century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

View all members

Charles Collins


Centurion, 1865–1918

Born 5 June 1830 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 2 October 1918 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy, Bronx, New York

Proposed by John Priestley

Elected 2 December 1865 at age thirty-five

Archivist’s Note: Treasurer of the Century Association, 1873–1880; designated an honorary member in 1917

Century Memorial

Failing health had so long removed Charles Collins, not only from that active participation in Century Club affairs which had been the pleasure of his earlier days but from the interests of commercial life, that his fellow-Centurions had ceased to associate him with such affiliations. Mr. Collins had inherited a share in an important printing business which, more than a generation ago, held a high place among the long-established institutions of the kind. His business activities ended some years ago, and they will be less remembered than the work of Mr. Collins as one of those New Yorkers who saw long service in the battle to make this a city worth living in.

He was a fighter for Civil Service Reform with Curtis and Schurz and Godkin, when it was not the easy fight that it is nowadays. At all times he was a good citizen who was ready to answer every call to work for the public welfare. During the Draft Riots of July, 1863, in New York City, he joined the Defense Guard, forgetting his Quaker ancestry, and, as he told his friends, placed a musket on his shoulder for the first time in his life. No one recalls whether he testified to having discharged it, or whether, if he did discharge it, any harm was thereby done to the enemy.

Mr. Collins served the Century long and faithfully, especially as Treasurer in the earlier days. It was he who initiated for the semi-annual due-bills the use (sometimes soothing, sometimes a trifle mordant) of Shakespearian quotations. One of the elder members of the Club recalls that the first of such quotations inscribed under the Collins finance ministry was the cheerful remark, “Here’s matter for a May morning.” In the Club during these later years, he was chiefly familiar to the after-luncheon groups in the Graham Library, where the seat by the East window on the lounge was always reserved for him, and where the sententious reflections of his eighty-nine years [sic: eighty-eight] imparted to the talk of the moment a touch, sometimes of quaint reminiscence and always of shrewd observation, that linked together two widely-separated periods in the city’s history.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1919 Century Association Yearbook