WILBUR FISK CORLISS was born October 5, 1841, in Troy, New York. He was the
son of John Moore Corliss, Jr., and Mary Hawes (Hoyt) Corliss. After giving in outline our classmate's connection with the societies and functions of
college during our undergraduate course, which he passed in full with us, it is proposed to
give way to Corliss and let him tell his own story in his own interesting and amusing style.
It is certain the Class would never forgive the one who should dare to mutilate it in any
single particular. Corliss became a member of the Sigma Phi fraternity; of the
'Technian Literary Society, and was one of its presidents during Senior year; he was the president of
our Class Day exercises, and had the appointment of an oration on the Commencement
After this manner does Corliss apologize for tardiness in producing "copy" on call:
"The reason that I have not complied more promptly to your request for copy' is, that I
have been trying to get more hair on my head for a photograph. How can a man have
justice done him when he is developing a bare spot on the top of his head as big as a tin
pan? I have divided the top of my head into two hemispheres; the eastern portion I have
given to my tonsorial friend Alphonse, the western portion to his rival Henri, and I am
looking with great interest for the results. I have informed them that if they do not hurry
up, a whole volume of most enchanting reading will be delayed."
Now, gentlemen, Mr. Corliss is announced! Give attention to him: Some years before I went to Williams I had been at Mills's School at South
Williamstown, so that delightful section of the Berkshire Hills was not new to me. I
recollect with what awe we boys used to regard the college men when they came to our
examinations, and with what condescension they lazily regarded us, and all but patted us on
the head. Of course we all made mental reservations as to what we would do when we
became Seniors and visited South Williamstown. I had the rare good fortune when I
entered Williams to have as a roommate George W. Van Slyck. We roomed in West College. One of the first things that happened was a visit from President Hopkins. We
heard he was calling in the building, and "Van"" and I prepared for him. We were so
devoted to study that we allowed him to tap twice on the door before we heard him. I
noticed that the eyes of the president seemed to wander behind the stove frequently, so
after the call was concluded I hastened to investigate, and found, face up, the nine of
spades. I never could make out who left that nine spot of spades there, but strongly
suspected Cairns. Maybe this was one of the twenty-seven reasons why I didn't take the
valedictory. After the year Van left college, John C. Mallery and I became roommates and
remained together until we graduated three happy years. Who can forget "Old Activity,"
the noblest Roman of them all? When I think of those most delightful days, I cannot but
feel that they were made so by having such fine fellows for chums.
One of the most important steps in my life was in my Junior year, when I joined the
college church. President Hopkins was the pastor, and the professors the church officers.
My chum and I both became interested in religion, and we looked around to see with whom
we could take counsel, and we consulted with Davenport and Cairns, and I shall never forget
the gentle and loving reception we had. Sometime after, I recollect meeting one of the
college boys who had been away from college a while and then returned. He stepped out
of the crowd and put out his hand and said, "Hello! Corliss, I hear you have got pious."
I recall that one day it was announced to the Class that in the future the Saturday morning
recitation would be from the Shorter Catechism, and that the first paragraph would be
considered under Hopkins "What is the chief end of man?" Most of my friends, together
with myself, were jubilant. Here was a "cinch "; virtually, we wouldn't have to look into a
book. Tra la la, "it is too easy, etc." Well do I remember how gayly we entered the
classroom ; alas! what a change when we came out. We were an intellectual Falstaff's army,
unkempt, battered, turned upside down, rolled in the dust. The president made us feel our
gross ignorance and heartily ashamed of ourselves. Not by anything personal he said, but
by his learning and his logic. I recollect afterwards that the Saturday morning lesson
became a delight to us all.
I recall an interesting incident during our college course. James A. Garfield came
to a reunion of his class. He was then Senator. It was told that as the class came out of
the Junior recitation room of the chapel, laughing and joking, one of his classmates playfully
gave him a push and a slap on the back, and said, "Jim, you'll be President some day, if you
After we separated, with tenderness and tears, on that never-to-be-forgotten morning,
when we met for the last time as a Class, then the trouble commenced. The excuse, "not
prepared," would avail no longer.
After remaining at home for some time following our graduation, I was delighted to
get an invitation from John Shillito, Jr., Class of 1865, to go into his father's office in
Cincinnati, in the dry goods business. There I remained two years, and once in a while
some of the boys would call to see me and talk over old times. There was one good thing
that I learned in this office, and that was the necessity of being accurate. I used to tell my
friend that I thought his father would probably forgive ordinary little crimes, like intoxication
or murder, but a mistake in the books never! The lessons which I learned in that office
have been of great value to me ever since.
In 1866, I came to New York City. My father was in the manufacturing business in
Troy and the firm had a branch office in New York, and they gave me charge of it and took
me into partnership, and I have been in the business ever since. The name of the firm since
1895 has been Corliss, Coon and Company.
When I left Cincinnati for good, some of my pals came to the depot to see me off,
and one of them said, "When you go East, you must get acquainted with Miss Julia
Parmelee, of Lansingburg and Albany." Well, I am sort of acquainted with her! We were
married in New York City, in the house of her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Wickes, December 24,
1867, and I hope that all my friends have had as good a Christmas present. A boy was born
to us October 16, 1868, named Charles A. Corliss; and a daughter, July 1, 1872, named
Florence Haskell. About this time we moved to Englewood, New Jersey, and have lived in
this town ever since. We found here that the pastor of the Presbyterian church was the Rev.
Henry M. Booth, Class of '64, and we had his friendship and loving ministrations for many
years. Many graduates of Williams reside in Englewood, which adds to our happiness. My
son, Charlie, graduated from Williams in the Class of '90, and my daughter graduated from
Smith College in 1893, and was married, 1895, to T. W. Lamont, Class of '92, Harvard, the
result of attending a Harvard College Commencement. Fatalities of this kind seem as
common now as in the days of '63. My life has been quiet and uneventful, but there are two
important events I have yet to record with the keenest satisfaction, namely, the birth of a
grandson in 1899, named Thomas Lamont, and another grandson, 1902, named Corliss
Lamont good, strong, healthy youngsters. The only sickness that they have had thus far
is the yeller fever.
Mrs. Corliss and I have been able to travel some, and to see this country as well as
the lands across the sea, and we have always met graduates of Old Williams. I recall with
great pleasure meeting Alexander Moss Merwin in Pasadena. He owns the town, because
everybody there loves him.
I have always taken great delight in my college friendships, and I do not believe there
is a man in the Class of '63 who more thoroughly than I enjoys the memory of old days, and
I look forward with keenest pleasure to the coming reunion.
Class of Sixty-Three Williams College Fortieth Year Report, by
the Class Historian, Thomas Todd Printer, Boston, 1903