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Earliest Members of the Century Association

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Charles M. Leupp

Merchant (Leather)

Centurion, 1847–1859

Full Name Charles Mortimer Leupp

Born 14 October 1807 in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Died 5 October 1859 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Christ Church Episcopal Churchyard, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Proposed by N/A: Founder

Elected 13 January 1847 at age thirty-nine

Archivist’s Note: Brother-in-law of D. Williamson Lee; uncle of W. Leupp Thomson. After his death, a memorial address delivered to the Column Club, a predecessor of the Century, on 10 February 1860 by John H. Gourlie was published as A Tribute to the Memory of Charles M. Leupp.

Seconder of:

Century Memorials

Yet not every day of the past year’s record is to be scored by us with a white stone. One name—foremost among the early fosterers, tried friends, and wise councilors of the Century, stands no longer upon our roll. The Century is growing old, since it is old enough to have a past in which such names dwell. The club has honored itself by expressing in fitting resolves its respect for the memory of Leupp. May we never have occasion, while missing the charm of his personal presence, and losing the illustration of his name, to feel the want of that mingled prudence and energy—that practical sense in the pursuit of an ideal aim—that harmony of inward and outward life—which combined to give his character almost the form of a model for our associate existence.

Augustus R. Macdonough
Annual Meeting Minutes, 14 January 1860

Charles M. Leupp, hide and leather merchant (with an office in the leather district called “the Swamp”), railroad and bank director, and patron of art, was born in New Brunswick, N. J., and had reached his fiftieth year at the time of the Century’s incorporation. He had been elected in 1843 to the Sketch Club, and became a collector of paintings and a manager of the Art Union. It was at his home, No. 66 Amity Street, that the Century was organized.

With twenty-four other Centurions he invited Fitz-Greene Halleck, among the first members of the Century, to dine at the “Century Rooms,” No. 24 Clinton Place, January 20, 1854, and afterwards wrote to the guest of honor, “I do not know how to appease the malcontents who were not present, except to do it all over again.”

In the minutes of the Sketch Club for the year 1859 is pasted the Evening Post obituary of Leupp—which secretary John H. Gourlie attributes to Bryant—wherein it is written: “The friends of Mr. C. M. Leupp were startled this morning with the intelligence of his sudden death by his own hand . . . the case was decidedly one of a momentary aberration of the intellect. . . . His mind had been much cultivated by reading, and he delighted in works of art, to the love of which he brought a natural taste almost unerring in its decisions. . . . The artists among his countrymen found in him a liberal friend. His mind was of a somewhat peculiar cast, exceedingly rapid in its perceptions, and no less prompt in its conclusions. . . .”

Thomas S. Cummings, a founder of the Century, in his “Historic Annals of the National Academy of Design,” writes of Leupp as “one of the nearest and dearest of Art friends” and “one who had nobly and generously opened his purse in the Academy’s darkest hour of need, and relieved it in its troubles, one who SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.” . . . His fine collection of paintings, principally executed to his order by city artists, had to be disposed of. They were sold at auction “in the Galleries of the Academy, which had very properly been tendered for that purpose.”

A Centurion who had seen Leupp described him recently as “odd looking;” but this is scarcely borne out by his portrait by Henry Peters Gray, a founder of the Century, on the south wall of our dining-room, nor by the crayon portrait by Rossiter in the billiard-room.

Literature Committee
“Incorporators of the Century, 1857” (1936 pamphlet)

Leupp was born in 1807 and died in 1859. He was a hide and leather merchant, a railroad and bank director, a member of the Sketch Club and a manager of the Art Union. It was at his home that the Century was organized. Bryant’s memorial described him this way: “a man of open and generous temper . . . a useful member of several of our best conducted moneyed associations, and to one of our charitable institutions. . . . His mind had been much cultivated by reading, and he delighted in works of art, to the love of which he brought a natural taste almost unerring in its decisions and of late years cultivated by the contemplation of the noblest productions of the pencil and the chisel. . . . The artists among his countrymen found in him a liberal friend.”

“American Art in the Collection of Charles M. Leupp” in the November 1980 edition of Antiques described him as “the ideal merchant: humble in origin; hard working, successful, and honest in business; capable of enjoying his leisure; and eager to use his wealth for the encouragement of talent in others.” The article stated that Leupp “not only accumulated a remarkable art collection, he also supported the artists and their institutions. What is more unusual, he mingled with these artists socially.” He was on the boards of the Greenwich Savings Bank, the Mechanics’ Society Bank and the New York and Erie Railroad Company. In 1851, his worth was estimated as $198,264.

Leupp was a close friend of William Cullen Bryant, with whom he made three trips to Europe during which he added to his art collection. His collection included works by the Centurions Durand, Huntington and Leutze, as well as William Sidney Mount’s The Power of Music, which was sold some years ago by the Century. After his death, his collection was sold to settle his estate, at the National Academy of Design, for which he had been a benefactor.

William A. Frosch
“Our Original Amateurs, 2009”