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George C. D. Odell

Professor of English

Centurion, 1915–1949

Full Name George Clinton Densmore Odell

Born 19 March 1866 in Newburgh, New York

Died 17 October 1949 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Woodlawn Cemetery Association, New Windsor, New York

Proposed by Brander Matthews and Beverly Chew

Elected 6 March 1915 at age forty-eight

Century Memorial

George Clinton Densmore Odell. [Born] 1866. Historian.

“Happy the man whose avocation merges finally into an absorbing vocation,” wrote Professor Odell in the Introduction to his Annals of the New York Stage of which fifteen large volumes had been published at his death. “I shall be pleased,” he wrote, “if my treatment is judged to be both sound and entertaining; with such dual purpose my pen glided happily along.”

So, happily, Odell created his Annals, a prodigy of scholarship, colossal, definitive and unique. Ho other stage in the world has such a record, nor one remotely even comparable. It can never be superseded and for all the forseeable future it will be a mine for historians of the social history of New York and especially of all the arts of the theatre, high brow, and low brow—circuses, minstrelsy, amateur theatricals, “variety,” opera, concerts and the “legitimate” theatre. It shows our city “in successive eras with all its prejudices, and all its predilections, social artistic and dramatic.”

He wrote in his Introduction to the Annals: “This history grew out of a great love for the theatre. As boy and as man I have been deeply interested in affairs of the stage, and much of the enjoyment of my life has come from that devotion. I should be gratified if in some measure these volumes might be accepted, as an effort to repay, however inadequately, the debt of pleasure I have incurred in many years of playgoing.”

He did all the happy work himself, never had an assistant, did all the vast research, wrote the indices, read all the proof. It was his work and it had to be as good as he could make it.

Until his final illness put him to bed in 1947 he was at the Century almost every day—the handsome, dignified, and magnificent scholar who succeeded Centurion Brander Matthews in the Chair of Dramatic History in Columbia University.

Source: Henry Allen Moe Papers, Mss.B.M722. Reproduced by permission of American Philosophical Society Library & Museum, Philadelphia

Henry Allen Moe
Henry Allen Moe Papers, 1949 Memorials