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Victor Salvatore


Centurion, 1922–1965

Full Name Victor D. Salvatore

Born 7 July 1884 in Avigliano, Basilicata, Italy

Died 10 April 1965 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Springfield Cemetery, Springfield Center, New York

Proposed by A. Phimister Proctor and Walter Damrosch

Elected 4 February 1922 at age thirty-seven

Century Memorial

Victor was one of the oldest, in membership, of all Centurions. He did not merely belong to The Century, he was part of it. Wherever we saw him, in the East Room, at the Long Table or down in the poolroom we knew that that corner of our clubhouse was warmer for his presence. If you met him for the first time and listened to his gentle voice telling, without emphasis, of some fascinating personal experience or if you confronted him at a billiard table and watched his superb performance there, it would hardly occur to you that here was a sculptor who was a true artist and standing high in the American creative hierarchy. For Victor would never tell you about that or hint of his skill or the honors that had been paid it. If he talked about himself in the reminiscence of some episode, it was as a detached observer amused and dispassionate.

He had plenty to tell. If anyone ever pulled himself up by his bootstraps, Victor was he. Born in Italy under humble circumstances he was brought to the United States by his cabinetmaking father at the age of six. They settled in Greenwich Village in New York. Whether by heredity or environment, he had conspicuous skill in his fingers: indeed, he had the temperament and imagination of one who works with his hands. At fifteen, he began sculpture with a head of his grandmother. By hard work and great concentration, the talent he had shown in his first effort was developed till he stood high among his fellow artists. His work between 1910 and 1920 was especially distinguished; later he devoted much of his time to teaching.

Victor was a great believer in the importance of craftsmanship in human life and its value to the spiritual welfare of the individual. He saw craftsmanship dying out in the machine age and it troubled him until he had organized the free Greenwich House workshop devoted to teaching the crafts to the young. In a new building, classes were held in cabinetmaking, stonecutting, metal work, pottery, painting, and sculpture. The only expense to the student was the cost of his tools. It was an inspiring thing to see the effect of these classes on the street children. They became thoughtful, tidy, and endowed with a new purpose in life. They became such enthusiasts that they could hardly wait for the classes to begin each day and they could hardly be persuaded to go home when closing time came. Many talented and successful artists and craftsmen got their start there.

A Centurion friend—great in his own right—has called him “a great Centurion.” Another says: “When Victor Salvatore left us something warm and friendly and comforting went out of the lives of those who knew him and loved him.”

He was a member for forty-five [sic: forty-three] years.

Roger Burlingame
1966 Century Association Yearbook