Lewis L. Delafield, 1863-1944

Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 1945.


1863 - 1944

The demise of Lewis Livingston Delafield, our senior ex-president, will be received with especial sadness by older members of the club. Joining our ranks when past the age for active climbing, his innate love of rugged nature found expression in the meetings and fellowships of the society. After serving on the Council (1914-16) and as vice-president (1917-19) he was elected president of the club for the term 1920-22 :

In these nine years, his effort to advance the interest of the society were unremitting. During the trying war years, his counsels proved of the utmost value in shaping policies and in dealing with legal problems. This was particularly true in connection with our participation in the Mt. Logan Expedition where he served on the committee for the selection of a club representative. Had that project failed to take form, he was prepared to advocate the organization of an American Alpine Club expedition for the purpose. Since 1927, failing health had precluded his customary attendance at our meetings, so he was only slightly known to contemporary mountaineers.

He was educated at private schools in Switzerland, St. Paul’s School and Columbia. He attended Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School, receiving his LL.B. degree from the latter in 1884.

A member of the New York bar for half a century, he was senior member of the well-known firm of Hawkins, Delafield and Longfellow up to the time of his retirement. Many club council and committee meetings were held at their offices in Exchange Place.

From boyhood his principal recreations were trout fishing and quail shooting. Not until 1907, when he was 44 of years age, did he start mountain climbing in Switzerland. Some of his ascents were in the Bernina, and, from Zermatt, he did Zinal Rothhorn, Lyskamm and Rimpfischhorn. In 1911 he made first ascents of Pika Pk. and Mt. Richardson, continuing in the Canadian Rockies and Selkirks until 1914. Belmore Browne, and later his nephew, Robert H. Delafield, were among his climbing companions. For several years prior to the discovery of the North Pole, he was counsel for the Peary Arctic Club, and took an active part in the arrangements for several of Peary’s expeditions.

From 1894-1899, Mr. Delafield was secretary of the Rapid Transit Commission and of the Committee of Seventy, a civic reform group. In 1921 he was appointed by the governor of New York as a member of the Charter Revision Commission. He was a former vice-president of the N. Y. State Bar Association, a trustee of the N. Y. Historical Society and ex-counsel for the Museum of Natural History and for Sailors’ Snug Harbor, an important real estate trust. He was nominated for justice of the Supreme Court of New York by the bar of the First Judicial District. In the first World War he served as a member of the board which handled appeals from draft classifications.

In his passing, the membership loses a sterling gentleman whose modest and unassuming demeanor gave slight hint of the forceful personality beneath. The loss is a heavy one and though we cannot be reconciled, we may take just pride in the thought that men of such high caliber brought the club to its present success.

H. P.