century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

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Robert Kelly

Merchant (Dry Goods)/Public Servant

Centurion, 1847–1856

Born 15 December 1808 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 27 April 1856 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried New York City Marble Cemetery, Manhattan, New York

Proposed by N/A: Founder

Elected 13 January 1847 at age thirty-eight

Archivist’s Note: Father of Robert Kelly; father-in-law of William Packer Prentice; grandfather of Robert Kelly Prentice and William Packer Prentice. After his death, a memorial address delivered at the clubhouse on 4 June 1856 by Edgar S. Van Winkle for members of the Century and invited members of the Column Club was published as A Tribute to the Memory of Robert Kelly.

Century Memorials

Mr. Charles M. Leupp called to the notice of the Club the decease of Mr. Robert Kelly, one of its founders, who up to the last meeting at which he had been present and called it to order had been one of its much esteemed and active members. Mr. Leupp alluded in warm terms to the many claims that Mr. Kelly had upon the regard of its members, and to the fact that on the decease of Mr. Daniel Seymour an eulogium had been delivered before the Club by Mr. Kelly. He suggested the propriety of some action of the Club expressive of their regret at the loss they had now sustained.

On motion of Mr. Leupp it was Resolved, that Mr. Edgar S. Van Winkle be requested to deliver a eulogium upon the life and character of Mr. Kelly and that a committee of three be appointed by the chair to make arrangements therefor.

The chair appointed Mr. Charles M. Leupp, Mr. Oliver S. Strong and Mr. B. R. Winthrop such committee.

On motion of Mr. Oliver S. Strong it was Resolved, that the Century has heard with deep emotion the announcement of the death of Robert Kelly one of its founders and constant members.

That his cultivated mind and varied accomplishments in many departments of learning, the deep interest he took in the cause of education, the active and zealous devotion of his life to the moral and intellectual improvements of his fellow men, his eminently practical abilities, his public usefulness and private worth rendered him a most valuable member of the association and impress us deeply with the loss we have sustained by his death.

That while with the public in general we deplore his decease it is gratifying to know that we in particular enjoyed a closer communion with him living and as members of the Century we feel proud of his talents, his virtues, his active benevolence and his varied usefulness.

That we deeply sympathize with his family in their affliction and tender to them the expression of our unfeigned sorrow.

That these resolutions be entered on our minutes and a copy communicated by the Secretary to the family of the deceased.

T. Bailey Myers
Monthly Meeting Minutes, 3 May 1856

Kelly was a member of The Column and of the Sketch Club as well as the Century. His memorial address, by Edgar S. Van Winkle, was delivered to a joint meeting of the clubs.

Kelly was a graduate of Columbia College (class of 1826) with “highest honors.” He joined his brothers in the family business, made his fortune and retired at 29. He resumed his studies and became a trustee of New York University, a director of the Merchant Bank and a manager and then president of the House of Refuge (responsible for the “confinement, the maintenance, the education and reform of . . . ill-trained, vicious and ignorant children”). He was a member of the New York City Board of Education, an advocate of a free college for the people of New York City, a founder of Rochester University and chairman of the trustees of the New York Society Library. A diligent student of the New Testament in Latin, he learned Hebrew in order to study the Old Testament in its original language.

William A. Frosch
“Our Original Amateurs, 2009”