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Frederick S. Dellenbaugh


Centurion, 1890–1935

Full Name Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh

Born 13 September 1853 in McConnelsville, Ohio

Died 29 January 1935 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Fantinekill Cemetery, Ellenville, New York

Proposed by Enoch Wood Perry and Walter Shirlaw

Elected 5 April 1890 at age thirty-six

Archivist’s Note: Father of Frederick S. Dellenbaugh Jr.

Century Memorial

Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh was something of an explorer, something of a painter; but above all, from his fellow-Centurions’ viewpoint, the most cheerful of companions, who knew no moods, who was quietly acquainted with every one in the Club, whose ideas of passing events, expressed in easy conversation, were always pleasantly interesting. Why, with his early taste for venturesome exploration, he did not follow up that fascinating pastime, many of us wondered; perhaps domestic responsibilities stood in the way. Dellenbaugh’s name is inscribed upon the tablet erected on the brink of the Grand Canyon, to commemorate the daring group which in 1871, under the chieftainship of Major Powell, for the first time completed in boats the nine-hundred-mile passage of the tumultuous Colorado River. His “Canyon Voyage” contains a vivid description of that high adventure, with the one-armed Civil-War veteran at the helm; of the furious rush of the river between the frowning and narrowing cliffs, of the constant escape from imminent shipwreck on the rocks around which the Colorado foamed.

All this was an epic of discovery. But Dellenbaugh loved also to recall the Harriman expedition of 1899, sent out to explore the Western coast from Vancouver to Bering Strait. It was an expedition equipped, as none before it had ever been, with artists, photographers and, not least of all, the lately-invented gramophone. Dellenbaugh’s keenest reminiscence of the voyage was of the native Indians, who crowded up eagerly at the earlier landing-places, elbowing one another to record their war-songs into the “talking box,” but who, having once been paid for the service by an injudicious manager, charged a progressively rising price all the way up the coast—the results at one landing-place being reported by native grapevine rumor at the next, and becoming known to the aborigines long before the Harriman ship arrived. In the Indians, Dellenbaugh never lost his interest. His own best pictures are scenes of Indian life; his “North Americans of Yesterday” embodied his matured ideas of the vanished primitive society on the continent. Personally, he was proudest of the picture painted late in life to decorate the Museum of the American Indian. It was largely through Dellenbaugh that the Pueblo Indians, in 1921, sent to Washington their picturesque delegation to protest to the Great Father—known to the rest of us as the unlucky President Harding—against the attempt of Harding’s cabinet associate, the notorious Albert Fall, to snatch away from the tribe territory granted to it long ago, but on which Fall’s Big Business affiliates had discovered oil.

In the Club, which always seemed to be his home, Dellenbaugh will be remembered much less for what he did than for what he was. His personality was quite its own, and in a way part of Club-house life. He was one of our fellow-members who seemed to belong exclusively to the Century.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1936 Century Association Yearbook