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Amos Kidder Fiske


Centurion, 1893–1921

Born 12 May 1842 in Whitefield, New Hampshire

Died 18 September 1921 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Proposed by T. Frank Brownell and Edward Cary

Elected 6 May 1893 at age fifty

Century Memorial

The men of whom it can be said, even in a club such as ours, that when anyone thinks of the Century he thinks of them, are not very numerous. Few of us, when in absence or reminiscence calling up the Century to our mental vision, have failed for many years to see in the picture Amos Kidder Fiske—whether settled down, book in lap, in a tall Bath chair of the reading room, or taking his never-varied place in the dining-room, or slowly circling the pool-table with a meditative cue. The liking that every one who knew him had for Fiske was not because of what he said or wrote or did; though his modest part in the conversation was marked by much common sense, his newspaper editorials by wisdom and force, and his life story, to which he rarely alluded, by a chapter of hard experience which he had confronted with unflagging cheerfulness. It was that rare quality in these sophisticated days, an absolutely simple and unaffected nature combined with a certain quaintness of mind and manner, which gave him just the place he occupied in the Century’s fraternity. Of self-esteem or self-assertion Fiske did not know the meaning; though on the other hand, he did not distrust himself. His mind was not the less positive on matters of principle and intellectual conviction because he was never argumentative or contentious; his opinions, when based (as they usually were) on study and reflection, were quite unswerving.

Working his way through college, Fiske graduated in 1866 with the highest honors which Harvard awarded. He studied law in the office of George Ticknor Curtis; but legal ambitions gave way to the drawing force of the newspaper profession, in which he worked his way from reporter to night copy editor, to book reviewer and to editorial writer. Whether Fiske, like so many other men of every shade of temperament, was drawn to the profession by the thrill of handling the world’s over-night news in the raw material, he did not say. He did not often discuss even his editorial writing; but his grasp of his subject, notably in financial and economic exposition in the Journal of Commerce during his later years, was most extraordinary for a man so little in personal touch with men and events.

Yet it would be perfectly safe to say that the Century meant more to Fiske than his profession, and Fiske himself meant much to the constant visitors at the Century. The birthday dinner with which a group of his fellow-members surprised and deeply touched him not very long ago—honors as well as luxuries of life were apart from his expectation—brought into strong light his altogether lovable simplicity of character and was perhaps one of the rare occasions on which he got a glimpse, which even so modest a spirit as his could not fail to recognize, of the kind of esteem in which his colleagues of the Century held him.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1922 Century Association Yearbook