David Conwell Stull (1844-1926).
What other town would even think of having an “Ambergris King”? Provincetown did, and David Conwell Stull played the role, burnishing his reputation by posing for a widely distributed post card showing him on the beach, distinctive in his mutton-chop mustache, slicing away at the head of a dead pilot whale more than twice his size. Pilot whales (called blackfish at the time) yielded an oil that was a highly desirable lubricant for timepieces and precision instruments. Stull traded in that oil and also — when a rare specimen came along — a waxy substance called ambergris that was secreted from the intestines of sperm whales. It made a perfect binding agent for otherwise volatile perfumes and was highly prized. In fact, ambergris was famously worth more than its weight in gold. Stull earned his title because he was so expert in judging the value of a lump of ambergris that he could set the market price for the commodity. His home was at 472 Commercial Street and his refinery at 465 Commercial Street.
His imposing Egyptesque monument carries the double billing “Stull-MacIntyre,” as that was the name of the family that carried his legacy forward. In 2014, David William MacIntyre (b 1937), Stull’s great-grandson in Cape Coral, Fla., filled me in on the cast of characters memorialized under the name of the Ambergris King.
Sarah A. (Hoffman) Stull (1848-1916) was his wife. William J. MacIntyre (1869-1914) was the first husband of the Stulls’ daughter Mary Ellen (Stull) MacIntyre (1872-1964).¹ Three of their children are buried here: Capt. Angus S. MacIntyre (1900-1954), who had “an unlimited license to command any ship on any ocean”; Elizabeth M. MacIntyre (1902-1904), who died as a child; and D. Stuart MacIntyre (1905-1970), who was David’s father. Angeline (Forrest) MacIntyre (1889-1997) was his second wife, and David’s stepmother.² The final name on the monument is that of Duncan Cote MacIntyre (1940-1944), one of David’s three brothers, who died in childhood of leukemia.
“There will probably be no more names on the stone,” David MacIntyre told me in 2014, “because we survivors have all moved far away, and I don’t think there’s any more room on the lot anyway.” MacIntyre did me the great honor of sending a small bottle of D. C. Stull’s Superfine Watch Oil, explaining: “That wasn’t put up by D. C. Stull, but probably by my father and me, around 1950 or so. The product and the labeling are 100 percent legitimate, however. That’s Stull’s recipe and his exact label design. In fact, the labels and the box could have come down from him. My father got a gazillion boxes, labels, and corks from his mother [Mary Ellen MacIntyre]. We had to find bottles of the exact design, and make up the oil from Stull’s closely guarded recipe. My father did sell quite a bit of it in the 1940s and 1950s, until he decided to give up, due to withering demand. The Accutron was invented, and then came the avalanche of electronic timepieces.”
¶ Last updated on 28 October 2018.
¹ Her second husband was Louis Atwood Law of Rockport, who worked for the J. D. Hilliard Company when he moved to Provincetown. ² David’s mother, Madeleine Cote MacIntyre, is buried in Bridgewater.
Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key N-14, Page 5.