Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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Harmonie Singing Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known in German as Gesangverein Harmonie, originated as the Liedertafel der Deutschen Freien Gemeinde (Liedertafel of the Independent German Congregation), of Philadelphia, in 1855. Members of the congregation had made a request about forming such a group at the end of the year 1854, and received permission to do so on 17 January 1855, and the new singing society, under the direction of William Fischer, performed for the first time at the congregation’s Sunday services on 28 January 1855. The singing society adopted its first constitution on 6 March of the same year; the first president was Robert Ackermann. There were approximately 55 founding members . The first meeting place was Mitchell’s Hall, York Road below Wood Street.
The congregation to which the Liedertafel belonged had only recently been founded, in 1852, and it was incorporated in 1856; the constitution and by-laws of the Deutsche Freie Gemeinde in Philadelphia published in 1857 mention the Liedertafel as one of the institutions of the congregation, along with the arbitration court (Schiedsgericht), a library, and a mutual aid society (Unterstützungs-Verein), that were highly recommended as fostering a lively participation .
The Liedertafel continued to perform at Sunday services, and in the summertime the members usually enjoyed a Sunday afternoon excursion with their families afterwards, sometimes to Engel and Wolf's farm, along the Schuylkill River.
The Women’s Chorus, or Ladies’ Chorus (Frauen-Gesangs-Sektion; Damen-Chor) had its beginnings early in 1857, when a group of women of the congregation organized in order to sew a flag for the Liedertafel, which was presented in March of that year, at a concert in Musical Fund Hall, on which occasion some of the women sang with Liedertafel members in a mixed chorus. The formal founding of the Women's Chorus followed shortly later, on 1 October 1857. From then on, the women participated in all the major performances of the society .
In the spring of 1857 the Liedertafel experienced a kind of organizational crisis: when F. William Kuenzel (F. W. Künzel) was elected as musical director 12 members resigned and formed a new group, the Arion Singing Society . Under the leadership of then president C. F. Huch (elected 1857), the Liedertafel recovered its momentum in membership. By 1859 it had grown enough to warrant a move from its headquarters near 3rd and Green Streets (the proprietor, Pabst) to a new, larger locale on 3rd below Poplar (proprietors, Schweiller and Grimm).
In summer 1859 the Liedertafel performed at the 8th Allgemeines Sängerfest (General singing festival) of the Northeastern States, in Baltimore, Maryland, as guests of the Baltimore Liederkranz. In November of the same year, during the celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the renowned German writer Friedrich Schiller, the Liedertafel’s mixed chorus formed the core of the large chorus that performed Romberg’s "Das Lied von der Glocke" (based on a poem by Schiller), at the Academy of Music, in Philadelphia, and the Ladies' Chorus gave an especially noted performance.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Liedertafel member John Schaefer headed a citizen's company of recruits from the singing society, under the name "Freeman's Rifle" (or: "Freemen's Rifles") that became part of the Home Guard. Other members entered active war service, including then president Captain Augustus Brueckner (Brückner) who died at the second battle of Bull Run, as acting commander of the 73rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Throughout its history the society participated in the major singing festivals, or Saengerfests, in Philadelphia and elsewhere as a member of the regional association of choral societies Nordöstlicher Sängerbund (Northeastern Saengerbund). The society, by then known as Harmonie, played a key role in the establishment of the local alliance United Singers of Philadelphia (Vereinigte Sänger von Philadelphia), in 1881, with its president, William Mechelke, and its musical director, F. William Kuenzel, becoming the first president and musical director, respectively, of the new organization.
At least through the early 1880s, the society's activities included theater performances and evening entertainments. It also maintained a library, which besides musical works, apparently included theater plays .
After having inhabited various locales, the society decided to acquire its own building, and in December 1891 formed a stock company for this purpose. In connection with that endeavor, the Harmonie Singing Society was incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania in February 1892 . The decision was made to purchase a church building at 11th and Brandywine Streets, which would be rebuilt as a singing hall. The cornerstone for the new building was laid in June 1892, the move was made in November of the same year, and a dedication celebration was held on 16 January 1893. In connection with the campaign to erect the new hall, a women's auxiliary, or Ladies Aid Society (Frauen Hilfs-Verein) was founded, in April 1892, and in the ensuing years contributed to the support of the society .
A. C. (Albert C.) Hartmann (sometimes rendered: C. A. Hartmann) was director from 1893 to 1903, when Eugen Klee became the new director. Under Klee, the Harmonie men's chorus won first prize in the first-class competition at the 1906 regional Saengerfest in Newark, N.J. Klee served until 1910, when S. H. Herrmann took over and served for two years. In 1912 Robert Schurig became director and served for two years. A. C. Hartmann became director again in 1914, until 1917, when Hermann C. Kumme took over.
In September 1912, Harmonie joined together with Männerchor in a new locale located at 1641-43 Broad Street (the joint venture served to ease the financial burden on both organizations). In September of the following year, when the Junger Maennerchor joined them as well, as the third singing society at the same location, the hall became known as Deutsches Haus (German House).
In September 1915 Harmonie moved again, this time joining with the fellow singing society Arion, at 1402 Oxford Street (known as Arion Hall). Männerchor came to the same location in 1920. Those three societies were together at that location until 1934, when both Harmonie and Männerchor moved out. (It is not clear where Harmonie's headquarters was located after that.)
Henry Detreux served as president from 1896 to 1912, and presided over the society's 50th anniversary celebration, in 1905, held over four days, 15 to 18 January. Joseph Hecking was president at Harmonie's 60th anniversary celebration, in January 1915. In March 1925, when the 70th anniversary was celebrated, Henry Hoffmann was president .
In 1907 the Women's Chorus celebrated its 50th anniversary, over four days, 28 April to 1 May. In 1917, it celebrated its 60th anniversary, with a concert under the direction of C. A. Hartmann . On that occasion, Theresa Dahlhaus, president of the Women's Chorus, was made an honorary member of Harmonie.
In the program for a grand concert held in Deutsches Haus on 11 May 1914, Harmonie listed 72 members of its men's chorus, and nearly 400 'passive' members of the society; the Women's Chorus listed 69 members. In the programs of 1939 to 1940, the men's chorus numbered about 60 members, and the women's about 70.
Over the course of its history the society at various times contributed to charitable or cultural causes. In 1858 it raised money for a projected monument to the revolutionary-era general Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and when the monument failed to come to fruition, it contributed the amount to the building fund of the German Hospital instead. In 1869 it participated in a Humboldt festival that raised money toward the monument to Alexander von Humboldt that was erected in Fairmount Park. In September 1870 it organized a fair to benefit the wounded of the Franco-Prussian War. In 1917, during World War I, it performed a benefit concert at the German Society of Pennsylvania, with proceeds going to the Hilfsfond of Philadelphia, a German-American war relief organization that helped civilians, widows, children, and prisoners of war of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Harmonie Singing Society celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1955 with a concert on 15 April, under the direction of Leopold Syré, held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.
 See the signatures following the copy of the constitution at the beginning of the Liedertafel minute book 1855-1865, in the present collection (Box 1).
 See: Verfassung und Nebengesetze der am 1. August 1852 gegründeten Deutschen freien Gemeinde von Philadelphia: incorporirt den 4. December 1856. Philadelphia : B.G. Stephan & Co., 1857 (GAC Pamphlet AN 7030.1).
 For further details about the Women's Chorus, see Theresa Dahlhaus's "Kurze Geschichte des Damenchors der Harmonie," in the souvenir program of 1930.
 For further background, see C. F. Huch's article "Friedrich Wilhelm Künzel" in Mitteilungen des Deutschen Pionier-Vereins von Philadelphia, Heft 16 (1910). Arion went on to have a successful history of its own as a choral society, and remained on a footing of friendship with Harmonie. (See, for example, the program for its 50th anniversary: Goldenes Jubiläum des Arion Gesang-Verein. Philadelphia, 1907; GAC Pamphlet AG 203).
 William Regenspurger mentions the theater when describing early locales where the society met (p. 1, 6). The present collection contains two books from the library (Box 5, Folder 11). The officers of both the men's and the women's choruses included a librarian, as of 1930.
 According to the certificate of incorporation, the society was formed "for the purpose of the cultivation of music, more especially vocal music; the promotion of social intercourse among its members; and the creation of a fund for the erection of a suitable building for musical purposes" (see Series II in the present collection).
 A listing for the Ladies' Aid Society appears, for instance, in the souvenir program for the 60th anniversary of Harmonie, in 1915. The women's auxiliary is distinct from the Women's Chorus, which, as mentioned above, had existed since 1857.
 A full listing of Harmonie's presidents, from its founding until 1930, is found on the inside back cover of the souvenir program for the75th anniversary celebration, in 1930, Gesangverein Harmonie Philadelphia 75. Stiftungsfest (diamond jubilee). The history by Hans Koernig found in this booklet is also the most detailed of the various historical sketches that the society published in program booklets over the years.
 See clipping in folder of loose items found in Harmonie minute book 1897-1918 (Box 4).
Dahlhaus, Therese (Theresa). "Kurze Geschichte des Damenchors der Harmonie" (p. 44-45). In: Gesangverein Harmonie Philadelphia 75. Stiftungsfest (diamond jubilee), 1930. (GAC Pamphlet AG 166)
"Harmonie" (p. 37). In: Souvenir programme of the grand musical and dramatic festival in aid of the Police Pension Fund Association, under the auspices of the United Singers of Philadelphia. 1893. (GAC Oversize Pamphlet AG 190.2)
Harmonie Singing Society. "History of the Harmonie Singing Society." In: Harmonie Singing Society, 100th anniversary, 1855-1955, concert and ball. Philadelphia: s.n., 1955. (GAC Pamphlet AG 166.1)
Harmonie Singing Society. "Kurzgefasste Geschichte der Harmonie (Short history of the Harmonie)." In: Harmonie trip up the Hudson. Philadelphia, 1901. (GAC Pamphlet AG 163)
Harmonie Singing Society. "Kurze Geschichte der 'Harmonie'" and "Short history of the 'Harmony.'" In: Harmonie sixtieth anniversary: celebrated by a concert, banquet and ball, at "Deutsches Haus," 1643 N. Broad Street, Monday evening, January 18th, 1915. Philadelphia, Pa.: Graf & Breuninger Print, 1915. (GAC Pamphlet AG 169)
Huch, C. F. "Friedrich Wilhelm Künzel" (p. 18-27). In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Pionier-Vereins von Philadelphia, Heft 16 (1910).
Koernig, Hans. "Kurz gefasste Geschichte der Harmonie" (p. 7-36). In: Gesangverein Harmonie Philadelphia 75. Stiftungsfest (diamond jubilee), 1930. (GAC Pamphlet AG 166)
Regenspurger, William. Geschichte des Gesangvereins Harmonie: gegründet am 6. März 1855. Philadelphia: W. Regenspurger, 1882. (GAC Pamphlet AG 161.1)
"Short history of the 'Harmonie.'" In: Souvenir programme: grand banner dedication of the National German-American Alliance under the auspices of the Ladies of the Philadelphia Branch combined with a grand vocal concert given by the Maennerchor, Junger Maennerchor and Harmonie, Academy of Music, Monday evening, May 11th, 1914. Philadelphia: Graf & Breuninger Print, 1914. (GAC Pamphlet AE 7064.5)
The collection contains the records of the Harmonie Singing Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1855, and originally known as the Liedertafel of the Deutsche Freie Gemeinde (Independent German Congregation) of Philadelphia; it changed its name to Harmonie in 1869, when it reestablished itself separate from the church. A Women's, or Ladies' Chorus (Damen-Chor) was founded in 1857. The records include minutes dating from the founding in 1855 until December 1918, with a gap during the years 1876 to 1885; a certificate of incorporation of 1892, with signatures of the officers and directors; two season programs and a concert flier from the late 1890s; a scrapbook of newspaper clippings documenting the 50th anniversary celebration, in 1905, compiled by C. F. Huch; correspondence related to the 60th anniversary celebration, in 1915, addressed to the president, Joseph Hecking, or the secretary, Max Hammerstein; and a certificate of honorary membership awarded to Henry Hoffmann on the latter occasion. The minutes are in the hands of many different secretaries, including Oscar Kunath, who is also the author of two annual reports of activities laid in, circa 1862-1865; Emil Moebius; and Huch and Hammerstein. The minutes record the constitutions approved by the society, and include financial information, as well as a few printed election ballots, a leaflet advertising the new Harmonie Hall in 1893; and separate reports laid or tipped in.
Related to the women's chorus are reports contained in the minute books; a clipping concerning the 60th anniversary celebration, in 1917; a 75th anniversary souvenir program for the women's chorus, and a song book of 1957.
Memorabilia and ephemera include printing plates for the title page and a one-page musical score with lyrics (Vereinsgruss), by Harmonie director S. L. Herrmann, circa 1910-1912; anniversary concert programs (1925-1949); songbooks from regional singing festivals of the Nordöstlicher Sängerbund (1903-1957), miscellaneous printed sheet music; and two small books, German one-act plays, from the society's library, bearing the blind stamp Harmonie Philadelphia. Also included is a miscellaneous item laid in a minute book, a broadside in Latin, dated Stettin (Szczecin, Poland), 1649.
C. F. Huch (d. 1914) and Henry Hoffmann (d. after 1955), were both prominent members of Harmonie in the early to mid 20th century, and were both also (in different time periods) longtime active members of the German Society of Pennsylvania. Possibly these relationships played a role in how the records came to be deposited in what was then known as the German American Archive (today, German American Collection) of the German Society.
- German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz, edited to include new materials by Jehnna Lewis (2022.10)
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960." Additional processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, as part of the German Society of Pennsylvania's 2020 Historical and Archival Records Care Grant.
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This collection is open for research.
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Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
This series comprises correspondence and an honorary membership certificate relating to the club's celebration of its 60th anniversary (Stiftungsfest), on 18th January 1915. The correspondence consists of letters addressed either to the society as a whole (Sängerbrüder); to the president, Joseph Hecking; or to the secretary, Max Hammerstein. Typically the writers are either accepting the invitation to attend the event, or sending regrets at being unable to do so, and they also express congratulatory wishes to the group on this occasion. The honorary membership certificate (an oversize decorated version) is for Henry Hoffmann. According to an entry pertaining to the anniversary celebration found in the society's minute book (23 January 1915), a total of 12 individuals were named as honorary members on this occasion.
A souvenir program for the anniversary event was published: Harmonie, sixtieth anniversary (Philadelphia: Graf & Breuniger, 1915; see GAC Pamphlet AG 169).
Arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent
1 item, 1 leaf. In German. Signed by Georg von Hoverbeck, secretary; on letterhead of the choral society
1 item, 1 leaf. In German. Member of Harmonie
2 items, 3 leaves. In German. Signed by C. J. Hexamer, president; on letterhead of the Alliance
2 items, 2 leaves. In German. Signed by Frederick W. Haussmann, secretary; on letterhead of the Sängerbund
1 item, 1 leaf. In English. On letterhead of the Office of the City Solicitor, Philadelphia
1 item, 1 leaf. In German. Regrets being unable to attend but would like to have a representative accept the award of honorary membership that Harmonie has offered to bestow upon him
1 item, 1 leaf. In English
1 item, 1 leaf. In German. On letterhead of G. A. Soulas Restaurant and Rathskeller, Philadelphia. Declines, with thanks, the offer of Harmonie to make him an honorary member, since he has not been active in the society for some years
1 item, 1 leaf. In German
2 items, 2 leaves. In German. Both items on the letterhead of the organization, signed by John B. Mayer, president, and Frederick (Friedrich) W. Haussmann, secretary, respectively. Mayer's letter is responding to a query concerning Harmonie's invitation to William H. Staake to speak
1 item, 1 leaf. In German. Signed by Henry Schlüssler, secretary, and David Koos, president; on letterhead of the 24th National Sängerfest of the Nordöstlicher Sängerbund in Brooklyn (29 May - 2 June 1915)
2 items, 2 leaves. The 1904 item is a receipt for printing and postage for a concert held at the German Society of Pennsylvania. The other item is a three-stanza song text, with a theme such as at a memorial sevice, under the heading: Text für Grablied