Eulogy for Charles Lewis Tiffany
February 20, 1902 — Memorial service, Madison Square Presbyterian Church, New York City
When the community loses a prominent man like Mr. Charles L. Tiffany, who died February 18, the world is interested in learning the causes of his success and what his influence has been upon his fellows. Few men have a strenuous business life of seventy years. Half that time is the usual length of a man’s active connection with the business community, but Mr. Tiffany, from the time of the administration of President Jackson, was a potent factor in the commercial life of New York.
His great business was unique in command of public confidence and in the harmony of internal organization. The principle upon which he worked from the beginning to the end of his long career was “to give the public the best quality of good and the finest service that could be secured.” This was his unceasing endeavor. He established a standard in silverware that raised the quality of silver sold not only throughout the United States but in Europe also. He had an ideal for his business and he lived up to it. Absolute undeviating honesty, in the smallest detail of the business, was the key note.
A lady traveling in Japan was questioning the Japanese Commissioner of Education about the integrity of a ceratin prominent Japanese merchant. “You can rely on his word,” he answered,” as you can rely on that of the famous Mr. Tiffany of New York. You know his word is unquestioned the world over.” That sort of a reputation is not made in a day or by simply having honest intentions and impulses, but by living up to one’s conscientious standard every day and by having sufficient force to require others to do likewise.
Mr. Tiffany was a strict disciplinarian and, like other successful men, had a discriminating insight into human character and was an excellent judge of men and their capacity. His men were selected with care and retained for many years; they were as devoted and faithful a body of men as could be found anywhere. Their term of service ranted from fifty years down, over a hundred having been with him over a quarter of a century. This long term of service was also tru of the domestics in his home.
There was a personal tie between Mr. Tiffany and his employees more binding than a merely business connection that sweetened life on both sides. They really cared for one another.
During those past months of his confinement, the tender attentions of these many men, more freely expressed than in the days of his robust health, were received by him with a lively appreciative gratitude. Among the numerous gifts sent to the sickroom was a basket of choice fruit marked “From the boys to our beloved chief.” Long after the fruit was gone, he kept the basket and card where he could see them. That he had the love and esteem of the men who worked for him and with him every day and knew him better than any other could was a great comfort to him as he approached the closing days of his life.
None knew better tan he how to show a delicate attention, and every little kindness extended to him received his personal acknowledgement. In these days of careless manners, Mr. Tiffany was conspicuous for the dignity o fhis bearning and his courtesy of the olden time, a happy reminder of that stately generation of fastidious men and women of which he was one of the few eminent examples left to us. He impressed a stranger as a man of cool reserve, but to those who were admitted to his friendship, he was a man of intense enthusiasm. To those who had his friendship, it will be a most cherished memory.
His influence over younger men was not toward luxurious living, as might be supposed, but toward a marked simplicity. He admired economy.
He had no scheme for the salvation of the human race, but his unconscious personal influence upon those who came within its range was tremendously helpful, stimulating one to do one’s best.
It is a privilege to have known a man who was absolutely sincere; who failed not in fidelity to his largest and smallest duties; who had an unswerving sense of justice of man to man; who had lifted a business out of the usual sordidness until, by its successful organization, it was more like a social work of art with which men were proud to have their names identified and to which they were glad to give loving service.
Perhaps never again will this personal element so permeate a business house — the times have changed.
Source: Great Eulogies Throughout History, ed. James Daley, (Dover Thrift Editions) 2016, pp. 141-143.