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Charles Dyer Norton

Vice President, First National Bank

Centurion, 1913–1923

Born 12 March 1871 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Died 6 March 1923 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, New Jersey

Proposed by William Rutherford Mead and Francis Davis Millet

Elected 5 April 1913 at age forty-two

Proposer of:

Seconder of:

Century Memorial

The brief career of Charles Dyer Norton gave opportunity for his constructive power and organizing skill to make their impress in three distinct fields of American achievement. In the Northwestern Mutual Life his rise was so rapid that, at the age of thirty-eight, his salary was the same as the President of the United States was then receiving. This successful work was dropped by Norton when he was asked to become Assistant Treasury Secretary in the Taft Administration, at the extremely modest salary fixed long ago by Congress for such officers. His official handiwork became immediately visible in the simplification of the government’s accounts and the reorganization of important staffs. The President quickly recognized this organizing faculty by making Norton presidential Private Secretary; in which capacity he was a silent witness of the remarkable interview between Ex-president Roosevelt, just returned from Africa in 1910, and his successor in the White House.

When Norton left Washington in 1911 to become vice-president of the First National Bank of New York he had, so his Wall Street colleagues have testified, acquired experience in the banking business only so far as he was brought in contact with it while Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of Fiscal Bureaus. Nevertheless, his initiative power and his wide association with men of business in New York and elsewhere led him into the investigation of new enterprises, the financing of them and, as director and adviser, the conducting of industrial and other organizations, new and old. He had ability, tact, industry, great charm and power to predispose people in his favor, and an exceptional talent for negotiation.

Of Norton’s quiet, unspectacular but most effective work on the Red Cross War Council and on the Special Committee for planning comprehensive development of New York and the surrounding territory, the general public knew only by the steady progress of those undertakings. It was no less energetic and exacting an executive than General Dawes who once remarked, as long ago as when Norton was initiating similar civic activities at Chicago: “I don’t know what it is all about; but if Charlie Norton says it is necessary, I am for it.”

Norton was not the only Centurion who made his mark in government finance. We still have on our membership roll the Secretary who solved in 1888 that seemingly insoluble problem, absorption of the country’s bank reserves into the Treasury’s idle surplus [Charles S. Fairchild]; the Assistant Secretary who carried the Spanish War Loan of 1898 to its sevenfold oversubscription [Frank Arthur Vanderlip]; also the Assistant Secretary under whose personal auspices were conducted those amazing transactions whereby the United States advanced nearly ten billion dollars to its European Allies in 1917 and 1918 [Leo S. Rowe]. The past year’s death roll contains the name of yet another Assistant Secretary [William Edmond Curtis], whose less fortunate lot confronted him with equally urgent responsibilities, not at a moment of financial and political enthusiasm but at a time of declining public credit, of political and financial chaos.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1924 Century Association Yearbook