Arion Singing Society letter book and ephemera
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.
Overview and metadata sections
Arion Gesang Verein (singing society) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was founded on 6 April 1857, by a group of singers who seceded from the Liedertafel der Deutschen Freien Gemeinde, a singing group that had been formed under the auspices of the Independent German Congregation (Deutsche Freie Gemeinde) of Philadelphia in 1855. Arion's founding members were Adolph Schöninger, F. W. Thomas, W. Flügel, Robert Schleicher, C. Dollinger, and R. Knapp. Schöninger was the first president. The first musical director of the group was William Fischer, who had also been the first director of the Liedertafel. (At the time that Arion was founded, the Liedertafel had just chosen a new director, F. W. Kuenzel.) Arion subsequently had friendly relations with the fellow singing society Liedertafel, which was later known as Harmonie (after 1869, when Liedertafel reestablished itself independent from the congregation).
The locale where Arion was founded was Robert Burckhardt's Tavern, at New Market and Callowhill Streets. Singing practices were at first held at the house of director Fischer. Later in 1857 the society met at Saranack Hall (9th and Callowhill Streets), and then at Worker's Hall (Arbeiter-Halle, later called Schuetzen Halle), on 3rd Street below Green. In 1859 it moved to a venue at 6th and Callowhill Streets. After occupying several other different venues, it moved to Gottlob Hammer's Hall on 3rd Street, in 1872; and to Griesheimer's on 4th below Callowhill, in 1877.
In June 1857, under the direction of Fischer, Arion participated in the 7th Allgemeines Sängerfest (general singing festival), in Philadelphia. In the latter part of 1857 Arion chose a new director, J. W. Jost, who remained with the group until 1862 . In 1858 Arion performed Romberg's setting of Schiller's poem "Das Lied von der Glocke," the first time the composition was performed in the United States. When singing activities were revived after the Civil War, Arion participated in the 9th Allgemeines Sängerfest, in New York, in July 1865. In 1868 Arion became a member of the Northeastern Saengerbund (Nordöstlicher Sängerbund), the regional alliance of singing societies that organized the festivals (subsequently referred to as 'national Saengerfests'). Later, Arion was also a member of the local umbrella group United Singers of Philadelphia (Vereinigte Sänger von Philadelphia), founded in 1881.
Shortly after the founding of Arion a women's chorus (Damen-Chor) was formed; however, it lasted only until the early 1860s. Later on, in 1890, a women's auxiliary group was founded, known as the Arion Damen-Verein, or Ladies Society, made up of wives of Arion members. The group had 42 members in 1907, and over 170 members in 1940. It was still in existence in 1957, at which time it was called the Arion Ladies. The women's group held social events, including coffee and cake, dances and entertainment, and turkey dinners at Thanksgiving. Over the years it periodically presented Arion with monetary gifts as well as tokens of appreciation .
In 1870 the Arndt-Männerchor, a fellow Philadephia singing society, became integrated into Arion (i.e. it dissolved and its members joined Arion). The Arion Singing Society was incorporated in 1888.
Activities of the society through the years included concerts, picnics, summer-night festivals, evening entertainments, and excursions. Along with other singing societies, Arion participated in German-American festivities in the city, such as the peace festival of 1871 (following the end of the Franco-Prussian War) and the unveilings of monuments to Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe, and Schiller. It also took part in charity concerts, such as those to benefit victims of floods in the western part of the United States in 1883, and victims of a famine in Russia in 1892. Beginning in 1865 Arion held an annual mask ball (bal masqué).
After its frequent shift of headquarters, in 1890 Arion moved into a hall at 310 N. 4th Street, where it remained until 1909, when it bought a clubhouse at 1402 W. Oxford Street, known as Arion Hall. In September 1915 it was joined at that location by the Harmonie Singing Society; and in 1920 the Männerchor (Philadelphia's oldest singing society) moved there as well. In the 1920s renovations in the hall included the installation of a bowling alley, and the society apparently had a bowling team in subsequent years. The three singing societies remained united at Arion Hall until 1934, when both Harmonie and Männerchor took new quarters elsewhere.
In 1907 Arion celebrated its 50th anniversary with festivities held at Harmonie Hall (the headquarters of the fellow singing society Harmonie) over a period of three days (7 to 9 April). In the souvenir booklet published on that occasion it lists 67 active members (singers) and 112 passive members.
In 1927 to 1930 Arion president Josef Hassemer served as the president of the United Singers of Philadelphia.
The society sold Arion Hall (on W. Oxford Street) in 1954, and moved its headquarters to the clubhouse of the Franklinville Quartet Club, at 323 West Rockland Street. Arion celebrated its 100th anniversary, in April 1957, with a banquet and dance at the Philadelphia Rifle Club (8th and Tabor Road).
 Arion's 50th anniversary souvenir program ( Goldenes Jubiläum des Arion Gesang-Verein), of 1907, gives a complete listing of the presidents and the musical directors of the society until that time.
 For more information on the women's auxiliary, see the souvenir program for the group's 40th anniversary: 50 jaehriges Jubilaeum, Arion Damen-Verein (Philadelphia: Wm B. Graf & Sons, Printers, 1940; GAC Pamphlet AG 203.2), which contains a historical sketch by Paula Fritz.
"Geschichte des Arion." In: Goldenes Jubiläum des Arion Gesang-Verein [50th anniversary souvenir program]. Philadelphia, 1907. (GAC Pamphlet AG 203)
Moellhoff, William. "Arion Gesang Verein of Philadelphia ... an historical sketch." In: Arion Gesang Verein 100th anniversary, 1857-1957. Philadelphia, 1957. (GAC Pamphlet AG 203.1)
This collection comprises a letter book of the Arion Singing Society, covering the period 5 May 1858 to 1 June 1870, and various ephemera dating from 1907 to 1957, including concert programs, one concert ticket, and four souvenir programs related to an annual bal masqué, or masked ball, that was a tradition of the society since 1865. The letter book is in the hand of various corresponding secretaries of the society. Most of the letters are addressed to other singing societies; some are form letters with a list of singing societies to whom the letter was sent. Some letters are to other types of organizations, or to individuals. Many of the letters are invitations, or responses to invitations to events.
This collection was assembled by staff from various donations.
- Independent German Congregation of Philadelphia.
- Liedertafel der Deutschen Freien Gemeinde. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz (2013.09), edited to include new materials by Jehnna Lewis (2022.09)
- 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.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
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.
bound volume, 26 leaves (+ blank leaves at back). In German. Handwritten copies of letters sent by Arion Gesang-Verein, signed by various corresponding secretaries, including H. Kuhl, Theodor Kohn, Ferdinand Gundermann, Daniel Langendorf, Charles Eberdt, and Carl Otto Lachringer. Pasted on the inside back cover is a newspaper clipping (source unidentified), listing the addresses of singing societies, circa 1857-1858, showing Arion located at Arbeiterhalle, N. 3rd Street
2 leaves. Caption title reads: Arion grosser Commers zur Feier des 50-jährigen Stiftungs-Festes. Contains song texts. (Original GSP call no. AG 204)
30 leaves. Title page reads: Arion Bal Masque program at ball rooms of Turngemeinde, Monday, January 31st, 1916 (Philadelphia: Graf & Breuninger Print). Illustrated cover. Contains synopsis and cast list of pantomime "The Bard's curse," arranged by Franz Dirzuweit. Also includes committee lists, advertisements
2 leaves. Title page reads: Fest-Programm des Arion Gesang-Verein fuer das 69. Stiftungsfest (Philadelphia: Graf & Breuninger Print). Includes song texts
1 leaf. Program for a joint concert evening of three Philadelphia singing societies: Arion, Harmonie, and Maennerchor
2 items. Grand vocal & instrumental concert, given by the Arion Singing Society, at the German Society of Pennsylvania for the benefit of the charity fund of the GSP. Includes program, in German, with song texts (2 copies) and admission ticket, in English
30 leaves. Title page reads: Arion bal masque, Monday, January 28th 1929, at the ball rooms of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, Broad & Columbia Avenue (Philadelphia: Strassheim Print). Illustrated cover. Includes committee lists, advertisements
34 leaves. Title page reads: Arion bal masque, Monday, January 26, 1931, at the ball rooms of the Phiiladelphia Turngemeinde, Broad and Columbia Avenue (Philadelphia: Graf & Breuninger Print). Illustrated cover. Includes committee lists, advertisements
4 leaves. 2 copies. Cover reads: Arion Singing Society 75th anniversary, grand concert, Monday, April 4, 1932, Witherspoon Hall, Philadelphia.
16 leaves. Title page reads: Souvenir Program, Arion Singing Society, Diamond Jubilee, Held at Philadelphia, PA., April 4 and 6, 1932, In commemoration of its seventy-fifth anniversary. Includes an historical sketch, committee members and photos, menu, lists of officers, directors a choir members. 2 copies.
28 leaves. Title page reads: Arion bal masque, Monday, January 27, 1936, Philadephia Turngemeinde, Broad Street and Columbia Avenue. Illustrated cover. Includes committee lists, advertisements. Notes in pencil on last page and inside back cover
20 Leaves. Title page reads: Arion Gesang Verein, 100th Anniversary, 1857-1957, Banquet and Dance, Friday, April 5, 1957, Philadelphia Rifle Club, 8th and Tabor Road, Philadelphia, PA. Includes an historical sketch of the society, menu, advertisements, and a list of officers and directors. 2 copies.