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THE full extent of the late S. P. Avery's 
usefulness may never be known. Q>n- 
spicuous as his position here in New 
York was, he gave modestly from the surplus 
of his collections to many country institutions, 
ever fostering the love of art in its feebler be- 
ginnings. When one recalls that his consider- 
able wealth was made in the sale of pictures, it 
is remarkable how true his professional conscience 
remained to his personal taste. The humbug that 
so often surrounds picture-dealing he was incap- 
able of practising; he would no more have thought 
of following the more permissible methods of 
puffery than of practising the baser exploitations 
of the artist and the public. 

To the art dealer who is also a true amateur of 
the beautiful there must be a constant tragedy 
in the thought of the beautiful things that have 
passed — if profitably — out of his hands. Unlike 
his colleagues, Mr. Avery was permitted to build 


something like a permanent monument to his 
taste through his fortunate association with the 
late W. H. Vanderbilt. With an uncommon 
humility Mr. Vanderbilt interposed between him- 
self and the importunities of the commercial 
world of art the trained skill of Mr. Avery. What 
is still called par excellence the Vanderbilt collec- 
tion represents, in the main, what Mr. Avery would 
have done a generation ago had he been collecting 
for himself. The greater part of these pictures 
are now loaned to the Metropolitan Museum, and 
every one may judge how carefully Mr. Avery 
executed that trust. There hangs Les Gorges 
d'Apr^mont of Rousseau — perhaps the most im- 
pressive landscape ever painted; The Sower of 
Millet, Diaz in all his modes, besides admirable 
examples of Couture, Meissonier, Alfred Stevens, 
and the military painters. Taste has changed 
in a generation; the brilliant and somewhat metal- 
lic qualities of Fortuny, Villegas, and Zama^ois 
are now depreciated, yet no one can say as he 
runs over the collection that the examples are not 
the best of their kind, nor deny that it has a per- 
manent artistic value. *' I never have seen so many 
good bad pictures in my life," said a connoisseur 
who dislikes the art of the Institute. That was a 
handsome compliment to a discernment that 
always contrived to find the grain of art in the 
desert of its academic counterfeits. 

We have dwelt somewhat at length on this pro- 
fessional phase of Mr. Avery's activity because 


it shows how little compromise the connoisseur 
ever made with the picture dealer, and because it 
illustrates that the element of personality was 
as strongly felt in the business man as it was 
later in the gentleman of refined leisure. The 
Avery Architectural Library at G>lumbia Univer- 
sity, which was founded in memory of Mr. Avery's 
architect son, and chosen and catalogued in the 
most careful manner by the donor himself, was 
naturally the benefaction nearest to his heart. 
He made its enlargement a personal care, and 
found a librarian most inventive in devising helps 
and conveniences for the student. Every year 
this gift becomes more valuable. Hardly less a 
service to the cause of art was that of starting a 
print department of the New York Public Library. 
To this cause Mr. Avery gave the large collection 
of nineteenth-century etchings which he had been 
accumulating for forty years, and to the day of 
his death he made it a pleasure to add rare speci- 
mens or to fill gaps in the portfolios. By this one 
donation the new department gained importance 
in the world of art — a reputation that subsequent 
gifts, prompted, no doubt, by Mr. Avery's initia. 
tive, have further enhanced. 

In both these cases Mr. Avery gave far more 
than the money represented by the foundation; 
the experience he had won as an art dealer was 
in both cases the essential feature of the benefac- 
tion. This perhaps is the pleasantest feature of 
his remarkable career — that it would be quite 


impossible to say just where should be drawn the 
dividing line between his personal interests and 
public services. He never presented the somewhat 
pathetic spectacle of the man of great riches who 
brings money only, but no personal idea as to its 
proper spending. In all his association, as trustee, 
with the Metropolitan Museum he loved to think 
out and arrange personally the little collections 
which he gave or lent. In fact, he was, for a 
philanthropist, individual almost to excess; more 
set upon carrying out the many plans that came 
to him than eager to associate himself actively 
with the hundred and one organizations that make 
for art. Even so, this aloofness was not invariably 
successful (The Grolier Club managed to make him 
their president); but it cost him something of 
public appreciation as it spared him much talk 
and nonsense that would have been distasteful to 

His long and honorable career seems to us 
peculiarly exemplary because of the dignity with 
which he filled public positions, and more especially 
because of the ease with which he turned from 
his business to public service. There is often a 
feeling that philanthropy of whatever sort is a 
formidable occupation. This is so only because 
benevolent people often rush ill-advisedly into 
causes which their regular pursuits least fit them 
to understand, Mr. Avery's discriminating use 
of his own special abilities may well remind us all 
that we are responsible only for our own talents, 



but for those strictly; and that a willing heart is all 
the better for being backed up by a wise head. 

—New York Evening Post, August 13, 1904. 

SAMUEL P. AVERY, who is dead at a ripe 
age, was one of those men, more plentiful 
in a world much accused of sordidness 
than the world knows, who do good without 
employing a press agent to state the fact. Be- 
ginning life as an engraver, he naturally ac- 
quired an interest in art, and became one of the 
best known dealers in pictures in the metropolis. 
It was to his encouragement that many of the 
American as well as not a few of the foreign 
artists owed their success. The various societies 
organized for sales and exhibitions, and the various 
schools established for the teaching of art in all 
its branches, had his quiet but effective and 
monetary support. At the time of his death he 
was a member of seven of these societies, and was 
a patron of most of the schools. But his useful- 
ness and his generosity extended beyond his 
chosen field. He was a trustee of three public 
libraries, a founder of the Metropolitan Museum, 
a veteran of the army, a giver to charities, he 
endowed several free beds in hospitals, he took 
a part in educational work in the South, and in 
measures designed to protect and enlighten the 
Indian, he created the library in the Teachers 
G)llege, and made and endowed the library of 
architecture in Columbia University which gave 


to him the degree of master of arts. To the 
Lenox Library he gave his remarkable collection 
of prints and examples of lithography, illustrating 
that art in its completeness, these gifts numbering 
over 17,000. Withal he was not a remark^ly 
rich man, and he never put himself on exhibition 
when a service was to be done for the community, 
although he was one who could be counted upon 
to do more than his share of it. His memory is 
held in love and reverence by the whole body of 
painters, sculptors, architects and medalists, 
whom he assisted, and by the educators of the 
country. He set an example worthy to be kept 
before those who have either wealth or talent to 
devote to the public interest. 

—Brooklyn Eagle, August i), 1904. 

THE death of Samuel P. Avery recalls the 
fact that great wealth is not necessary 
to a man who has the desire to benefit 
the world provided he has understanding. Be- 
cause he was an engraver by profession and a 
connoisseur by taste and training he had the 
knowledge required to make collections at com- 
paratively small cost, and some of these he 
placed where they can be cared for and seen. 
The Lenox Library has certain portfolios contain- 
ing the etched work of Flameng, for instance, in 
more complete form than it can be found in Paris, 
because Avery recognized Flameng's ability at an 
early date and quietly secured the largest num- 



ber of proofs. Other etchers and engravers were 
followed in their careers with the same diligence, 
and the Lenox has the completest record of their 
art. And while these collections were made before 
thefartists had been "boomed" by the demand 
from the generality of collectors, Mr. Avery had 
the good sense to make his gifts at once, adding 
to them from time to time, strengthening and 
completing them, so that they were of service to 
the art-loving public during his life and were not 
left to be dealt out by his executors as bequests, 
thus entailing delays and sometimes the frustra- 
tion of the purpose of the donor. 

The various art organizations and clubs to 
which Mr. Avery belonged will miss his ready 
sympathy and some of them his counsel. He was 
a diplomat in his way, though he could not and 
did not escape some of the conflicts that spring 
from differing views of art and the dogmatic 
methods that grow on men with age. He had to 
step warily among the artists and collectors — 
kittle cattle if ever there were any ! All the old 
misunderstandings and rancours are swept away 
by death and the good works Mr. Avery did re- 
main to honor his memory. 

—New York Times, August 14, 1904. 

THE late Samuel Putnam Avery lived a 
useful life, and he will be widely re- 
gretted at once as a personality and as an 
influence for good in the artistic development 


of the city. Forty years ago, when he entered 
the picture market, the conditions of aesthetic 
taste in America were decidedly mixed. The 
sentimental or humorous anecdote, painted by 
the mediocre artist, was quite as likely to tap- 
peal to the collector as was any masterpiece of 
modem art. Mr. Avery was a man of common 
sense, and so did not try to make things over in a 
day; besides, he knew, what we are sometimes dis- 
posed to forget, that even the painted anecdote can 
be, on occasion, a masterpiece. But he had an in- 
stinctive feeling for what was best in contemporary 
art; he realized from the outset the value of the 
Barbizon school, for example, and he was of great 
service to us in bringing really good pictures into 
the country. More than one noted gallery in New 
York owes its excellence to his share in its creation. 
On his visits to Europe in earlier days he estab- 
lished friendly relations with scores of artists 
since become famous. He was among their first 
as he was among their most discerning patrons, 
and as a result there passed through his hands or 
remained in his possession some of the rarest and 
most characteristic productions of his time. He 
had a gift for discovering the unique picture or 
print, the most interesting personal souvenir. 
Ranging far outside the boundaries of pictorial 
art, he swelled the list of his acquisitions with 
beautiful bindings, porcelains, and divers objects 
of artistic craftsmanship. These treasures he 
often lent for exhibition purposes, and finally, 



in the leisure of his later life, bestowed upon dif- 
ferent institutions, so that while at the time of his 
death he left his home still full of beautiful things, 
he had made in one direction or another a re- 
markable number of important gifts. His collec- 
tion of etchings, including a wonderful array of 
Whistlers, went to enrich the print department 
of the New York Public Library. Again and 
again it has furnished forth a notable exhibition 
at the Lenox Library Building. The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, which he helped to found and 
which he faithfully served as a trustee, also 
profited by his generosity. 

But the extent to which Mr. Avery benefited 
the many artistic organizations with which he 
was identified has already been noted in The 
Tribune. What we wish especially to point out 
to-day is the fact that in matters of art he was 
as cultivated as he was open-handed. He exerted 
a salutary influence not simply because he was 
ever ready to give practical support to an enlight- 
ened movement, but because he reinforced his 
more tangible contributions with the counsel that 
comes from taste and judgment. A good citizen 
who was also a connoisseur has been lost in his death. 

—New York Tribune, August 14, 1904. 

SAMUEL PUTNAM AVERY died last week. 
He was a great art lover. New York 
City owes to him a library, prints, medals, 
the perpetual example of his public spirit. He 



was eighty-two years of age and had retained a 
youthful interest in all things, which makes his 
loss more cruel. 

Those who knew him know that his kindness 
was refined, his benevolence ingenious and that 
he gave gracefulness to his cordiality. He had 
been ill for a long time, but he retained of his 
years of strength an amiable air and the gift of 
pleasing. He was at the Architectural League's 
dinners in the Spring enthusiastic about all ques- 
tions of art. 

They had always interested him passionately. 
He was an engraver on copper and on wood until 
1867. A book on the Chevalier Bayard, which 
Harper & Brothers published, is valuable as a 
relic of his days of handicraft. It is illustrated 
with his woodcuts. He was appointed, in 1867, 
American Commissioner to the Paris World's Fair, 
and returned to New York a picture dealer. 

Edmund Clarence Stedman wrote a poem on 
this picture dealer. He wanted to make pictures 
rather than to sell them, but he had not time. 

Artists were grateful to Mr. Avery and made of 
his house a museum. It has paintings, statues, 
bronzes, autographs, books in artistic bindings of 
immense value. His pleasure was to make them 
easily accessible to all students. He founded in 
memory of his son, Henry Ogden Avery, who died 
while a student of architecture at Paris, the Avery 
Architectural Library of Columbia University. 
It is excellent. There are the rarest books on 




architecture that one may wish to consult, and 
all standard works. R^arding architecture as 
the basis of all the arts, Mr. Avery made the col- 
lection to include all the books on painting, 
sculpture and ornament that he could find. 

His interest in the library was incessant. His 
desk was always covered with catalogues of old 
and new works on art which he compared with his 
list of the library at Columbia. What this lacked 
had to be obtained. The library, endowed in 
1 89 1, had in six years all the books that the cata- 
Ic^ers could suggest to him, and then he made 
another extravagant gift. 

He gave to the New York Public Library — 
Tilden, Lenox and Astor foundations — his collec- 
tion of prints. It is formed of etchings of the 
master painters, and it contains proof impressions 
which are not in the Louvre nor in the Biblio- 
theque Nationale. The Avery Print Collection 
has twice as many proofs of works of Flameng and 
Jacque as Paris has, and works of Daubigny which 
are not known there to exist. Mr. Avery got 
them from the artists themselves and from their 
printer . He gave medals to The Grolier Club, 
art objects to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
books and prints to numerous public institutions. 

A gold medal struck in honor of his seventy- 
fifth birthday was presented to him by a group of 
citizens. He accepted it with astonishment, 
thinking it odd that he should be honored for 
having done the things that gave to him the great- 



est pleasure. He had in his sentiments all the 
delicacies of his artistic taste. 

—Henri Pene Dubois, in Chicago Examiner, August i8, 1904. 


THE vagaries and habits of the collector 
are l^on, while his motives are as varied 
as his habits. Some men collect books 
for investment, resell their libraries, and gloat 
over the profits; others buy purely with the 
idea of reading, while again some have the dual 
motive of pleasure in reading rare books and of a 
shrewd investment. To none of these classes did 
the late Mr. Samuel P. Avery belong. He was 
a collector primarily for his own pleasure and 
delectation, and secondarily for the purpose of 
doing good to those to whom he was a benefactor 
and of helping those from whom he was a pur- 
chaser. He was that rara avis, an altruistic col- 

Mr. Avery b^an life as an engraver on copper, 
and early had his attention drawn to the artistic 
and mechanical part of book-making. He was 
once employed by a bank note company. It was 
natural, therefore, that all through his career he 
should be an ardent admirer as well as collector 
of specimens of fine book-making, as regards type, 
illustration, and general format. 

Mr. Avery also practised wood engraving, and 
became very skilful at his art. He compiled and 



illustrated several volumes of humorous quality, 
and those who knew him soon discovered that he 
possessed a keen sense of humor. It was a matter 
of course that when The Grolier Club was founded 
in 1884 Mr. Avery should take a deep interest 
in its object and work, and all through his career 
he was a constant attendant at its meetings, work- 
ing on important committees, besides serving the 
club as its president. It is said that his record 
for attendance at the monthly members' meetings 
exceeded that of any other member of this well- 
known organization. Not only was his interest 
manifested by the giving of his time, but Mr. 
Avery early began to present the library of the 
club with books, engravings, bindings, etc. As 
a collector Mr. Avery was most discriminating and 
careful in his buying, and early formed one of the 
best collections of bookbindings, as a fine art, 
ever made in this country. 

Every institution in this country with which he 
was directly associated, and many which had no 
possible claim upon him, were enriched by his 
gifts. To the Avery Architectural Library he 
gave his very complete collection of books on fine 
bindings, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art was 
a frequent recipient of books of interest, particu- 
larly those relating to etchings, engravings, and 
the allied arts. Even remote college libraries 
received unsolicited gifts, generally relating to the 
arts and crafts. 

It is said by one of Mr. Avery's most intimate 




friends that his library at the time of his death 
was not a large one, because he was such a con- 
stant giver of books. It represented only the 
undistributed remnant. 

The Bibliophile has been in some of Mr. Avery's 
haunts in Paris and London, and wherever he 
was a familiar figure the verdict was the same; 
namely, that he was a most well-informed, modest, 
courteous, kindly gentleman of the old school 
whose object seemed to rather give than to get. 
One phase of his kindliness will long be remem- 
bered by men greatly his junior. He never 
seemed to look down upon them, but always 
treated them as possessing great possibilities, and 
many a kind word spoken to a young engraver 
or bookbinder was followed by a substantial 
order. Mr. Avery did not do like some collectors, 
wait until the fame of an artisan or artist was 
established and his name on every one's lips, and 
then to seek his wares, but he early recognized 
merit and took an especial pride in being among 
the first to order the work of new men. 

Mr. William Matthews, the first American binder 
who gained standing as a master, was a life-long 
friend of Mr. Avery's, and the Bibliophile well 
remembers watching Mr. Avery at the sale of Mr. 
Matthews's library some years ago, securing books 
which had formed the subject of their united 
taste, and many hours of discussion. 

Of bookplates, he used three, if not more; one 
engraved by the English master, C. W. Sherbom, 



one made for the Avery Architectural Library, 
one engraved by French, forming No. lo in Mr. 
Lemperly's check list. This was made in memory 
of his daughter. Miss Ellen Walters Avery, whose 
library was presented by her father to the Teach- 
ers College, and is dated March 25, 1893. ^^ ^^ 
one of the most successful of Mr. French's crea- 
tions. The design represents a lyre, telescope, 
daisies, etc., worked into an elaborate border, 
while an open book of music, an astronomy, a 
natural history, a church history, a volume of 
poems, and the " Imitation of Christ" are set in an 
artistic group, evidently representing the tastes 
of his daughter. 

Mr. Avery was a delightful letter writer, and 
something of a punster, while he prided himself 
on saying all he had to say on a given subject in 
the briefest possible way. His notelets became 
famous, and a friend of the Bibliophile has told 
of many such being preserved by him because they 
were too clever and quaintly humorous to throw 

One can see him now seated at his desk in his 
library (which was in the front room of the second 
story of his house), opening his morning mail from 
correspondents almost all over the globe, giving 
advice here, ordering books there, writing kindly 
notes to various people who were discouraged 
about their failures, and always preserving the 
equipoise and kindliness which were so character- 
istic of himself in all that he wrote. His letters, 



if published, would form a charming chronicle of 
art, life, and thought in New York for the last 
fifty years. 

—Evening Post, August 27, i9Ck4, 

FEW men outside the library profession have 
been of more service in the library world 
than the late Samuel Putnam Avery, 
trustee of the New York Public Library and a 
helpful friend and benefactor of many other 
libraries as well. He brought to the service of 
his own library board a remarkable and unusual 
combination of breadth of mind and sympathy, 
with specific art knowledge, and that library owes 
to him the initiative or the reshaping of some of 
its most important collections. Active into the 
ninth decade of his well-filled life, Mr. Avery's 
services to the community increased with ex- 
perience instead of decreasing with age, and as 
many public institutions as private friends will 
sorrow for the loss of his ever-generous bene- 
ficence and sympathy. 

—Library Journal, September, 1904. 

PROMINENT picture buyers and art con- 
noisseurs of this city are expressing deep 
r^ret over the death of Samuel P. Avery 
of New York. They say they will greatly miss 
his annual visits to this city, and his kindly, 
gentle presence among them. 
On account of his connection with the various 



Colonial societies Mr. Avery had a large acquaint- 
ance in Washington, and he always received a 
warm welcome when he visited here. In speaking 
of it to-day a well-known artist said: 

"I always regarded Samuel P. Avery as the 
greatest critic in this country. He not only knew 
pictures thoroughly, but he was an authority on 
Oriental pottery, old silver, old books and en- 
gravings. He was generous to a fault, and, as 
you know, presented the Metropolitan Museum 
with some of its most valued treasures. Mr. 
Avery has always been regarded as the man who 
introduced the paintings of the masters of the 
Barbizon school to America. Years ago at Mr. 
Avery's suggestion, men like John Taylor John- 
ston bought Corots for a few hundred dollars 
that are to-day worth many thousands. Of 
recent years Mr. Avery lived quietly, spending his 
mornings at his home among his books and art 
treasures, and his evenings at the New York 
Union League Club. He made frequent visits 
to Washington and possessed a number of most 
valuable old prints and engravings, showing the 
capital in the early days of its history. Mr. 
Avery delighted to encourage American art and 
many a young American artist has been helped 
by his advice as well as having been financially 
assisted. I am told that he left no written record 
of his life. This is de^ly to be deplored, because 
an autobiography of him would have been inval- 
uable to the art and literary world. Among other 




things he possessed an album of pictures and 
autographs of prominent painters and collectors. 
Meissonier, Rousseau, Corot, and other artists now 
famed the world over, not only wrote their names 
in this book, but added some words showing their 
love and esteem for the American critic. In 
almost every instance they drew or painted some 
little sketch above their names. This makes this 
autograph album one of the most unique of its 
kind in the world, and its contents ought to be re- 
produced. But Mr. Avery was a most modest man. 
He cared little for notoriety and never would 
allow anything to be written about him or his 
album during his lifetime, and I understand he 
left no written record behind him." 

—Brooklyn Eagle, September 7, 1904. 

OF the large class of those who are inter- 
ested in art, but not actively engaged 
in artistic production, it is doubtful 
if any one person has had as great or as sane 
and helpful an influence upon the art of Am- 
erica as Samuel Putnam Avery, who died at 
his residence in New York City, on Thursday, 
August 1 1 th. Trained as an engraver, and giving 
early proof of remarkable taste and skill, he 
abandoned active artistic life for commerce in the 
production of others, but brought to the new 
field the natural refinement and the delicacy of 
imagination which would have secured for him 
great distinction in his original profession. His 



business methods were always clever and often 
brilliant; but his most intense activity was uni- 
formly guided by a natural appreciation of beauty 
and fine workmanship. Boldness in action and 
perfect taste — these always characterized his 
business career. The people of New York — and 
perhaps it is not too much to say the American 
people — appreciated these qualities, and were glad 
to make large returns for the faithful and expert 
service which he so constantly rendered. 

When in the course of a long and happy life 
Mr. Avery reached an age which made active 
endeavor burdensome and unnecessary, he brought 
to the disposal of his accumulations the same 
qualities which had created them. Boundless 
courage and great knowledge, and an alertness 
which made him ready for any emergency — to 
these were added that extraordinary delicacy and 
tenderness of temperament which made him not 
only a great critic and connoisseur, but a dear 
friend as well. 

It is doubtful if there is a worthy charity or a 
well-managed public institution in the City of 
New York which has not felt in a material way 
the benefit of his good will. Of these, however, 
the Library of Columbia University has been most 
kindly cared for. 

The Avery Architectural Library is a most 
characteristic production of Mr. Avery's genius. 
The profession of architecture is peculiarly de- 
pendent upon its literature. At the same time 



the cost of the best architectural books places them 
beyond the reach of many serious practitioners. 
This became apparent to Mr. and Mrs. Avery 
during the short practice of their son, Henry 
Ogden Avery, perhaps the most brilliant and 
promising of the younger architects of his day — 
who had gathered for his own use a remarkably 
valuable collection of books. At the death of 
their son there came to his parents the thought 
of the endowment of a monumental architectural 
library, as a suitable memorial; a library which 
should be easily accessible to all interested per- 
sons. Having made this decision, Mr. and Mrs. 
Avery, quite as a matter of course, placed their 
great resources in commission with a liberality 
which has known no limit except their own good 
judgment and that of the purchasing committee 
created by the foundation. 

To this library and this work Mr. Avery has 
always given most freely of that which after all 
has been most enriching and most valuable — 
himself. His very last message concerned a gift, 
under date of August 5 — and he then wrote with 
trembling hand, "I am a much sicker man than 
you may imagine," though every other word was 
cheerful arid hopeful. To the very last his in- 
terest never flagged, and his generous heart beat 
strong and true in spite of a keen consciousness 
of failing physical powers. 

On the afternoon of the 14th, simple yet impres- 
sive services were held at the family residence, at 



which in spite of the midsummer and vacation 
season the University was well represented. 

More enduring than on bronze or marble, is 
the inscription which he has written by his life 
on the hearts of his fellow citizens. 

—Columbia University Quarterly, September, 1904. 

BY advices just received from America we 
learn with regret of the death of Mr. 
Samuel Putnam Avery, who for many 
years has been a member of the Ex Libris Society. 
The New York Evening Post of August 13, 1904, 
gave a lengthy obituary notice of Mr. Avery, and 
a most appreciative article. 

The late Mr. Avery was a native of New York, 
where he was bom in 1822. He started in life 
as an engraver, then set up business as an en- 
graver, art publisher, and dealer in oil paintings 
and water-colors. In 1867 he was appointed 
Commissioner to the Paris Universal Exhibition 
for the American Art Department, and in the 
following year he opened an art gallery in New 
York, where for twenty years he dealt in foreign 
and domestic art. In 1885 he retired from busi- 
ness, and was succeeded by his son, S. P. Avery, Jr. 

Mr. Avery was active in many public enter- 
prises, especially those relating to the fine arts. 
For a long time he was secretary of the Art 0>m- 
mittee of the Union League Club, whose efforts 
led to the formation of the Metropolitan Museum 
of Art, of which Mr. Avery became one of the 



founders and trustees. He was one of the original 
committee for the erection of the Bartholdi 
Statue of Liberty in the harbor of New York. 
He was also a trustee of the New York Public 
Library; president of the Grolier Club; vice-presi- 
dent of the Sculpture Society; honorary member 
of the Architectural League, and of the Typothetae 
Society; besides being a member of numerous 
other societies. One of the collections of Oriental 
porcelain in the Metropolitan Museum was founded 
by Mr. Avery, and in 189 1 the Avery Architectural 
Library of about 18,000 volumes was established 
at Columbia College, and endowed by Mr. and 
Mrs. Avery in memory of a dead son. In memory 
of a daughter, in 1893, he established a library in 
Teachers' College. In 1896 Columbia Collie 
conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts. 
In March, 1897, on the occasion of his seventy- 
fifth birthday, a gold medal was presented to him 
by seventy-five citizens of the city, in recognition 
of his many public services. Mr. Avery presented 
to the New York Public Library a large and valu- 
able collection of prints, numbering about 17,000, 
which he had collected in the course of more than 
thirty years. 

Such is a brief epitome of the career of this 
public-spirited man, who has lately passed from 
amongst us in the autumn of his days. 

As a collector Mr. Avery was most discriminating 
and careful in his buying, and early formed one 
of the best collections of book-bindings, as a fine 



art, ever made in America. Of book-plates, he 
used three, if not more; one engraved by the 
English master, Mr. C. W. Sherbom; another de- 
signed for the Avery Architectural Library; and 
one engraved by Mr. Edwin Davis French. This 
was made in memory of his daughter. Miss Ellen 
Walters Avery, whose library was presented, as 
mentioned above, to the Teachers' College in 1893. 
It is one of the most successful of Mr. French's 
creations. The design represents a lyre, telescope, 
daisies, etc., worked into an elaborate border, 
while an open book of music, an astronomy, a 
natural history, a church history, a volume of 
poems, and the "Imitation of Christ" are set in 
an artistic group, evidently representing the tastes 
of his daughter. 

Mr. E. D. French writes: "Mr. Avery's death 
has caused deep sorrow among his many friends: 
he was one of the first to encourage me in my 
book-plate work, and has always been a good 
friend to me." 

— Ex-Libris Society, Journal, London, September, 1904. 




WHEREAS, it has pleased a Divine 
Providence to call to his rest, on the 
I ith day of August, 1904, our friend 
and comrade Samuel Putnam Avery, who has 
been a member of the Veteran Association of Co. 




B, Twenty-third Regiment, N. G. N. Y. since its 
inception, as well as one of the original signers in 
the active Company. 

Therefore be it Resolved, That we, the 
Veterans and Ex-members Association of Co. B, 
do sincerely mourn the loss of our old tried friend, 
whose interest in his old organization has never 
flagged, and whose memory we shall ever hold 

And Further be it Resolved, That we re- 
spectfully tender our sincere sympathy to the 
family of our dear comrade, and that a copy of 
these resolutions be suitably engrossed and for- 
warded to them. 

John Hagen, 
F. B. Beckwith, President. 


August 1 8th, 1904. 

twenty-third regiment 


brooklyn, n. y. 

WHEREAS, Almighty God in His wisdom 
has called to himself our former com- 
rade Samuel Putnam Avery, and 
Whereas, Samuel Putnam Avery was a 
charter member of Co. B, Twenty-third Regiment, 
N. G. N. Y., enlisting January 21st, 1862, and 
honorably discharged April ist, 1867, has since 



then, in every way, shown a keen interest in our 
welfare, being ready at all times, to lend his sup- 
port, both morally and financially, to Old B : 

Therefore, at a special meeting, held at the 
Armory, it was unanimously 

Resolved, That this Company mourns the 
loss of a true and tried friend and comrade, and 
tenders its heartfelt sympathy to the family of 
the departed. 

Jno. D. a. Onderdonk, 
Captain and President. 

William M. Reid, 


August 22d, 1904. 

society of 

columbia university 


RESOLVED, That in the lamented death of 
Samuel Putnam Avery, the Society of 
Columbia University mourns the loss of 
one who labored long and successfully for the en- 
lightenment of his fellow men, and that the So- 
ciety hereby expresses Its grateful appreciation of 
his admirable accomplishments in the field of 
art, and of his notable contribution to the ad- 
vancement of the Art of Architecture through the 
foundation and endowment of the Avery Archi- 
tectural Library of Columbia University. 




Resolved, That the Society extends to his 
family its sympathy in their bereavement. 

Resolved, That these resolutions be inscribed 
upon the minutes of this Society, and that a copy 
thereof be sent to his family. 

Harry Ellingwood Donnell, 
J. William Cromwell, Jr. 

By Order of 

Arthur A. Stoughton, 





SAMUEL p. AVERY was a life member of 
the .Co-operative Social Settlement So- 
ciety. His name became associated with 
its work as with so many other humanitarian 
movements because of his acute interest in all 
that tends to broaden, deepen, strengthen and 
sweeten the healthful life current of the com- 
munity. Able, wise, competent, gentle and mod- 
est, he was the type of the useful private citizen. 
The managers of this Society appreciate the loss 
which they and this City, which was his home, 
have sustained through his death, and heartily 
acknowledge that they and their work were 
honored by his co-operation in it. 

September 28, 1904. 




WHEREAS, Samuel Putnam Avery, 
a member of this committee since 
1895, and of the Association since 
1882, died on August 11, 1904, and 

Whereas, We recognize that he had not only 
been a loyal supporter of the cause for the pro- 
motion of which this Association was formed, and 
a liberal contributor of funds for the carrying on 
of its work, but that as an artist he was well 
known and as a patron of the arts was distinguished ; 
further, that he had taken an intelligent and active 
interest in public questions generally seeking to 
bring his influence to bear in lifting the considera- 
tion of such matters to a higher plane, that though 
he rarely spoke in public, his influence was so 
exerted that it tended to promote the public wel- 
fare; that he was optimistic, in that he believed 
matters of "political housekeeping" were sus- 
ceptible of improvement : that he was sympathe- 
tic, especially with the aspirations and strivings 
of the young, and when he gave to Q>lumbia 
University, the valuable Avery Library, it was, 
that both old and young, but especially the young 
men and women, and the alumni who had not 
long ceased to be resident there, might have 
close at hand the means by which they could 
investigate more deeply the arts and architecture 
of an earlier time: that he was a philanthropist in 



a very genuine sense, who had taken to heart and 
applied the saying of George Sand's Jacques, that 
there is but one virtue, the eternal sacrifice of 
one's self; therefore. 

Resolved, That this Executive Committee 
consider it a privilege to place on its records and 
directs that it be so placed, this minute indicative 
of its appreciation of the quiet and unassuming 
but generous and fruitful life which Mr. Avery 
led, and the high purposes by which his career 
always seemed to be actuated. 

Adopted by the Executive Committee of the 
Civil Service Reform Association of New York 
at a meeting held September 28, 1904. 


Elliott H. Goodwin, 


INUTE adopted by the council of The 
Grolier Qub at its first meeting in the 
fall of 1904. 


expresses its deep sorrow at the death, on August 
eleventh, nineteen hundred and four of 

Samuel P. Avery 

one of its members, and directs that the follow- 
ing be recorded on its 



and a copy sent to his family. 
Among the many organizations in which 


took a lively interest and which became conse- 
quently objects of his bounty, there was probably 
none nearer to his heart than 


Already devoted to the purposes for which the 
Club was formed, he was early enrolled among 
its members and from the first was actively con- 
cerned in its welfare. 

A member of the Council from 1888 to the day 
of his death, he was always faithful in attendance 
at its meetings, and equally conscientious and 
unwearied in his work on the various committees 
of which he was from time to time a member. 

His zeal found a congenial and special field in 
the Club Library, of which 


enriching it not only with many valuable books 
relating to the art of printing, but with a fine 
representative collection of bindings, and a com- 
prehensive collection of notable medals. 


he watched over the interests of the library to 



the last, still adding to its treasures with an in- 
timate and thorough knowledge of its needs. 

The Club exhibitions whether of books or 
bindings or prints, invariably drew from his collec- 
tions and were sometimes almost wholly made up 
from those rich sources, and after his matchless 
collection of modem prints passed to the 


through his generosity the request accompanying 
the gift that loans be made from time to time to 




At the social meetings of the Club which he 
seldom missed, Mr. Avery's presence was felt as 


His occasional absence was always the cause of 
anxious inquiry, which deepened into grave con- 
cern during the earlier months of the year of his 
death. During the four years of Mr. Avery's 
presidency, the Club reached 


The limit of membership was reached, the 
library assumed a new importance, the Club pub- 



lications were highly successful, and the mortgage 
on the Club house was paid off. 1 1 has been felt 
that the Club would be doing well so long as it 
could maintain the position which was then 

In their long intercourse with Mr. Avery his 
fellow members on the Council of the Club have 
always had the highest regard for his simplicity 
of character and singleness of purpose, a great 
admiration for his range of interests and knowl- 
edge, a deep appreciation of his thoughtfulness 
and generosity, and a constantly growing affection 
for the courteous gentleman that he was. 

In his death they have suffered peculiar per- 
sonal loss, and they now place on record this 
tribute to his worth in the Club and his life among 
them, out of regard to what is due to him, and 
by way of expression of their sincere regret that 
such a life and work are ended, in order to convey 


to those who within the ties of relationship were 
nearer to their friend. 
While thus endeavoring to 


Mr. Avery as a member of The Grolier Club, the 
members of the Council are not unmindful of the 
wide sphere of his labors and usefulness in other 
directions of private activity, and in various phases 



of civic life in recognition of which they join their 
fellow citizens in 

appreciation and praise 

Theo. L. De Vinne 
Robert Hoe 
Beverly Chew 
Howard Mansfield 
Richard H. Lawrence 
e. b. holden 
Walter Gilliss 


Thomas G. Evans 
Chas. F. Chichester 
Edward G. Kennedy 
W. F. Havemeyer 
R. T. H. Halsey 
Arthur H. Scribner 

New York, October 4, 1904. 

INUTE of the Board of Managers of the 
Sons of the Revolution on the death of 

Samuel Putnam Avery 

Member of the 

Board of Managers 

of the 

Sons of the Revolution 

in the 

State of New York 

Samuel Putnam Avery, art connoisseur and 
litterateur, was bom in New York, March 17, 



1822. He was educated at the public schools 
and early displayed a taste for art. 

He started his life work as a letter engraver 
with a bank note company, but soon took up 
engraving on wood, being employed by Harper 
& Brothers, and other publishing houses. 

Mr. Avery varied his labor by compiling, illus- 
trating, and publishing books. He manifested a 
great interest in an American School of Art, and 
materially assisted its growth. 

In 1867 he was appointed Commissioner in 
charge of the American Fine Art Department at 
the Paris Exhibition, by Secretary of State Wil- 
liam H. Seward. 

On his return to New York, the following year, 
he commenced to deal in art works, with which 
business he was connected for nearly a quarter 
of a century. He was also identified with the 
general progress of art throughout the United 

His frequent visits abroad put him on intimate 
relations with celebrated European artists, and 
he was able to place many of their finest produc- 
tions in American galleries.' 

In 1887 he retired from active business, and 
devoted himself to the various organizations with 
which he was connected. 

Mr. Avery was secretary of that Committee of 
the Union League Club which called the meeting 
which resulted in the foundation of the Metro- 
politan Museum of Art in 1870, of which he later 



became trustee and chairman of the Art Com- 

The Avery Architectural Library at Columbia 
Collie was founded by him in memory of his 
son, Henry Ogden Avery. 

Mr. Avery was the author of articles on "Pro- 
gress of the Fine Arts in New York during Fifty 
Years/' in Lossing's History of New York. 

He was trustee of the Lenox, Astor and Tilden 
libraries, and was one of the Committee for the 
erection of the Bartholdi Statue. 

He was president of The Grolier Club, a Gentle- 
man of the Council of the Society of Colonial Wars, 
and was prominent in very many other clubs and 

Mr. Avery became a life member of the Sons 
of the Revolution in 1894. In 1900 he was chosen 
a member of the Board of Managers, and remained 
a member until his death. 

During all that time no member was more faith- 
ful in his attendance at meetings. He was nom- 
inated for the Vice Presidency last year, but could 
not be persuaded to accept. He always took a 
great interest in the work of the Society, and his 
gifts were many and valuable and unostenta- 
tiously made. 

Mr. Avery left a widow, Mary Ogden Avery, 
who has joined in many of his benefactions, and 
one son, Samuel Putnam Avery, Jr., also a mem- 
ber of the Society, a daughter, Mrs. M. P. Welcher, 
and four grandchildren. 



The Board of Managers records its deep sorrow 
and the sorrow of every member of the Board in 
the loss of a valued counsellor, sincere friend, 
noble, unselfish and patriotic citizen. 

The foregoing minute was adopted by the 
Board of Managers of the Sons of the Revolu- 
tion in the State of New York, at a meeting held 
October lo, in the year nineteen hundred and 


Edmund Wetmore, 

Acting President. 
Morris Patterson Ferris, 


MINUTE adopted by The Architectural 
League at its first meeting in the fall 
of 1904: 

Whereas, The Architectural League has suf- 
fered an irreparable loss in the death of its valued 
friend and Honorary Member Mr. Samuel P. 
Avery, and 

Whereas, The League recognizes that Mr. 
Avery was at all times ready to assist the League, 
not only by his advice, but by important contri- 
butions to its library, and that he had at heart 
the interests of the League, from its earliest days, 

Whereas, Mr. Avery's presence and encourage- 
ment was always of the greatest benefit and in- 
spiration, and 



Whereas, The Architectural League of New 
York desires to add its appreciation of the great 
work done by Mr. Avery for the advancement of 
Architecture, as evinced by the Architectural 
Library given to Columbia University, and named 
after Henry O. Avery, one of its earliest and 
valued members. Therefore be it 

Resolved, That the Architectural League of 
New York, respectfully offers its sincere condolence 
to the family of our late member, and b^s to 
present this evidence of its esteem and sympathy 
at the time of their great sorrow. 

Arnold W. Brunner, 
Frank E. Walles, President. 


New York, October 35, 1904. 



THE American Institute of Architects, and 
a large number of leading men and 
women of every calling, here and in 
Europe, mourn the death, on the eleventh of 
August last, of a good man, a dear friend, and 
a most attractive personality. To the architects 
of America especially is Mr. Avery's death a 
bereavement. He was an Honorary Member of 
the American Institute, and in many ways 
deserved, as much as a layman can, the esteem 
and gratitude of the profession. 



The accumulation of wealth was little in Mr. 
Avery's mind when he began his career. His 
temperament called him more strongly toward 
the practice of art than toward commerce, even 
in artistic matters, but, doubtless, it was precisely 
this native delicacy and power of imagination 
which insured his success in business, when once 
the current of events had drawn him into that 
field of activity. 

He was bom in New York, March 17, 1822, 
and learned the art of engraving, as a boy, in the 
office of a bank-note company. He soon found 
employment among prominent publishers as an 
engraver on wood. His work in this field brought 
him into intimate relations with many artists, 
and developed that appreciation of the important 
and valuable qualities of art which became such 
a marked characteristic in later life. While still 
at work on his blocks he had made a good collec- 
tion of pictures, and with this opened in 1865 an 
establishment at the corner of Broadway and 
Fourth street, in New York, where he combined 
his interests as an engraver and as a dealer in art 
matters. At this moment his long association 
with Mr. W. T. Walters of Baltimore was begun. 

In 1867 the unusual power which Mr. Avery 
had shown as a connoisseur led to his appointment 
as director of the American Art Department at 
the Paris Exposition. This, of course, was his 
golden opportunity, and he reaped from it all the 
advantage which was possible. In his work in 



Paris he was much assisted by Mr. Walters, and 
by another loyal friend whose name should always 
be associated with his, Mr. George A. Lucas, a 
West Point graduate, resident in Paris, after 1865. 
These three defenders of good taste and sound 
business stood side by side for mutual encourage- 
ment and advantage. Mr. Avery was often in 
London and Paris, was intimately acquainted 
with all artists of note, and knew the European 
market perfectly. Many struggling artists have 
been enabled to fulfill the promise of their talent 
through his early recognition and assistance. 

There is not space here to recount all the bril- 
liant coups which resulted in securing great master- 
pieces for important collections. When the Franco- 
Prussian war closed Mr. and Mrs. Avery were in 
London, and while the great palaces were still 
smoking these good people arrived in Paris. Just 
at that moment there were many collectors who 
were glad to dispose of their accumulations; a 
moment later the entire civilized world was press- 
ing into the market from which it had been ex- 
cluded for two years. Mr. Avery's splendid work 
in the formation of the Vanderbilt collection is 

In his best days Mr. Avery was bold, courageous 
and brilliant; but, after all, the foundations of his 
success were perfect taste and absolute integrity. 
What he sold as first-class was first-class, and the 
buyer never had occasion to regret his purchase. 
Moreover, through all his fine achievements he 



never lost sight of character and culture, which 
with him grew deeper and richer with succeeding 
years. He was interested in everything which 
deserved his attention, and loved everyone who 
was worth loving. Those who knew him in his 
last years can never forget the mellow delicacy 
which his temperament had acquired. 

Mr. Avery's friends know with how much affec- 
tion, almost reverence, he always mentioned the 
noble woman who shared his life after November 
24, 1844, and whose name is also enrolled among 
the honorary members of the Institute; but the 
partnership was not personal merely, as so many 
are; it was Mr. and Mrs. Avery in all the stress 
and labor of life. 

Most interesting to architects is that phase of 
Mr. Avery's activity and feeling which developed 
in connection with the life and death of his son 
Henry. Henry Ogden Avery, the second son, 
was bom January 31, 1852. He came into an 
artistic inheritance, which was fully appreciated 
by an artistic temperament. Architecture especi- 
ally appealed to him, and in 1870, he had the good 
fortune to enter the office of Mr. Russell Sturgis 
in New York. After spending two years under 
the influence of Mr. Sturgis, he passed to the atelier 
of Professor Jules Andr^ at the Ecole des Beaux 
Arts, whose deepest affection and esteem he won 
and held as a pupil for seven years, and as a 
friend to the end of his life. Mr. Henry Avery 
returned to New York in 1879, and entered the 



office of Richard M. Hunt. After 1883 he prac- 
ticed for himself. This is not the place for an 
account of the fine promise and unusual accom- 
plishment of this excellent architect. One phase 
of his character concerns us especially: its breadth 
of culture, shown by his love of good books. He 
knew, as all architects of sound training know, 
that the past of architecture lives chiefly in its 
literature, and to fortify himself thoroughly he 
bought a considerable collection of the strong 
works which lie at the foundation of every good 
architectural library. 

This valuable little collection was in Mr. Henry 
Avery's office when he died, April 30, 1890. It 
could not be sold, of course. To let it lie unused 
was equally impossible. Largely at the sugges- 
tion of Mr. Sturgis the books were transferred 
to the library of Columbia University and about 
them, as a nucleus, a complete architectural 
library has been formed. 

The scheme of Mr. and Mrs. Avery for the 
Henry O. Avery Memorial Architectural Library 
was carefully considered and clearly defined. They 
assumed the point of view of the large-minded 
practising architect, whose interest covers a broad 
field, but a field which has, nevertheless, quite 
definite limitations. Within these limitations the 
founders have been willing to buy whatever has 
been needed; beyond these limitations they have 
not wished to go. To keep the boundaries intact 
and to prevent hasty, indiscriminate, or prejudiced 



buying, they provided at the start that the selec- 
tion of material should be placed in the hands of 
a committee of experts, the Librarian and the 
Professor of Architecture, in the University, and 
Mr. Russell Sturgis, who represents the architec- 
tural profession in general. The gifts and endow- 
ments were placed in the custody of Columbia 
University, in order to secure the interest and 
protection of its architectural department, but 
the library is intended for all architects, and its 
use is free to any serious student. Mr. and Mrs. 
Avery have also endowed the Henry O. Avery 
Prize at the Architectural League. 

Mr. Avery's friends will be gratified to know 
that he is ably succeeded by his elder son, who 
bears his name and will foster loyally his many 


Edward R. Smith, 

Reference Librarian Avery Architectural Library. 

— Qusirterly Bulletin of the American Institute of Architects, Oc- 
tober, 1904. 

of the New York Genealogical and Bio- 
graphical Society, died August 11, 1904, 
at his residence in New York, aged eighty-two 
years. He was bom March 17, 1822, in New 
York City, and was the eldest son of Samuel 
Putnam Avery and Hannah Ann Parke, daughter 
of Capt. Benjamin Parke of New York. His 
father, who was in the leather business in New 
York, and died there in the cholera epidemic of 



1832, when only thirty-five years of age, was the 
son of John William Avery and Sarah Fairchild, 
both of Stratford, Conn., and grandson of the 
Rev. Ephraim Avery, rector of Grace Church, 
Rye, N. Y., by his wife Hannah Piatt (or Pratt). 
Rev. Ephraim Avery was the son of Rev. Ephraim 
Avery of Brooklyn, Conn., by his wife Deborah 
Lathrop, daughter of Samuel and Deborah (Crow) 
Lathrop of Pomfret, Conn.; who was the son of 
Rev. John Avery of Truro, Mass., and Ruth Little, 
daughter of Ephraim and Mary (Sturdevant) 
Little of Marshfield, Mass., and granddaughter of 
Thomas Little of Plymouth, Mass., by his wife 
Ann, daughter of Mr. Richard Warren the May- 
flower pilgrim; who was the son of Robert Avery 
of Dedham, Mass., and Elizabeth Lane, daughter 
of Job and Sarah Lane of Maiden, Mass.; who 
was the son of Dr. William Avery who came from 
Barkham, Co. Berks, England, to Dedham, Mass., 
about 1650. 

Left by the death of his father at the early age 
of ten to make his own way in the world, Mr. 
Avery began engraving as a mere boy in a bank 
note company where he studied copperplate en- 
graving, then engraving on wood, and afterwards 
edited art compilations of his own selection, some- 
times contributing illustrations of his own handi- 
work. In 1865 he entered into the business of 
commercial engraving and art publishing at the 
comer of Broadway and Fourth Street. In 1867 
he received the appointment of Commissioner to 



go to France in charge of the American Art De- 
partment at the Universal Exposition in Paris. 
The following year he abandoned engraving and 
art publishing and became a dealer in works of 
art. He removed to No. 88 Fifth Avenue where 
he opened a gallery and for nearly twenty years 
conducted a very successful business in paintings 
and water colors, both domestic and foreign, when 
he retired entirely from business and was succeeded 
by his son, Samuel P. Avery, Jr. During this 
latter period of business activity he became widely 
known as an art connoisseur and one of the fore- 
most men in art circles in New York City. It was 
through his advice that several prominent col- 
lectors of pictures enriched their galleries with 
foreign paintings, notably the late William H. 
Vanderbilt and William T. Walters of Baltimore. 
The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan 
Museum placed much confidence in his taste and 
judgment and many of the romantic French land- 
scapes and old Dutch paintings now in the Museum 
were selected by him. 

Mr. Avery was for several years Secretary to 
the Art Committee of the Union League Club. 
This led to the organization of the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art of which he became one of the 
founders and a leading director. He held many 
other positions of honor, having been a Trustee of 
the New York Public Library, President of The 
Grolier Club, Vice-president of the Sculpture 
Society, and honorary member of the Architec- 



tural League and of the Typothetae Society. He 
was also one of the original committee for the 
erection of the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty in 
New York Harbor. The loss of his son, Henry 
Ogden Avery, a talented young architect, caused 
him to found in the G>lumbia University library 
the Avery collection of architectural and art books 
as a memorial. This contains more than fifteen 
thousand volumes and is probably the best special 
library of works on architecture in the country. 
For this Columbia gave him the honorary d^ree 
of Master of Arts. Nor were his benefactions 
confined to this University. He gave to the 
Lenox Library seventeen thousand nineteenth- 
century etchings and engravings, a collection 
which he had been accumulating for nearly forty 
years. The Grolier Club, of which he was Presi- 
dent, and the New York Genealogical and Bio- 
graphical Society, of which he was at one time a 
Trustee, were also recipients of valuable gifts, 
and one of the collections of Oriental porcelain in 
the Metropolitan Museum was collected and given 
by him. The New York Evening Post of August 
13, 1904, in an editorial entitled "A Public- 
spirited Merchant," said of him: "The full extent 
of the late S. P. Avery's usefulness may never 
be known. Conspicuous as his position here in 
New York was, he gave modestly from the surplus 
of his collections to many country institutions, ever 
fostering the love of art in its feeble beginnings." 
In March, 1897, on the occasion of his seventy- 



fifth birthday, a portrait medallion in gold was 

presented to him by seventy-five citizens of New 

York in recognition of his many public services. 

Samuel Putnam Avery was married November 

.24, 1844, to Mary Ann Ogden, daughter of Henry 

Aaron Ogden and Katharine Conklin, both of 

New York. He is survived by his widow and 

two children: Samuel P. Avery, Jr., who until 

recently conducted the business founded by his 

father, and Mrs. Fannie F. Welcher, wife of the 

Rev. M. P. Welcher of Brooklyn. Benjamin Parke 

Avery, who was Minister to China under President 

Grant, and died in Pekin in 1875, was his only 

—New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, October, 1904. 



ON the nth of August of the present 
year, there died here in New York, 
universally lamented, Samuel Putnam 
Avery, member of the Numismatic Society, the 
Nestor of the art-world of our city, at the ad- 
vanced age of eighty-two years. 

Founder and leading director of the Metro- 
politan Museum, Vice-president of the National 
Arts Club, founder of the Avery Library of 
Columbia, an active promoter of the New York 
Public Library, The Grolier Club, and other in- 
stitutions, the deceased was one of those great 



men, who, in this country as perhaps nowhere 
else, animated by true love of mankind and con- 
sidering the mental development of their fellow- 
men, by the munificent renunciation of their 
fortunes won in pains and toil, set aside benefac- 
tions of inestimable value for public use, and 
thereby assure for themselves the thankful re- 
membrance of all coming generations. Avery 
was bom in New York, in 1822, and was originally 
an engraver on copper and wood, but later on he 
abandoned this profession and became a dealer 
in art objects. At his instigation and through 
his mediation, ^prominent collectors such as Van- 
derbilt, Walters and others enriched their galler- 
ies with the most famous works of the great 
painters of the present and the past. It was due 
to his influence that patriotically inclined col- 
lectors presented many a work of art to the 
Metropolitan Museum, which was thus enabled 
to elevate and purify the art feeling and taste of 
the public. Avery himself, twelve years ago, 
presented to the Metropolitan Museum a very 
valuable collection of three hundred medals and 
placquets by the French medalists Roty and 
Chaplain, besides which he, together with his 
wife, offered each year, for the opening celebra- 
tion of the Museum, valuable pictures, silver book- 
bindings and many costly presents, among which 
at one time three hundred antique silver spoons. 
To the Lenox Library Avery gave his rich collec- 
tion of etchings and engravings, about seventeen 



thousand pieces, the fruits of thirty years of 
activity as a collector. In memory of his son 
Henry, who died in the year 1890, and was a 
graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, 
Avery and his wife founded the Architectural 
Library at Columbia University and gave an en- 
dowment fund ; in memory of his third daughter 
Ellen, who died in 1893, he formed a library 
in the Teachers' College, and completed its 
book collection in a noteworthy manner. Avery 
was also an active promoter of the efforts in 
behalf of the education of negroes and Indians, 
endowed a number of beds in* several hos- 
pitals, together with his wife, and took a wide 
active interest in charitable institutions in the 
whole country. A man of such extraordinary 
service to the public weal naturally stood high in 
the estimation of his fellow citizens, and it is 
therefore easily understood that my idea of honor- 
ing him by a medal with his portrait, found a 
lively approval on the part of his admirers. A 
subscription opened by me quickly brought in 
the means, from seventy-six friends of Avery, for 
realizing this idea, and by way of correspondence 
with our deceased Scharff in Vienna, I was able 
to make all necessary arrangements in order that 
the finely successful medal might be presented to 
the honored one on the 5 th of May, 1897, for his 
seventy-fifth birthday. (The medal was de- 
scribed at the time by Herr Oberbergrat Ernst 
in No. 169 of the Monatsblatt.) Shortly before 



Avery's decease, medalist Victor Brenner also 
dedicated to him an excellently designed medal 
"as a tribute of friendship" (so we are told by 
the inscription around the bust portrait), for to 
the fortunes of this artist the deceased (see 
Monatsblatt No. 253, August 1904) had also de- 
voted an active interest. His death has called 
forth sad sympathy in the wide circle of those who 
were near to him in life, and in the many institu- 
tions of public utility which Avery had benefited 
in such rich measure. May the Numismatic 
Society also hold its deceased member in friendly 

— Monatsblatt der Numismatischen Gesellschaft in Wien, November, 

AT a meeting of the Board of Trustees of 
the People's Institute, held November 
17, 1904, it was directed that a memorial 
of the late Samuel Putnam Avery, a member of 
the Advisory Council, be prepared and spread 
upon the minutes of the meeting. Such memorial 
is as follows: 

"In the death of Samuel Putnam Avery, the 
People's Institute has lost a constant friend, long 
a member of its Advisory Council, who, by his 
sympathetic interest in its purposes and his gen- 
erous contributions to its funds, has greatly aided 
the work of the Institute and encouraged the 
Trustees in their endeavors. 

"The Trustees feel that the loss of such a man 



is an affliction to the entire community, which in 
all phases of civic needs received his sympathetic 
and discriminating aid. 

''His memory remains as that of a high type 
of citizenship, and fully in accord with that belief 
in the people which is the animating spirit in the 
work of the Institute. 

" Recognizing also Mr. Avery's rare social qual- 
ities and his devotion to his family, the Trustees 
express their deep sympathy with those of his 
family who survive him, to whom they direct that 
a copy of this memorial be conveyed." 







New York, 18 November, 1904. 

AT a meeting of the Board of Trustees of 
the New York Public Library (Astor, 
Lenox and Tilden foundations), held on 
November 9, 1904, the following minute was 
unanimously adopted : 

"The Trustees of the New York Public Library 
have learned with deep regret of the death of 

Samuel P. Avery. 
Mr. Avery had been for many years a trustee 



of the Lenox Library, and became an original 
Trustee of the Public Library upon the consolida- 
tion in 1895, remaining such until his death. 

'' He was at all times a most zealous and useful 
member of the Board, who rendered conspicuous 
service from time to time during the n^otiations 
for consolidation and afterwards upon the Ex- 
ecutive Committee and the Art Committee. 

" He was possessed of a truly liberal and public 
spirit. Prior to the consolidation he had estab- 
lished an Architectural library at Columbia Uni- 
versity and in the same spirit was not only liberal 
in gifts of books to the Public Library, but in 
May, 1900, in order that a department of prints 
should be at once established on a permanent 
footing, presented to the library his entire collec- 
tion of etchings, lithographs and photographs, 
numbering in all 17,577 pieces. 

"This proved to be a most complete and valu- 
able collection, representing the labor of his life, 
and tended at once to place the print collection of 
the Public Library, as far as relates to modem 
work, upon a firm foundation. 

"In private life and in his daily intercourse, 
Mr. Avery was considerate and attractive, and 
the institution has lost by his death a munificent 
and cultivated benefactor and a valuable asso- 

John Bigelow, 

C. H. Russell, President. 





SINCE the death of Samuel Putnam Avery 
there have been obituary notices in 
many journals, including in their total 
mass a great many biographical notes which 
may be assumed to be generally truthful. The 
extreme interest which all lovers of the higher 
education must take in Mr. Avery's remarkable 
career have given these notices a peculiar value 
as showing how warm an interest could be taken 
in the man and his work by persons of widely 
different proclivities and associations. 

I have been asked to furnish some reminiscences 
because my acquaintance with him began at a 
very early time, and has been continually re- 
newed although not constantly kept up; and also 
because I had much to do with the foundation of 
the Avery Architectural Library, which is so 
peculiarly interesting to persons connected with 
this University. 

I was taken by my old friend Peter B. Wight, 
the architect of the now destroyed building of 
the National Academy of Design, to see Mr. 
Avery at his Ann Street office; and at a later 
time I went to his Brooklyn home especially to 
see his curious collection of small paintings by 
the artists then most in favor among American 
picture-buyers. That must have been in 1 864. Mr. 
Avery, as I knew him then, was a wood-engraver, 
but a letter from his son, the present Samuel 
Putnam Avery, tells me that there exist prints 



from an engraving on metal by John Durand 
(brother of the well-known painter, Asher B. 
Durand), and that these prints bear the additional 
inscription: "This lettering put on by Saml. 
Avery, Oct. 1841." This print is the earliest 
work of his father which Mr. Avery is able to 
identify : but for a time there was work upon metal 
for the American Bank Note Q^mpany. I have 
no knowledge myself of Avery's work as a wood- 
engraver, and it would be highly interesting if 
information upon that subject could be obtained. 
It was at the very time of my first acquaintance 
with him that his determination was reached to 
undertake the dealing in works of art as his future 
occupation. He handed over his business, his 
tools, and his plant generally as an engraver, to 
his assistant, Mr. Pesoa, who continued the busi- 
ness; and it appears that this transfer was gratui- 
tous on Avery's part — an instance of the liberality, 
the thinking of and for the interests of others, 
which was to be his peculiar characteristic. I 
cannot state exactly the date when he opened his 
oflfices or "Art Rooms" in the old building at the 
southeast comer of Fourth Street and Broadway, 
but here is a small item which may lead others to 
more immediately interesting information. A 
circular exists, dated December 19, 1864, in which 
S. P. Avery states that he "has opened an estab- 
lishment for engravings and publishings and a 
general agency for the purchase and sale of fine 
oil-paintings and other works of art." This ven- 



ture was made with the very especial moral sup- 
port and approval of two of the boldest and wisest 
''picture-buyers" of the time, W. T. Walters of 
Baltimore and John Taylor Johnston of New York. 
Avery was the life-long friend of each of these two 
able men, as he was afterwards of William H. 
Vanderbilt : and there was something very attrac- 
tive in the mutual respect that underlay those 
intimacies. My own acquaintance with W. T. 
Walters began when, in 1875, Avery brought him 
to my house to see what Japanese lacquers were 
like, for there were few to be seen in those days; 
and this little incident suggests the constant inter- 
course and constant discussion of collecting as an 
art which existed between those mutually helpful 

• His business as a dealer in pictures was con- 
ducted on a rather limited scale for a couple of 
years and then, at the beginning of 1867, he sold 
at auction his private collection of oil paintings. 
The cause of this sale was announced to be his 
intended going to Europe; and this going to 
Europe was in connection with the then im- 
minent Great Exposition of that year, the famous 
exposition which was the last successful enter- 
prise of Napoleon III. To students of art it is 
more interesting in this respect that the Japanese 
exhibit there was the first general announcement 
to Europe and to the West of the vast and pre- 
cious art collections of the Japanese nobles; col- 
lections which were, indeed, about to be broken 



up, to be scattered abroad. The civil war which 
ended in the permanent establishment of the im- 
perial power was immediately at hand, and the 
West was called upon to purchase the scattered 
possessions of the contestants and at the same 
time to reconstitute its whole theory of decorative 
art. Avery was one of the few who were ready 
to see, to welcome, and even to understand that 
revelation. Two or three of us were eager buyers, 
during 1865 and 1866, of every good scrap of 
lacquer-ware or yellow pottery that came our 
way, and Avery was a ready sympathizer. I re- 
member well his words about fine old lacquer — 
"It is very satisfactory, isn't it ?"— ^for that was 
true art criticism when coming from such a keen 
observer. The time for the study of Oriental 
paintings was not yet at hand — that was for a 
future period; but delicate and refined decorative 
art was shown to Europe at the Paris exposition 
as existing in a still artistic, a still working com- 
munity of natural designers. It was to this great 
exposition of 1867 that Avery went as a commis- 
sioner or representative of the United States, and 
it was probably at that time and with the friend- 
ships made in that place, that his singularly close 
connection with many of the leading artists of 
his time was to take shape. 

As for the sale itself, it was a curious collection 
of small pictures by Cropsey, S. R. Gifford, Gig- 
noux, James and William Hart, Hubbard, Ken- 
sett, Lambdin, Whittredge and many others. It 



seems that all of the then popular artists were 
there, those who are now forgotten and would be 
of small account if remembered, and those who, 
like McEntee and Inness, will be remembered 
always. Again there were represented artists 
who never were nor could be popular, but who 
were heartily admired by a little coterie of en- 
thusiasts — ^such men as J. W. Hill and his son, 
John Henry Hill, and Charles Herbert Moore. 
At about the same time with this sale of paintings, 
there were sold also many of the curious books 
which Mr. Avery had collected; for I remember 
in his book-case a number of volumes which were 
little known to the every-day reader of that time, 
books which had been ardently recommended by 
Ruskin in his earlier writings — books which con- 
tained the enthusiastic and youthful-minded spirit 
of the England of those earlier days of pre- 
Raphaeliteism and The Germ, the days of Gerald 
Massey's poems and of Charles Kingsley's re- 
volutionary novels. The sale of the books was 
impressed upon me by a battle I had with the 
auctioneer, who, as the trick of his trade was then 
and is still, had insisted on abandoning the ar- 
rangement of the catalogue in order to get a 
number of volumes by a certain author under one 
number. I had protested at the sale, as wishing 
to buy a certain item which had been catalogued 
by itself, but the auctioneer pooh-poohed the 
application and sold all the books as one lot. I 
appealed to Mr. Avery the next morning, and he 



went with me to the auctioneer's office, told them 
plainly that they were bound to follow the order 
of their catalogue, had the book taken out of its 
pile and the question asked me (not in Avery's 
presence) what 1 would give for it. In this way 
the book became mine, and I remember the little 
incident as an instance of the strong sense of 
justice which I never knew to fail in Avery's deal- 
ings with other men. What I notice is not so 
much a recognition of the fact that it was an in- 
excusable violation of the agreement, to alter the 
catalogue in that way; it is rather the ardent 
way in which he took it up as being a thing which 
was not merely to be r^retted, but was to be 
cured at once. 

His stay at Fourth Street and Broadway was 
not very long. He took the house at 88 Fifth 
Avenue in 1868 and after two or three years re- 
moved his business as a dealer in paintings to 
86 Fifth Avenue, occupying the house next door, 
88 Fifth Avenue, as his family residence, until his 
retirement from business in 1885. His fortune 
was made at this Fifth Avenue establishment and 
it is there that he perfected that singular alliance 
with the more enlightened rich men, the "picture- 
buyers" of the day, gaining little by little that 
reputation which made them so desire his advice 
in all cases where it could be supplied. As an 
illustration of this I would mention the earliest 
days of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when 
John Taylor Johnston, the president, said to me, 



the corresponding secretary, fellow member with 
him of the executive committee, that he should 
never be satisfied with that Board of Trustees until 
Avery was a member of it. The same opinion 
was expressed in different words and in a different 
way by William Tilden Blodgett, who, after John- 
ston, was the most active and respected "art 
patron" among the trustees of the first year. In 
fact it can never be known nor even guessed with 
any approximation to truth just how far the sur- 
prising success of many American buyers of 
paintings and other works of art was attributable 
to Avery. 

And this leads naturally to a consideration of 
some of the remarkable traits which I think we 
may recognize as always prominent in Avery's 
life and practice. He was a man without talka- 
tiveness; without the disposition to give his opin- 
ion. Driven into a corner or talking confiden- 
tially with sufficient reason for free speech, and 
he might give a brief hint as to what he thought 
of a given subject, of a man of his own time, of 
a work of art which was up for consideration. 
But he almost never ventured his opinion and 
never, I think, cared to expatiate upon it, to in- 
sist upon it, to impress others with the righteous- 
ness of the view which he held. In other words 
he was eminently a person of practical results, 
and just as we never knew him rise to speak at 
any of the many hundred monthly dinners of art 
societies which he attended during thirty years» 



SO we never knew him to "take the floor" in a 
smaller or more informal gathering. He acted 
on his opinions as to men and as to pictures, but 
did not, I think, care to express them in words. 
One never heard him talk about national politics; 
but he was a convinced civil-service reformer, a 
member for many years of the well-known board ; 
and it was as an old associate of George William 
Curtis that he announced himself when, in 1902, 
he founded the Curtis Medals for English oratory, 
in connection with Columbia University. Very 
lately, I think in the year 1902, I had occasion 
to wish for some general appreciation of a paint- 
ing which I had never seen but which was under 
consideration — in fact it was the question whether 
it was worth while to take a journey to study it. 
This question being put before Avery, he was 
ready at once with his records of the past and his 
ascertained knowledge of the opinions of others, 
and also his settled opinion as to the work of art 
in question. I remember it as seeming to me a 
remarkable exception, and yet as I see it now it 
was not an exception, to the habit of his life as 
I have tried to state it here: for he would speak 
when there was sufficient occasion. 

This indifference to the expression of his own 
opinion was accompanied by a general disposition 
to silence, which often stood him in good stead as 
dealer, as collector, as student of artistic tenden- 
cies. Persons who hardly knew him would think 
that he was lacking in candor, that his disposition 



''to cover his tracks" was excessive; but it was 
not, I think, an unwillingness to let others see 
the material for his conclusions or to let others 
follow the course of his investigations — it was an 
instinctive disposition to act upon his gained 
knowledge and not to utilize it for discussion. 
Another man looking at modem painting as he 
looked at it, studying the works of the artistic 
engravers of his time as he studied them, taking 
occasional excursions into Chinese porcelains and 
Japanese metal work, and settling down in later 
life to the collecting of fine modem medallions, 
modem and ancient book-bindings and delicate 
Oriental enamels, would have printed monographs 
on special objects in his collections or would have 
read papers before literary and artistic clubs on 
the etchers of the United States or the book- 
binders of Paris. Avery's disposition to study 
these things was not accompanied in any way by 
a desire to discuss them in words. Having at 
first a strong sense of the pecuniary value of 
works of art and a singularly acute instinct for 
the probable increase in such value, he bought 
with great skill and with much discrimination 
even at an early time; and bought at a later time 
with bold and extreme liberality. His purchases 
of the years before 1 880 were often for sale. Very 
often these purchases were made, one thinks, with 
the purpose of immediate resale; this without 
considering, of course, the modem paintings which 
were his regular stock in trade. Sometimes he 



would buy etchings or the like, and sell them if 
he could and even return them to France if the 
sale was not prompt; but those were early days. 
The opportunities which he would offer his friends 
to become possessors of precious early states of 
Whistler or Bracquemond, Meryon or Haden, will 
never return: but the market for such works of 
art was very limited before 1880 and it is probable 
that many such opportunities were lost because 
of limited means. But at a later time such oppor- 
tunities were not often lost, and a singularly close 
observation of certain lines of manual art which 
he had made his special study, combined with 
liberality of expenditure, made him one of the 
most successful collectors of whom we have any 
record. He had a marvelously quick-acting and 
trustworthy instinct as to the pieces worth buy- 
ing and the more numerous doubtful pieces. 

It was to this facility and this boldness that 
the institutions which he loved and worked for 
owe so many and such precious treasures. He 
did not care to appear as a maker of heavy sub- 
scriptions, and when the millionaires put their 
names down for two thousand dollars apiece, 
Avery would appear with a subscription of two 
hundred and fifty: but what he did in a princely 
way was this — he would get together a collection 
of precious prints, of important books on a given 
subject, of Chinese snuff bottles carved in hard 
stones and in glass, of book-bindings, ancient as 
well as modem, of medallions struck and cast by 



Roty, of American paintings; and the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, the American Museum of Nat- 
ural History, The Grolier Club, the New York 
Public Library, the Architectural League of New 
York, or the Boston Museum of Fine Arts became 
the owner of some one of these, a most valuable 
gathering of rare and costly objects of singular im- 
portance to the perfecting of its collection. He 
knew well the value of the best writing about art, 
and his marvelous collection of modem prints as 
given to the Public Library included many books 
on line-engravings and wood-engravings, etching 
and lithography, with monographs on certain 
artists who were not always engravers. In ad- 
dition to the gifts made in the name of S. P. Avery 
a collection of antique silver spoons of varied and 
beautiful character was given to the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art by Mrs. Avery, and, on the 
death of their daughter, Ellen Walters Avery, 
in 1893, her own collection of books was given 
to the Teachers Collie at Columbia University, 
and, with them, a certain number of valuable prints 
which are hung in a special room of the Collie. 
It would be one of the most interesting things 
possible for this little world of students and 
collectors centered in New York if an approxi- 
mately complete list of these donations were to 
be made. 

His connection with the Architectural League 
of New York was made stronger than it would 
otherwise have been, by the activity in that body 



of his second son, Henry Ogden Avery. Henry 
was almost continually an officer — member of the 
executive council or the like — during those years 
when the League was making itself into an im- 
portant and influential body. As a young man 
he had been my pupil (about 1869-71), and it 
was my frequent advice to his father to let him 
go to the Paris school. He went there about 
1872 and for nearly seven years was a student 
connected more or less closely with the Ecole 
des Beaux Arts. My intimate acquaintance with 
him was renewed when I was president of the 
Architectural League, from 1889 to 1893; and 
so it was that when he died in 1890 his father 
came to me with the simple question. What had 
I better do to commemorate my son Henry? 
Would you advise the founding of a fellowship 
or of more fellowships than one? To this I 
answered that it had long been a dream of mine 
to found a society of a few persons willing to pay 
a large annual subscription, the purpose being to 
purchase those very costly books which every 
student should have access to, but which no one 
should be compelled to buy — the great work on 
classical sculpture which goes under the name of 
Heinrich Brunn; the magnificent folios on the 
sculpture of the Renaissance by Bode; the great 
series of volumes first begun by the Society of 
St. George and devoted to the Renaissance archi- 
tecture of Tuscany — books of that sort which 
cost four hundred or five hundred dollars when 



complete and which are also most troublesome 
to handle and house and most costly to bind in a 
proper way. As we talked about the scheme of 
founding such a library of reference, I said to 
Avery that I had dreamed of Columbia Univer- 
sity as probably willing to give this library an 
alcove or a small room — to give it light and warmth 
and superintendence; and when Avery asked 
why Columbia University was named, I answered 
that it was because that library alone was open 
till a late hour in the evening and properly 
administered and cared for at that time most 
convenient for students. The question of cost 
came up at once, and at Avery's request I 
drew up a list of perhaps two hundred titles 
of the most costly books known to me on 
architecture and the kindred arts. I remember 
that the assumed price amounted to a little 
more than sixteen thousand dollars and I re- 
member Avery's comment — "Twenty thousand 
dollars, then, would buy something worth hav- 
ing." The library was to cost him five times 
that sum. 

This second interview ended in President Low's 
office, for we took a cab to the college buildings 
in Forty-ninth Street and laid the plan before the 
President. He made the point at once that the 
books would have to be given to the Trustees — 
that the title would have to be in them — ^but that 
in all other respects Mr. Avery might make his 
own regulations as to selection and as to the con- 



ditions of use. The work of selection and pur- 
chase was taken in hand at once; a certain num- 
ber of valuable books had belonged to Henry 
Avery and these were given as they stood, and 
the books on my list were purchased as rapidly 
as they could be found. A letter from Mr. Avery 
to the authorities of the University stated clearly 
the conditions of the gift, and this letter is printed 
in the catalogue-volume of the A. A. L. — as its 
founder loved to call it. Before many months 
had elapsed a fund was established, Avery having 
given fifteen thousand dollars to be invested, 
and it afforded a continuous income for the pur- 
chase of books. Thereafter the purchases were 
continued chiefly by the "Committee of Purchase" 
instituted by the deed of gift, according to which 
Samuel Avery and his wife established the Avery 
Library. This Committee of Purchase consisted, 
as it still consists, of the Librarian, the Professor 
of the Department of Architecture, and myself, 
my successor to be named by the two members 
ex-officiis. In addition to purchases made in this 
way, Mr. Avery was constantly sending valuable 
books to the library, and he was nearly always 
ready to respond to an application for some book 
which was beyond the means of the committee 
at that time. In this last-named way of acces- 
sion some of the most precious books in the 
library were added to it, and I have letters from 
Avery in which he says plainly, in these or in 
similar words: "Now is your time; there is still 



some money in the bank. Don't fail to send 
in your titles of needed books before it is all 

And that spontaneous way of giving was his, at 
all times. There was little need of asking his 
help — little to be gained by such asking; he knew 
what institution could best utilize his gift. Even 
as an almost infallible instinct told him what to 
buy, so a distinct sense of where the pleasure of 
right giving could be had, sent him straight to his 

—Russell Sturgis, Columbia University Quarterly, December, 1904. 

nearly forty years one of the Century 
brotherhood, and none among us in that 
time more richly filled the constitutional quali- 
fication in his love of letters and of art. An old 
New Yorker, bom here of New England parentage 
eighty-three years ago, he was closely and efficient- 
ly associated with a great number of the organiza- 
tions for the enjoyment and promotion of these 
interests. In his youth he was an engraver on 
copper and on wood; then he became a publisher 
and illustrator, then a dealer and collector, and 
gradually a connoisseur, and was through all an 
intelligent and appreciative student and lover of 
art. It was through his agency and guidance that 
many of the fine private collections of this and 
other cities — notably those of the late Mr. Van- 
derbilt and Mr. Walters — ^were enriched, especially 



in the line of the old Dutch masters and modem 
French landscape. His success in his profession 
— ^it may be called one — ^was due to his thoroughly 
trained judgment, his delicate and sure taste, 
and the courage of his convictions. He was him- 
self a passionate but careful and systematic col- 
lector, and a most generous benefactor. His 
collection of some seventeen thousand prints, 
representing the labors of an ordinary lifetime, 
was given to the New York Public Library, Astor, 
Lenox and Tilden foundations. Columbia has 
what is probably the best architectural library in 
the country, given by him as a memorial of his 
son. The Teachers College received from him a 
valuable library in memory of a daughter. He 
gave many precious volumes to the Academy of 
Medicine. His Oriental Collection is in the Met- 
ropolitan Museum. He was a frequent contribu- 
tor to the Century Club. In every organization 
of the many with which he was connected — the 
Metropolitan Museum, the Public Library, the 
Grolier Club, the Sculpture Society, the Civil 
Service Reform Association — he gave, with won- 
derful liberality, his counsel and aid, even more 
valuable than his other gifts. Quiet, modest, and 
retiring in his disposition, one needed to know 
him well to realize the breadth and refinement of 
his culture, the soundness and sureness of his 
judgment, the tenderness of his heart, the gentle 
firmness of his fidelity to high standards. 

—Annual Report of the Century Association for the Year 1904, 







SAMUEL PUTNAM AVERY, the eldest son 
of Samuel P. and Hannah Parke Avery, 
was bom in the city of New York on 
March 17, 1822. His father, of old New England 
stock (a descendant of Dr. William Avery who 
settled in 1650, at Dedham, Mass.)> died during 
the cholera season of 1832, leaving his oldest son, 
then a boy but ten years old, with a brother and 
three sisters, to begin the struggle for existence. 
At a very early age he found employment in the 
office of a bank-note engraver, where he had op- 
portunities to cultivate his inclination for the art 
of design. While yet a boy he b^an to fill in his 
spare time with engraving on wood, at which he 
soon became proficient. Abandoning engraving 
on copper and steel — an art then most difficult to 
enter as a master to one who was young in years 
and of slender purse — he undertook to make wood- 
cuts for publishers and printers. 

He entered this field too soon. Printing was 
then in a state of transition. The hand press was 
still used for the printing of woodcuts, but the 
pressmen who could properly print woodcuts 
were few in number. What was worse, the result 
of the financial panic of 1836, and of the great fire 
of 1835 were still felt, and New York printers had 
to be economical to the verge of penuriousness. 



There were not many who could or would pay a 
proper price for a good design or engraving. 

Orders for engraving did not come unsought. 
The positions of artist and printer were then 
reversed. The few illustrated books of merit then 
published like Harper's Pictorial Bible and Lossing 
and Barrett's Field Book were really planned by 
the artists, and were accepted by the publishers 
only after much importunity. The period be- 
tween 1840 and 1850 was that of the comic almanac 
and the Dave Crockett picture book, the carica- 
tured valentine and the coarsest kind of woodcut, 
and the outlook for a better appreciation of good 
prints was not encouraging. 

During these dreary years of hard work and 
mean pay Mr. Avery was qualifying himself for 
better things. He studied with zeal and thorough- 
ness the rules and principles that govern all kinds 
of good art and good workmanship. From the 
study of prints and painting he derived instruction 
of value. To know why some pictures and prints 
had been rising steadily in appreciation, while 
others after brief j)opularity had fallen into per- 
manent neglect, was not to be ascertained by 
accepting the popular verdict. Nor was it safe 
to trust too much to the undefinable quality known 
as inherent good taste. He had to search for 
the many causes that helped to create meritorious 
work, to thoughtfully read the writings and pa- 
tiently listen to the teachings of the critics of all 
ages and countries, had to be eager to hear and 



slow to decide, had to critically compare the pro- 
ductions of many masters before he could make 
for himself just standards of proportion. 

Many years passed before Mr. Avery met with 
proper recognition as a competent judge of pic- 
tures and prints. Mr. William T. Walters, a great 
collector, was the first to discern his fitness, and 
it was by his advice that Mr. Avery was induced 
to abandon engraving on wood and give exclusive 
attention to the purchase and sale of works of art. 
But when recognition did come, it was hearty and 
thorough. In 1867 he was appointed commis- 
sioner of the American Art Department at the 
Universal Exposition in Paris, where he made 
many friends among foreign artists. No man in 
America has done more to make Europeans ac- 
quainted with the works of American painters; 
and it is largely to his discernment that the picture 
galleries of recent collectors have been filled with 
works of permanent value. During the later 
years of his life he was accepted by all as a wise 
judge on all forms of artistic productions. 

It is not, however, his expertness as a judge of 
pictures that need be considered in this paper. 
There is another phase of his character which will 
be more gratefully remembered. The spoken 
opinion given to-day is not always long remem- 
bered. The good deeds that outlast a man's life- 
time and of which the visible evidences can be 
found for years to come in many libraries are the 
things that will be most kindly recalled. These 



visible evidences are books and prints, for the 
books are, as the old Roman poet has well said, 
"more enduring than bronze." They live for 
centuries, and every year adds to their value, and 
in every generation new readers arise to thank the 
kind forethought that put them in easy reach. 

One of the most valuable of these collections is 
that of the Avery Architectural Library at Colum- 
bia College, which comprises about 1 5,000 volumes, 
given with a proper endowment, by Mr. and Mrs. 
Avery in memory of their deceased son, the archi- 
tect, Henry Ogden Avery. There is no collection 
like it in the New World. It is doubtful whether 
there is any as large, as accessible, and as generally 
useful in any library of Europe. Of equal merit 
is a great collection of prints and books on fine 
arts now in the Lenox Library; soon destined to 
become a part of the New York Public Library. 
Whoever examines the hand-book of this collec- 
tion must be pleased not only at the diligence, 
but at the exceeding good taste of the collector, 
for here are prints of the best work of all the great 
engravers. Among them are old books relating 
to King Alfred of England and literary curiosities 
that one hardly dare mention for the temptation 
to expatiate on their merits would protract this 
paper beyond a reasonable length. 

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art will 
find in the upper galleries a wonderful collection 
of Chinese and Japanese porcelains that were 
collected many years ago by Mr. Avery. They 



exhibit not only the delicacy and beauty of Oriental 
art, but the patience and sagacity of the collector 
who picked them up, bit by bit, piece by piece, in 
many cities and from incongruous surroundings. 

Nor has the Typothetae (New York niaster 
printers) been neglected. Its scant collection of 
thirty years ago was materially enriched by the 
bequest of the late William C. Martin, and ad- 
ditions have been made by many of its members, 
but no one has been a more frequent or more help- 
ful contributor than Mr. Avery. 

It is many years since Mr. Avery retired from 
active business, but his diligence as a member of 
literary and civic associations never abated. To 
enumerate these societies is to show the many- 
sidedness of the man. He was one of the founders 
and always a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum 
of Art, for many years secretary of the art com- 
mittee of the Union League Club, trustee of the 
New York Library Association (Astor, Lenox 
and Tilden foundations), ex-president of The 
Grolier Club, vice-president of the Sculpture So- 
ciety, honorary member of the Architectural 
League and of the Typothetae of the City of New 
York, and corresponding member of many foreign 
artistic societies. He was a member of the Cen- 
tury, Union League, Players, City, Tuxedo and 
other clubs; a member of the Civil Service Re- 
form Association, Sons of the Revolution, and of 
the Society of Colonial Wars; life member of the 
New York Genealogical and Biographical So- 




ciety, and of the American Museum of Natural 
History; member of the American Geological, 
Historical and Zoological Societies, of the National 
Academy of Design and the Chamber of Commerce. 

The new charter of the City of New York 
specially appointed him a member of the Art 
Commission which has to decide upon the merits 
of all statues and mural paintings offered to the 
city. This is the least of many evidences that 
his opinion in all matters pertaining to fine arts 
is considered as authoritative. His services in 
this direction, as well as his active interest in the 
cause of education, fairly earned for him the de- 
gree of A.M., given some years ago by Columbia 

These are evidences of ability and activity, 
and yet they do not fully represent the man. 
One may grow old, may acquire distinction and 
property, and yet be comparatively friendless; 
but Mr. Avery is not only honored but beloved 
in his declining years. On his seventy-fifth 
birthday, March, 1897, a gold medal of artistic 
design, modeled by Professor Scharff of Vienna, 
was presented to him by seventy-five leading 
citizens of New York. This was one way of 
recognizing his public services, as well as their 
appreciation of him as a man. Victor G. Bren- 
ner of New York has also made a portrait medal- 
lion of Mr. Avery. One of the last works of 
Thomas Johnson, the engraver, was an etching of 
the portrait of "his beloved friend, S. P. Avery.'* 



One of Mr. Avery's hobbies was the collection 
of fine books in fine bindings. Friendships that 
he had formed abroad in artistic and literary 
circles had made him acquainted with foragers 
of keener discrimination than are usually found 
among dealers in old books, and they have helped 
to add to his collection. To go through his 
library is an education in bindings. One will 
I find there specimens of the best work of the oldest 

I Italian and the most modem French, German and 

English binders. From the stamped missal of 
vellum, with silver clasps, and the carved ivory 
covers of medieval craftsmen, down to the carved 
leather and the brilliant mosaic inlays of Pagnant, 
one may find excellent examples of the handiwork 
of able decorators of books for more than seven 

Mr. Avery's death was unexpected. He had 
''grown old gracefully," and retained his activity 
and usefulness to the last, even to marching in 
procession on some recent day of festival with his 
fellow soldiers of the 23d Regiment. For years 
it had been his custom to spend the summer with 
an invalid wife at Lake Mohonk. He left that 
place with a daughter to transact some business 
in this city, and to go on to Atlantic City where he 
hoped that sea air would be of benefit, but a sud- 
den attack of illness compelled him to stop at his 
home, 4 East Thirty-eighth Street, where he 
steadily declined until he died August 11, 1904. 
In acknowledgment of a written tribute of love 



paid to his memory by his associates of The Grolier 
Club, Mrs. Avery testifies with earnestness to the 
unvarying sweetness and serenity of her husband's 
disposition during a union which lasted more 
than sixty years. He never spoke ill of anyone 
even when he had just cause. He did try to be 
a peace maker as well as a benefactor. 

Mr. Avery's survivors are his widow, Mary Ann 
O^den, a son, Samuel P. Avery, Jr., who, until 
recently, succeeded his father in the control of 
a picture gallery on Fifth Avenue, and a daughter, 
the wife of the Rev. M. P. Welcher of Brooklyn. 
Benjamin Parke Avery, his only brother, was 
Minister to China under President Grant, and 
died at Pekin in 1875. A sister married the Rev. 
T. DeWitt Talmage and died in 1861. 

At his funeral, a young man made this remark, 
" I have lost my best friend. Every month, and 
sometimes oftener, I was sure to receive from Mr. 
Avery a note, inclosing kind words, a newspaper 
clipping, or dainty little gifts, all tending to show 
that I was loved and remembered." And an em- 
inent artist, now living abroad said to the writer 
who told him of Mr. Avery's death, "The world 
to me will never seem the same again." 

— ^The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, January, 

original Trustees of the Museum, died on 
August 1 1, 1904, after thirty-four years of 
continuous service. 



The following resolutions were adopted by the 
Trustees : 

The early founders of the Metropolitan Mu- 
seum of Art have nearly all passed away. Pres- 
idents Johnston, Marquand and Rhinelander have 
gone over to the majority. It now becomes our 
painful duty to record upon our minutes the death 
of our late associate and friend, Samuel Putnam 

Mr. Avery was a member of the first board of 
trustees of the Museum and was, until his death, 
one of its most useful, active and intelligent 
members. He brought to the service of the 
Museum a large experience in the world of art, a 
mind enriched by travel and trained by the ob- 
servation and study of the world's famous collec- 
tions. His conscientious devotion to all his duties 
was remarkable. His business brought him in 
frequent contact with the great painters of the 
last half century, both at home and abroad, and 
many of the best works of foreign masters passed 
through his hands. After his retirement from 
business his activity was continued in the several 
public institutions in which he was a hard-work- 
ing trustee. 

The Vanderbilt collection of pictures now on 
exhibition in our galleries was made by the late 
William H. Vanderbilt, who was a generous and 
intelligent collector. Mr. Vanderbilt very wisely 
called to his aid the expert assistance of Mr. Avery. 
Mr. Avery was also a most discriminating collec- 



tor of porcelains, bronzes, and other art objects, 
and of fine books. His library was small but 
choice, and was rich in bindings, executed by the 
famous bibliopegists of the present and former 
times. It is probable that Mr. Avery's name will 
be best known and longest remembered by reason 
of his extraordinary liberality (often concealed 
from public observation) both to individuals and 
institutions. A large proportion of the books, 
prints, bronzes, etc., in The Grolier Club, were 
presented by him. In nearly all of the art clubs 
of the city will be found mementos of his thought- 
ful consideration, and his gifts were not confined 
to this city alone. This Museum is indebted to 
Mr. Avery for a valuable collection of medals 
by Roty, and a large number of paintings and art 
objects, and he was a constant contributor to its 
library. In Mrs. Avery's name he enriched the 
Museum with a large collection of rare and valu- 
able antique silver spoons. 

The bequest to the New York Public Library of 
17,000 etchings, a collection representing the 
patient and intelligent work of forty years, shows 
how catholic Mr. Avery was in selecting art treas- 
ures and how thoughtful he was for the public 
welfare in distributing them during his lifetime. 
In memory of a daughter who died in 1893 Mr. 
Avery established a library in the Teachers' 
College, giving his daughter's books, to which he 
added many others. 

The crowning glory of Mr. Avery's beneficence 



is the architectural library presented to Columbia 
University in memory of his son, Henry Ogden 
Avery, a talented young architect. This library 
is said, upon good authority, to be one of the best 
in this country on this special subject. 

Mr. Avery was a friend to all good men. His 
regard for those favored with his intimate ac- 
quaintance will always be a fragrant memory. 
An hour spent in his company among the many 
attractive objects in his private library was serene- 
ly enjoyable. He was a man of the highest ideals, 
who placed character above all other attainments. 
As a well deserved recognition of his long and dis- 
interested service, a few friends presented him 
with a gold medal on his seventy-fifth birthday. 

His example will remain an inspiration for good 
deeds. He has made the world better worth 
living in for those who come after him. 

J. PiERPONT Morgan, 

Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


Wm. L. Andrews Jno. L. Cadwalader 

John Bigelow H. C. Fahnestock 

Chas. Stewart Smith Edward D. Adams 

Robert W. DeForest Geo. A. Hearn 

Whitelaw Reid Wm. Church Osborn 

Elihu Root Frederick Dielman 

Jno. S. Kennedy Chas. F. McKim 

D. O. Mills Daniel C. French 

— ^Thirty-fifth annual report of the trustees of the Metropolitan Mu- 
seum of Art, New York, 1905. 




ON the 1 1 th of August last, there died in 
New York an eminent collector, Mr. 
Samuel Putnam Avery, one of the 
trustees of the New York Public Library. Mr. 
Frank Weitenkampf, curator of the Print Depart- 
ment of that important depository, has been kind 
enough to send us the following necrology: 

Bom March 17, 1822, Mr. Samuel Putnam 
Avery, originally an engraver on wood and sub- 
sequently a picture dealer, became one of the most 
noted bibliophiles and amateurs in the United 

He was one of the first to collect Whistler's 
etchings; similarly, he sought out the etchings 
of Daubigny when they were selling at two or 
three francs apiece in the old book shops on the 
quais. His enlightened taste, his artist acquaint- 
ances, his collector's scent for the unique or rare 
and curious piece, enabled him to form a collection 
of etchings of the nineteenth century which 
amounts to about fifteen thousand plates, without 
counting the three thousand lithographs which he 
had collected in his portfolios. Flameng, Jacque, 
Bracquemond, Rajon, Buhot and other great 
artists are admirably represented in the portfolios 
of Mr. Avery, who also possessed the only com- 
plete collection extant of Mauve's etchings. His 
series of the Liber Studiorum of Turner was one of 
the finest in the world. 

Mr. Samuel Putnam Avery generously gave his 
wonderful collection of prints to the New York 




Public Library; in G>lumbia University he 
founded a magnificent architectural library, in 
memory of his son Henry Ogden Avery, a talented 

He did not possess only prints; he had also 
collected superb bindings signed by American and 
French master-binders. In one of them, executed 
for Th. Deck's work on faience, there are placed 
panels of faience by that skillful ceramist. All 
these bindings are described in the catalogue of 
an exhibition held in 1903 in the Library of Colum- 
bia University. Mr. Samuel Putnam Avery was 
a member of The Grolier Club, the Society of 
Iconophiles, and many other artistic associations. 
The lamented trustee of the New York Public 
*' Library, whose taste was of the most perfect, 
was an authority in matters of art, whose person- 
ality inspired the profound respect of his com- 
patriots, and who is held in affectionate remem- 
brance by his friends. 

—Bulletin du Bibliophile, Paris, December 15, 1904, p. 690. 

THERE are many kinds of bibliophiles, each 
with its special vagary, but the one to 
which Mr. Avery belonged is the rarest 
of them all — the altruistic. 

His library at the time of his death was not 

large, because he was a constant giver of books. 

It represented only the undistributed remnant. 

Not only to The Grolier Club, the Metropolitan 

Museum of Art, and the Architectural Library of 





Columbia College — ^which was so dear to his heart 
— ^was he continually giving books, engravings, 
etchings, biit even institutions at a distance which 
had no possible claim upon him, were enriched 
by his gifts. 

He was a modest, courteous, generous, kindly 
gentleman of the old school, a public-spirited mer- 
chant, an ideal bibliophile. 

—Extract from the fourth year book of The Bibliophile Society^ 
Boston* Mass., May 1905. 









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