Alfred H. “Tad” Curtis was vice president of the NYAC (1882), a prominent member of the early NYAC and a 1984 Hall of Fame Inductee.
Curtis was elected as a member in 1872, only four years after the founding of the Club. As a member in its infancy, Curtis was instrumental in establishing the NYAC as an elite social and athletic club.
In 1881, founding father William Curtis ended his tenure as NYAC presidency, leaving behind a major void. As Captain, Tad Curtis took responsibility and sought a new president who could lead the nascent Club in its next chapter. Several people had recommended that he run for president, but Curtis declined. He had someone else in mind: Wall Street tycoon William Travers.
In the 1880s, Travers was a celebrity in New York. He was a wildly successful stockbroker, cosmopolitan socialite, and a member of dozens of private clubs – with the exception of the Union League, because Travers was a Democrat. He was once referred to as “the most popular man in New York.”
One evening, Travers attended a boxing match at Tammany Hall that was sponsored by the NYAC. Curtis saw Travers come in and offered him a seat next to him at ringside. Curtis was well aware of Travers’ popularity and the effect it could have on the NYAC membership rolls. However, because Travers already belonged to so many other clubs, Curtis did not want him to be “just another member.” Instead, he came up with an idea to make Travers president.
Curtis hatched a plan wherein he would nominate Travers for membership. In the meantime, he would also nominate D. Henry Knowlton for NYAC president, on the condition that he would resign as soon as Travers became a member.
Travers was elected to the NYAC and shortly thereafter to the presidency. During his tenure, Travers saw the membership swell from as few as 90 to almost 2,000. However, Travers is most well known for his efforts to acquire another club house in Westchester. Although he passed away before the purchase of Hog Island became official, the Club renamed it Travers Island in his memory. Curtis’ grand plan had come to fruition and, thanks to his efforts, the NYAC was well on its way to becoming the prestigious institution that it is today.
One of the most virtuous things that Curtis accomplished at the Club was the reinstatement of Father Bill Curtis. The NYAC founding father had a falling out with many prominent members over the issue of a clubhouse. Believing that all funds should be devoted solely to athletics, Curtis opposed the acquisition of a clubhouse. In his eyes, this would only serve the social needs of the club to the detriment of its athletes. Curtis found himself on the losing end of the battle, and disassociated himself from the Club entirely; Henry Buermeyer followed shortly thereafter in solidarity.
Although Tad Curtis had been an ardent advocate of the social aspects of the Club, he proposed that, as a gesture of good will, Buermeyer and Curtis be reinstated as members. The proposal was approved unanimously.