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Peter B. Olney


Centurion, 1874–1922

Full Name Peter Butler Olney

Born 23 July 1843 in Oxford, Massachusetts

Died 9 February 1922 in Lawrence, New York

Buried Trinity Cemetery, Hewlett, New York

Proposed by Joseph H. Choate and George William Curtis

Elected 7 November 1874 at age thirty-one

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Century Memorial

Peter Butler Olney was a typical New England product. He had a keen sense of humor, but his character was of inflexible and unswerving rectitude. He saw black and white; gray was hardly a recognizable color. A thing was right or wrong; there could be no middle point. He regarded the educational standards of the Harvard of his day as the best perhaps that ever had been attained. For himself, he was a well-grounded classical scholar, with more than the usual mastery of English.

Mr. Olney was a sound lawyer, and in his relations with the bar, always considerate and kindly. In the later years of life, the greater part of his professional labors were those involved in his duties as Referee in Bankruptcy. In that position his serenity of temper and humorous perceptions served him in good stead. Patient and courteous to every one, not easily imposed upon, he readily detected fraud; yet the very miscellaneous practitioners in bankruptcy regarded him with esteem and liking. His real merit was over-shadowed by the fame of his more distinguished brother Richard, the sturdy protagonist of the Venezuela ultimatum in the second Cleveland administration. But the two men were alike in characteristics. Richard was perhaps the more aggressive in temperament, but Peter was equally the good citizen, always doing his part in the political work of his party and always, as a devout churchman, giving constant and systematic attention to the interests of his church. He was a citizen of the type that embodies those qualities which made the old New England what it was, and which was long believed to constitute the backbone of American institutions—as perhaps it still does.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1923 Century Association Yearbook