Full Name Joseph Wesley Harper
Born 16 March 1830 in New York (Brooklyn), New York
Died 21 July 1896 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy, Bronx, New York
Elected 5 December 1874 at age forty-four
It is a sad duty to record the death of Joseph W. Harper, who has left an impression upon his extensive circle of friends that time can never efface. Who that knew him could ever forget him? There was in his bearing, even upon a first meeting, a cheery, cordial, sympathetic tender of comradeship which was irresistible, and made of every acquaintance as he came to know him an admirer and friend. Underneath that exuberant, joyous exterior there was a depth of feeling, sincerity of purpose, and a pursuit of high ideals that fitted him for leadership, for which his position in the great publishing house founded by his family gave him an opportunity. The emotional side of his nature, which made him, as Byron says, “A pendulum betwixt a smile and a tear,” displaying on festive occasions his rollicking, almost boyish, extravagance, was subordinated to a reverence for sacred things, a serious view of public questions and a relentless crusade against imposing shams. In all important matters he was abreast with the most progressive movements of his time, and the service he rendered to the cause of civil service reform, the establishment of international copyright, the interests of Columbia College, his Alma Mater, as a trustee for thirty years, and, above all, to the public as a publisher of books and periodicals for the people, interpreting and expressing popular thought and sentiment, entitle him to their gratitude and to an enduring place in the memory of his countrymen. His gentle courtesy, kindly humor, grace and charm in social and literary intercourse and unfailing generosity are, in the love and remembrance of those from whom it has vanished, an everlasting possession.
Henry E. Howland
1897 Century Association Yearbook