century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

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William W. Appleton

Publisher

Centurion, 1870–1924

Full Name William Worthen Appleton

Born 29 November 1845 in New York (Brooklyn), New York

Died 27 January 1924 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy, Bronx, New York

Proposed by Louis Lang and John Frederick Kensett

Elected 5 November 1870 at age twenty-four

Archivist’s Note: Son of William H. Appleton; nephew of Daniel S. Appleton, George S. Appleton, John A. Appleton, Samuel F. Appleton, and James E. Cooley; brother-in-law of H. Seymour Geary; cousin of Daniel Appleton, D. Sidney Appleton, and Edward D. Appleton; grandfather of John J. Appleton and William Appleton

Century Memorial

William Worthen Appleton was one of the few members of the Club who got into the Century originally without being either elected or entered on the visitors’ book. He made his début in the Club at the age of ten, in the old Fifteenth Street building and at the first of the Twelfth Night celebrations, which veteran members declare to have been held in 1855 or 1856. In those primeval days, incredible as it may now appear, ladies were invited to participate in that Century function, and a beautiful New York woman accompanied the kingly Lord of Misrule on that occasion as Queen of the festivities. William Appleton, a very good-looking page, held the bridle of the royal lady’s champing steed.

Like many another highly valued fellow-member, Appleton was a publisher and the son of a publisher [William H. Appleton]. In the house of Appleton he is remembered particularly for his activities in arranging and promoting the series of books which introduced to the American reading world the great English scientists of the nineteenth century. Darwin, Tyndall, Spencer and Huxley came into touch with a trans-Atlantic public largely through his auspices. But, again like the other Centurions of his craft, his life-work was not confined to professional boundaries. He was one of the original sponsors of the New York Free Circulating Library and was chairman of its board, from its foundation in connection with a Grace Church mission class, much more than a generation ago, to its consolidation in 1901 with the Public Library. In that amalgamation he was retained as member of the Library Board and chairman of the Circulation Committee. It was a saying of his that the library was to him what racing, yachting and athletics were to other men.

No reminiscence of Appleton would be complete without summing up his services to international copyright. He was in the Capitol at Washington for the Copyright League, after years of energetic work in its behalf, during the last hours of the session in March, 1891, when the hands of the clock were put back in order to make possible a vote (at about three in the morning of March 4th) and when the bill was signed by President Harrison; to the great disappointment of Cleveland, who had set his heart on having the long international injustice ended by a statute with his own presidential signature.

Those of the Century who knew him best (and he was a constant visitor at the Club) will remember Appleton for the refinement of his character, for the courage and cheerfulness with which he accepted trying situations, and for the loyalty of his friendship.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1925 Century Association Yearbook