Born 25 November 1817 in Malden, New York
Died 19 December 1911 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Peacedale Cemetery, Highland Falls, New York
Elected 1 February 1868 at age fifty
Archivist’s Note: President of the Century Association, 1906–1911; first vice president, 1895–1905; second vice president, 1889–1894. Father of John Bigelow Jr. and Poultney Bigelow; father-in-law of Charles Edward Tracy; great-grandfather of Peter Geoffrey Cook and Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff. He died while the incumbent president of the Century, and a series of memorial addresses delivered at the clubhouse on 9 March 1912 by Edward Cary, Joseph H. Choate, William Dean Howells, George Haven Putnam, and Henry van Dyke was subsequently published in book form (not yet reproduced on this website).
Here we had thought to end. But a sorrow lately come upon us all requires the reverent enrollment of the passing of a beautiful personality. At the memorial meeting in honor of John Bigelow, which is set for March ninth, the life and character of our late President will be commemorated by those who have known him long and well. Be it ours simply to inscribe the impression made by the full and complete graciousness of that venerable man.
He was beautiful to see; his manners were those of benignant courtesy; his thoughts were occupied with fitting themes, and they clothed their objects with seemliness. He saw the honorable in man. Likewise from out the mellow sweetness of his nature his thoughts were filled with the beauty of kindness, to which his speech unfailingly gave expression. The elements making for beauty in the poised and full perfection of Greek sculpture were alive in the character and temperament of John Bigelow, and marked the acts and thoughts which harmonized with the beauty of his noble form.
In thinking of his last months, even of his last days, we have still the impression of their beauty, and of the beauty of that with which they were busied to the end. They were spent in honoring our dead poet, and in bringing before younger men the fairness of his achievement, which Mr. Bigelow deemed worthy to memorialize in bronze, and in the written and the spoken word. Thus our President’s death was the beautiful passing of a beautiful personality, perfected in honor and love bestowed on other men and women, and in the love and honor which they gave back to him. The Century, which we also love, is more precious through John Bigelow, whom it loved and honored, and who loved and honored The Century Association.
Henry Osborn Taylor
1912 Century Association Yearbook