Doyle (mayor)

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This article is about the Mayor of Providence. For the Chicago Congressman, see Thomas A. Doyle.
For other people named Thomas Doyle, see Thomas Doyle (disambiguation).
Thomas Arthur Doyle
Thomas A Doyle Mayor of Providence Official Portrait.jpg
Official portrait of Thomas A. Doyle in Providence City Hall
9th, 11th, & 13th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
In office
June 1864 – June 1869
Preceded by Jabez C. Knight
Succeeded by George L. Clarke
In office
June 1870 – June 1881
Preceded by George L. Clarke
Succeeded by William S. Hayward
In office
January 1884 – June 9, 1886
Preceded by William S. Hayward
Succeeded by Gilbert F. Robbins
Personal details
Born (1827-03-15)March 15, 1827
Providence, Rhode Island
Died June 9, 1886(1886-06-09) (aged 59)
Providence, Rhode Island
Resting place Swan Point Cemetery
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Almyra Sprague
Relations Sarah Elizabeth Doyle (sister)
Residence 137 Chestnut Street, Providence, Rhode Island
Known for Longest-serving Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island at that time
Religion Unitarian[1]

Thomas Arthur Doyle (1827–1886) was mayor of Providence for three intervals (each made up of one-year terms): 1864–1869; 1870–1881; and from 1884 until his death in office in 1886. His eighteen years in office was the longest until Mayor "Buddy" Cianci,[2] over 100 years later.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Arthur Doyle was born March 15, 1827 in Providence, Rhode Island to Thomas Doyle and Martha Jones.[1] The family was of Irish Protestant heritage.[3] He was one of seven children, among them his sister, educator and reformer Sarah Doyle.[1] Their father died when Thomas was young.[1]

He attended Elm Street Grammar School, a public school. At age 14 he joined the counting-room of Benjamin Cozzens Esq., a lawyer, manufacturer, and calico printer.[1] Doyle clerked there and at a few other jobs, including cashier, stockbroker, and real estate auctioneer.[1]

Political career[edit]

Doyle began his political career in 1848, aged 21, when he was elected ward clerk for the Sixth Ward.[1] In 1852 he was elected to the Common Council from the Fifth Ward.[1] Doyle also served on the school committee, at one time being the youngest member of the committee.[1]

Tenure as mayor[edit]


Doyle is considered by some historians[3][4] and even was regarded in his lifetime[1] to have been one of Providence's greatest mayors. During his tenure Providence grew from "a large manufacturing village" to a "little metropolis".[1] Doyle's progressive policies led the way for Providence to become a modern city.[5]

Doyle was known for his individuality. He had a reputation for being straightforward and opinionated.[1] At one time or another he alienated everyone from Democrats to Republicans to taxpayers to the press to city departments, often advocating unpopular policies.[1] His relationship with the City Council was often stormy; they were said to be in "hearty disagreement on almost everything" and he often exercised the veto power.[1] He spent a lot of money, increased debt, and raised taxes. Yet he earned respect for being honest and running an administration free from corruption.[1]

Some specific achievements of his terms of office included:

  • Construction of Providence City Hall (1875-1878)
  • Introduction of a uniformed police force, which became a model for other cities[1]
  • Construction of the municipal water system[1]
  • Acquisition of Roger Williams Park through donation (1871)[1]
  • The city more than doubled in population and wealth[2]
  • The city took on large amounts of debt[1]
  • Doyle began a complete makeover of railroad approaches to Providence, including eliminating grade crossings and constructing a much larger Union Station. These efforts were not completed until after Doyle's death.[5]

Personal life[edit]

In 1869, he married Almyra Sprague, sister of Senator William Sprague. They had no children.[1] His house at 137 Chestnut Street, Providence, stands today.[6]

Doyle was a member of the Unitarian church.[1] He was also an enthusiastic Mason. He was made a Master Mason in 1857, and was elected to various statewide Mason offices including Knights Templar.[1]

Death, memorial, and burial[edit]

This bronze Statue of Thomas A. Doyle, originally installed at Cathedral Square, was moved to the corner of Chestnut and Broad Street in 1967.[7]

Doyle died while in office, at his house on Wednesday June 9, 1886.[8]

On Saturday the 12th, his body was escorted by the First Light Infantry from his home to City Hall, where he lay in state. Thousands of people came to the City Hall to silently pay their respects.[8] Gilbert F. Robbins was named acting mayor, and he issued a proclamation that on the following Monday June 14, all business in the city should be closed from noon to 3:00 PM.[8] On that day a large procession carried his body from City Hall to the First Unitarian Church for services, then on to Swan Point Cemetery for burial.[8]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v The Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island Vol 2. Providence: Providence National Biographical Publishing Co. 1881. pp. 512–513. 
  2. ^ a b "Doyle, Thomas Arthur (1827-1886)". Brown University. Retrieved 11 June 2014. second only to Mayor "Buddy" Cianci in tenure 
  3. ^ a b c "Inductee Details: Mayor Thomas A. Doyle". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Paul Campbell (13 September 2013). "Mayoral portraits on display at Providence City Hall". YouTube. The Providence Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. If you were to proclaim the greatest mayor of the 19th Century, hands down it would be Doyle 
  5. ^ a b Cutter, William Richard (1915). New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial IV. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 2174. 
  6. ^ "An Overview of the History of the Jewelry District". Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Bodo, Sandor (10 November 2013). "RearView Mirror: Moving monuments". Providence Journal. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d Memorial of Thomas Arthur Doyle, Mayor of the City of Providence. Providence, Rhode Island: Providence City Council. 1887. pp. 5–13. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Workers of the Writers' Program of the Works Progress Administration in the State of Rhode Island (1937). Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 290–291. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jabez C. Knight
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
George L. Clarke
Preceded by
George L. Clarke
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
William S. Hayward
Preceded by
William S. Hayward
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
Gilbert F. Robbins