And why did we give him so many birthday parties? Every April from 1892 to 1926, with the tradition ending only with his death in 1928, just short of his 95th birthday. He was never a resident of Brooklyn or a member of the Club, except for the honorary membership he was given, and there is no record of him attending any Club events other than his annual birthday dinner.

It might be easier to describe what Mr. Depew was not. He was a politician and one-time presidential candidate (he ceded his delegates to Benjamin Harrison at the 1888 convention) and a business man, but not at all like Donald Trump or even Mitt Romney. He was an attorney and a railroad tycoon, but he called for government regulation of the railroads and backed wage increases for railroad workers. He was a political pundit and renowned entertainer but no Jon Stewart or Jimmy Fallon. He was a vegetarian (at the turn of the last century!) and supported women’s rights (at least the right to attend his birthday dinners, once every five years.)

His birthday dinners were one of the highlights of the Montauk Club year. They were covered by newspapers throughout the country and in Europe. His after-dinner speeches were printed verbatim in the newspapers, and were broadcast live on radio starting in 1924. In case you’re interested, collections of his speeches at the Montauk Club are still sold on Amazon.

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