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Earliest Members of the Century Association

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Algernon S. Frissell


Centurion, 1891–1932

Full Name Algernon Sydney Frissell

Born 1 February 1845 in South Amenia, New York

Died 19 December 1932 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Proposed by Henry D. Nicoll and John Sedgwick

Elected 7 March 1891 at age forty-six

Archivist’s Note: Brother of Hollis Burke Frissell; father of Lewis F. Frissell; grandfather of Varick Frissell

Century Memorial

When old age has separated members of the Club from active participation in the affairs of life, when fellow-Centurions of their own day and of their own close acquaintance have answered to the last roll-call, when Club-room groups must seem to be made up entirely of a much younger generation, some of them withdraw from Club affiliations as they had already retired from business. Their faces are seldom seen in reading-room or library. They keep their names on the membership list, but it is mostly because of association with the past. Happily for the Century, these are the exception, not the rule. The younger Centurion who left the lunch-table without exchanging a cheerful word with James William Cromwell or Algernon Sydney Frissell felt that he had somehow missed the spirit of the place. Few Centurions passed the door of the Graham Library if, as was apt to happen almost daily up to the very last, these Nestors of the Club were at their familiar posts. When the younger men drew up their chairs around the veteran fellow-clubmen, the conversation instantly grew cheerful over events and personalities of the day.

Frissell, like Cromwell, carried in mind a vivid picture of America’s financial past; in which, indeed, he had himself been no negligible figure. He was a New York banker of what we nowadays call the old school—a school, however, to which in many essential respects the banks of the present day will have to revert, when the lessons of the present great depression have been fully learned. It was more than half a century ago when Frissell began to shape the history of the newly-founded Fifth Avenue Bank. From the outset he made it what even cynical Wall Street, then and afterwards, frankly admitted it to be; a training-school of efficient bankers. Eventual promotion from the ranks to a place of high responsibility was held out as a reasonable hope even to the country boy who was taken on the staff as book-keeper or messenger. But promotion came, not because of clever experiment, of supersalesmanship in the placing of credit or securities, but because the underlying principles of sound banking had been mastered. Frissell watched personally and appreciatively the work of every worthy underling; he taught them to regard as members of one family with mutual interests, not only the bank’s own staff of workers but its customers, large and small. No young man of character passed through that practical course of training without being eventually equipped with the highest qualities for efficient banking. When, in the great expansion of American finance during 1900 and 1901, establishment of new and powerful Wall Street banking organizations became a necessity of the day, it was a familiar saying, on the down-town markets, that the new and successful institutions drew heavily for their managing personnel on “Frissell’s boys.”

All this the Century knew; but his fellow-clubmen will remember much more vividly the kindliness of Frissell towards every one, his personal interest in the affairs of his associates, the keen and unflagging interest which he displayed in political and financial problems of the day. On these his comment was shrewd, sententious, but always ready to recognize the better side of men and things. The arrival of the invalid-chair from which the smiling octogenarian would be lifted to his seat at the Century lunch-table invariably brought a stirring of interest in the conversation.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1933 Century Association Yearbook