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Contemporary Club (Philadelphia, Pa.) records

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Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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

In October 1886, three local men -- George M. Gould, Horace Traubel, and S. Burns Weston -- met to discuss the formation of a social and literary club in Philadelphia. On November 3, 1886, the first meeting of the yet-to-be-named Contemporary Club was held at the Philadelphia Ethical Society. In addition to the three founding members, the meeting was also attended by the reverends J. H. Clifford and N. A. Haskill. At that first meeting, the group came to terms over a few basic rules. The club would be open to both men and women of any profession, and meetings were to be held monthly during the winter "season" of November to April.

Word of the new club quickly spread, and at its second meeting in December 1886, attendance quadrupled from five to twenty. This time the group met at the New Century Club, and the members discussed a paper by Reverence Clifford titled "The New Conditions of Intellectual Fellowship." At the group's third meeting in January 1887, club officers were named, with Dr. Daniel G. Brinton being elected president, and a draft constitution was drawn up. The club also formalized itself with a title: the Contemporary Club.

Throughout the late ninteenth century, the club grew in popularity and boasted a couple hundred members at the turn of the twentieth century. Each month, the Contemporary Club hosted speakers, some of whom came with or developed notable careers, such as poet Walt Whitman, Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary, and Woodrow Wilson, then a professor at Princeton University. The group also met in several different locations during its formative years. In addition to the New Century Club, the Contemporary Club met at the Union League, the Bellevue Hotel, and enjoyed extended stays at the Haseltine Art Galleries at 1416-18 Chestnut Street, and the Philadelphia Art Club, whose building was once located at 220 South Broad Street.

Although the club had allowed women from the start, it wasn't until the twentieth century that the club elected its first female president: Agnes Repplier, a popular Philadelphia essayist, in 1904. Later women presidents included women's rights activist Sarah Yorke Stevenson (1914), artist Violet Oakley (1925), education advocate Lucy Wilson (1935), and Katherine McBride (1950), then president of Bryn Mawr College.

The club remained quite active through World War II. But after the war, membership apparently began to dwindle, and the club met with financial hardship. These factors may have contributed to the club ceasing operations sometime in the early 1950s.

The records of the Contemporary Club of Philadelphia are housed in eight boxes and span from the club's formation in 1886 to 1952, around the time of its demise. The records are almost purely administrative. Outside of some clippings pertaining to the club's executives and its members, there are no personal materials in the collection.

Comprising the first two boxes (Boxes 1-2) are outgoing letters from the club's presidents. They are arranged in folders chronologically, starting with the club's first president, Daniel G. Brinton (1886-1888, 1890), and ending with its last president, Dr. Percy R. Stockman (1951). There are no materials in this section from two of the club's presidents: Joseph S. Harris (1903) and Edward M. Twitmyer (1950). Some of the folders also contain photographs of the individual presidents. The amount of correspondence per author varies widely -- some only have a few letters, while others have several dozen. The contents of the letters generally pertain to club matters, such as finances, membership, and speakers. Researchers may also find the occasional outgoing letter from a president in his or her folder.

Following the president's correspondence are two boxes of correspondence from people who were invited to speak before the Contemporary Club (Boxes 3-4). These letters have been grouped into folders alphabetically by speaker's last names. (Individual correspondents have been listed in the inventory of this guide and written on the folders.) This group of letters dates from 1887 to 1948 and consists mostly of replies to invitations, though some do inquire about club membership generally. There are also some letters from speakers concerning local accommodations.

Also in Box 4 as well as the first few folders of Box 5 are papers of club secretaries Sophia Wells Royce [Mrs. Talcott] Williams and William K. Huff, and club presidents S. Burns Weston and Thorton Oakley. The remainder of papers in Box 5 concern members and consist of applications and nominations, rules and regulations, ballots, remarks, clippings, and other miscellaneous items.

This collection contains a number of printed materials, including some of the club's annual reports. The reports date consecutively from 1890 to 1904 (Box 6, Folders 6-13) and from 1909 to 1912 (Box 1, folders 1-2). Other printed matter includes items authored by club members or presented by club members or guests, such as Railroads and the Public by Joseph D. Potts (1892) (Box 7, Folder 3), The Next Step in Christianity by S. D. McConnell (undated) (Box 7, Folder 8), and New Theories of Constitutional Construction by Thomas Raeburn White (undated) (Box 7, Folder 9).

The final box of the collection (Box 8) contains three volumes of handwritten meeting minutes from 1899 to 1919.

1886-1888 - Dr. Daniel G. Brinton

1889 - Dr. James MacAlister

1890 - Dr. Daniel G. Brinton

1891 - Mr. C. Stuart Patterson

1892 - Rev. H. L. Wayland, D.D.

1893 - Dr. Harrison Allen

1894 - Rev. S. D. McConnell, D.D.

1895 - Prof. Edmund J. James

1896 - Hon. Robert N. Willson

1897-1998 - Hon. W. W. Wiltbank

1899 - Prof. John Bach McMaster

1900 - Dr. William H. Klapp

1901 - Mr. Richard L. Ashhurst

1902 - Hon. John B. McPherson

1903 - Mr. Joseph S. Harris

1904 - Miss Agnes Repplier

1905 - Mr. Charles E. Dana

1906 - Miss Agnes Repplier

1907 - Dr. George McClellan

1908 - Mr. Francis A. Lewis

1909 - Dr. W. W. Keen

1910 - Dr. S. Burns Weston

1911 - Mr. H. LaBarre Jayne

1912 - Hon. Roland S. Morris

1913 - Dr. Morris Jastrow, Jr.

1914 - Mrs. Cornelius Stevenson

1915 - Mr. Harrison S. Morris

1916 - Dr. Felix E. Schelling

1917 - Mr. Francis A. Lewis

1918 - Mrs. Edward Coates

1919 - Mr. Russell Duane

1920 - Prof. Edward P. Cheney

1921 - Hon. Roland S. Morris

1922 - Dr. R. Tait McKenzie

1923 - Mr. Henry G. Bryant

1924 - Mr. Ellis Ames Ballard

1925 - Ms. Violet Oakley

1926 - Hon. William B. Linn

1927-1928 - Dr. Frank Aydelotte

1929-1930 - Rev. Frederick R. Griffin, D.D.

1931 - Dr. Richard M. Gummere

1932 - Dean Herbert F. Goodrich

1933-1934 - J. A. MacCallum

1935 - Lucy L. W. Wilson

1936 - L. P. Lichtenberger

1937-1940 - Thornton Oakley

1941-1942 - Thomas Raeburn White

1943-1944 - William E. Lingelbach

1945-1946 - George Emerson Barnes

1947-1948 - Francis S. Philbrick

1949 - Katherine McBride

1950 - Dr. Edward M. Twitmyer

1951 - Dr. Percy R. Stockman

These papers were collected by Thornton Oakley, a Philadelphia artist, muralist, and officer of the club, 1933-1941.

Gift of Mrs. Lansdale Oakley Humphreys, 1972.

Publisher
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto.
Finding Aid Date
; 2015.
Sponsor
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Carol A. Ingald.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

President's correspondence - Daniel G. Brinton, 1887-1895, 1937.
Box 1 Folder 1
President's correspondence - James MacAlister, 1888-1889, 1900, 1903.
Box 1 Folder 2
President's correspondence - C. Stuart Patterson, 1889.
Box 1 Folder 3
President's correspondence - H. L. Wayland, 1892-1896.
Box 1 Folder 4
President's correspondence - Harrison Allen, 1887, 1893-1894.
Box 1 Folder 5
President's correspondence - S. D. McConnell, 1888, 1890-1895.
Box 1 Folder 6
President's correspondence - Edmund J. James, 1895-1896.
Box 1 Folder 7
President's correspondence - Robert N. Wilson, 1896-1897.
Box 1 Folder 8
President's correspondence - W. W. Wiltbank, 1888, 1895-1902.
Box 1 Folder 9
President's correspondence - John B. McMaster, 1887-1888, 1896, 1899-1903.
Box 1 Folder 10
President's correspondence - William H. Klapp, 1887, 1896-1900.
Box 1 Folder 11
President's correspondence - Richard L. Ashhurst, 1901.
Box 1 Folder 12
President's correspondence - John B. MacPherson, 1901-1902.
Box 1 Folder 13
President's correspondence - Agnes Repplier, 1889, 1891, 1894-1899, 1900-1907, 1912-1913, 1935, 1946.
Box 1 Folder 14
President's correspondence - Charles E. Dana, 1895-1896.
Box 1 Folder 15
President's correspondence - George McClellan, 1906, 1908.
Box 1 Folder 16
President's correspondence - Francis A. Lewis, 1908-1919, 1920.
Box 1 Folder 17
President's correspondence - W. W. Keen, 1887, 1903.
Box 1 Folder 18
President's correspondence - S. Burns Weston, 1900-1903, 1919, 1931, 1938.
Box 1 Folder 19
President's correspondence - H. LaBarre Jayne, 1897, 1900-1903, 1906, 1911.
Box 1 Folder 20
President's correspondence - Roland S. Morris, 1908-1913, 1923, 1925, 1928, 1935, 1945.
Box 1 Folder 21
President's correspondence - Morris Jastrow Jr., 1891, 1893, 1895-1899, 1902, 1906-1907, 1910, 1919.
Box 1 Folder 22
President's correspondence - Harrison S. Morris, 1888-1889, 1893-1896, 1900-1908, 1915, 1924, 1948.
Box 1 Folder 23
President's correspondence - Sara M. [Mrs. Cornelius] Stevenson, 1891, 1893, 1896, 1898, 1900, 1903, 1907.
Box 1 Folder 24
President's correspondence - Felix E. Schelling, 1893-1899, 1900, 1905, 1908, 1917, 1921, 1931, 1946.
Box 1 Folder 25
President's correspondence - Edward H. Coats, 1895, 1901, 1905, 1907.
Box 2 Folder 1
President's correspondence - Russell Duane, 1893, 1898, 1901-1902, 1907, 1909, 1920-1922, 1928, 1935.
Box 2 Folder 2
President's correspondence - Edward P. Cheney, 1889, 1895, 1902, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1935.
Box 2 Folder 3
President's correspondence - R. Tait McKenzie, 1913, 1933, 1944, 1950.
Box 2 Folder 4
President's correspondence - Henry G. Bryant, 1894, 1898-1899, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1921.
Box 2 Folder 5
President's correspondence - Ellis Ames Ballard, 1924.
Box 2 Folder 6
President's correspondence - Violet Oakley, 1907, 1926.
Box 2 Folder 7
President's correspondence - William B. Linn, 1919, 1925-1930, 1947-1948.
Box 2 Folder 8
President's correspondence - Frank Aydelotte, 1923, 1927-1928, 1931, 1948.
Box 2 Folder 9
President's correspondence - Frederick R. Griffin, 1917, 1935-1936, 1942-1948.
Box 2 Folder 10
President's correspondence - Richard M. Gummere, 1923, 1926, 1934, 1937, 1948.
Box 2 Folder 11
President's correspondence - Herbert F. Goodrich, 1932-1934, 1948.
Box 2 Folder 12
President's correspondence - J. A. MacCallum, 1933-1935, 1945.
Box 2 Folder 13
President's correspondence - Lucy L. W. Wilson, 1896, 1900.
Box 2 Folder 14
President's correspondence - J. P. Lichtenberger, 1948, 1953.
Box 2 Folder 15
President's correspondence - Thornton Oakley, 1906, 1937-1943, 1950.
Box 2 Folder 16
President's correspondence - Thomas Raeburn White, 1926, 1947, 1952.
Box 2 Folder 17
President's correspondence - William E. Lingelbach, 1944-1948.
Box 2 Folder 18
President's correspondence - George Emerson Barnes, 1940, 1947-1949.
Box 2 Folder 19
President's correspondence - Francis S. Philbrick, 1947-1948.
Box 2 Folder 20
President's correspondence - Katherine McBride, 1950, 1952.
Box 2 Folder 21
President's correspondence - Dr. Percy R. Stockman, 1951.
Box 2 Folder 22
Incoming correspondence, A-Bo, 1892-1932, undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
List of authors

Alma-Tadema, Laurens (23 December 1907)

Baer, George F. (1903-1904, 1906, 1912, undated)

Balch family (1898, 1900, 1903, 1906, 1919)

Bangs, John Kendrick (7, 18 April 1906)

Beaux, Cecelia (24 January 1926, undated)

Beck, James M. (1897-1907)

Bellows, George (25 March, 21 April 1921)

Biddle family (1899, 1917, 1920-1927)

Biddle, William F. (1893-1899)

Bigelow, Poultney (undated)

Blankenburg, Rudolph (1888-1894, 1905)

Bok family (1892-1896, 1913, 1921, 1930, 1932)

Incoming correspondence, Br-Da, 1888-1941, undated.
Box 3 Folder 2
List of authors

Brandeis, Louis (1908, 1912)

Brinley, Charles A. (1897, 1898)

Brinton, Jasper Y. (1920-1921)

Brush, George deForest (1905, 1926, undated)

Buck, Pearl (28 January 1941)

Burnham family (1888, 1901-1903, 1920)

Burr, Anna Robeson (23 October 1905, undated)

Butler, Nicholas Murray (23 October 1905)

Byrd, Richard E., Admiral (23 November 1932)

Chase, William M. (8 November 1905)

Cleveland, Grover (28 October 1901)

Comfort, W. W. (3 January 1928)

Converse, John H. (1901, 1905, undated)

Cox, Kenyon (13 December 1913)

Cret, Paul (1923, 1924)

Davids, Rhys (18 November, 31 December 1894, image)

Davis, Richard Harding (undated)

Dawson, George Walter (1926, 1934, 1937, 1938)

Day, Frank Mills (1896, 1903)

Incoming correspondence, De-He, 1888-1928, undated.
Box 3 Folder 3
List of authors

Dewey, John (12-13 January 1922)

Fiske, Minnie Madern (1907, 1908)

Fitch, Clyde (1899, 1905, undated)

Furness, Horace Howard (1895, 1908)

Furness, Horace Howard Jr. (undated)

Gabworthy, John (28 February ___)

Garland, Hamlen (undated)

Gibbons family (1919-1921)

Gildersleeve, B. L. (5, 8 May, 14 April 1899)

Gillespie, E. D. (1888, undated)

Greet, Ben (undated)

Gummere, Francis B. (1905-1907)

Goepp, Philip H. (1905, 1926, 1928)

Hackett, Francis (9 January 1921)

Hadley, Arthur T. (7 January 1903)

Hapgood, Norman (undated)

Harrison, D. D. (1889, 1891, 1901)

Heilprin, Angelo (1889, 1890, 1896, undated)

Incoming correspondence, Hi-Lo, 1890-1948, undated.
Box 3 Folder 4
List of authors

Hilprecht, H. V. (28 March 1899)

Holland, George (12, 16 April 1895)

Huff, William K. - outgoing, clipping, photograph, certificate (1933-1941, 1948, undated)

Hughes, Charles E. (22 November 1918)

Irwin, Agnes (1890, 1897)

James, Henry (1904, undated)

Jones C. Clothier (27 March 1930)

Jones, Rufus M. (4 January 1928)

Laird, Warren P. (1896-1913)

Lewis, John L. (9 March 1938)

Lewis, Theodore (1888, 1898, 1902, 1903, 1918, undated)

Lincoln, Joseph C. (8 February 1926)

Lodge, H. C. (1898, 1901, 1913)

Long, John Luther (1901, undated)

Lorimer, George H. (24 October 1932)

Lounsbury, T. R. (1907, 1908, 1909)

Lowell, A. Lawrence (1897, 1919)

Incoming correspondence, Ma-Pea, 1887-1940, undated.
Box 3 Folder 5
List of authors

Mabie, Hamilton W. (1896, 1899)

Matthews, Brander (1895, 1903, 1907, undated)

Mayo, Katherine (1 December 1927)

McCrea, James (6 April 1908)

Mitchell, Langdon (1903, 1905, undated)

Mitchell, S. Weir (1903, 1904, undated)

von Moschzisker, Robert (1919, 1925, 1927, 1930)

Moss, Mary (1900, undated)

Mumford, E. W. (Program - 1940)

M√ľnsterberg, Hugo (1902, 1908, undated)

Newton, A. Edward (25 March 1925)

Park, Marion Edwards (1923, 1924)

Parrish, Maxfield (13 April 1896)

Parrish, Stephen (1887, 1888, 1890, 1893)

Peary, Robert, Admiral (7, 12, 14 December 1904)

Incoming correspondence, Pen-Sm, 1889-1928, undated.
Box 3 Folder 6
List of authors

Pennell, Joseph (1912, undated)

Penniman, Josiah H. (1898, 1902-1903, 1905-1906, 1925)

Pennypacker, Samuel W. (16 March 1900)

Pepper, George Wharton (6 December 1901, undated)

Pepper, William (1889, 1893, 1897, undated)

Rhoads, Charles J. (1925, 1927, 1928)

Roberts, Owen J. (1920, 1928)

Roosevelt, Theodore (29 November 1913)

Root, Elihu (21 February 1913)

Rowe, L. H. (1896-1898, 1903)

Runkle, Bertha (1901, undated)

Sargent, John Singer (undated)

Skinner, Maud (30 October 1922, undated)

Smith, Charles Emory (1893-1901)

Smith, Jessie Willcox (14 November 1927)

Smith, Joseph Lindon (14 March, 14 April 1896)

Incoming correspondence, St-Tr, 1889-1925, undated.
Box 4 Folder 1
List of authors

Stokowski, Leopold (26 March, 8 May 1924)

Stoker, Bram (14 February, 27 March 1896)

Sullivan, Mark (3 March 1922)

Taft, William H. (15 March 1919)

Thomas, M. Carey (1889, 1899-1904, 1925)

Traubel, Horace (1894-1901, undated)

Incoming correspondence, Tu-Wh, 1887-1926, undated.
Box 4 Folder 2
List of authors

Turner, Eliza W. (1887-1895)

Van Doren, Carl (3 December 1926)

Van Dyke, Henry (21 December 1917)

Washington, Booker T. (30 October, 14 November 1901)

Watts, Harvey (1895-1905, undated)

Weygardt, Cornelius (1892, 1900, 1907)

Wharton, Anne Hollingsworth (1894-1905, 1920)

Wharton, Joseph (1 November 1902)

White, J. William (1892, 1897, 1898)

Incoming correspondence, Wi-Z, 1887-1914, undated.
Box 4 Folder 3
List of authors

Williams, Talcott (1887-1907, undated)

Williams, Sophia Wells Royce [Mrs. Talcott] (1887, 1896-1902, undated)

Wilson, Francis (15 February 1914)

Wilson, Woodrow (1887, 1888, 1899)

Wister, Owen (1895, 1903, 1908)

Wister family (1887-1901, undated)

Woodruff, Clinton Rodgers (1895, 1896, 1901)

Wu Ting Tang (October-December 1900)

Yeats, William Butler (6 December 1903)

Zangwill, I. (1898, 1899, 1904, undated)

Sophia Wells Royce [Mrs. Talcott] Williams incoming correspondence, 1887-1901, undated.
Box 4 Folder 4
S. Burns Weston incoming correspondence, 1897-1935, undated.
Box 4 Folder 5-7
William K. Huff incoming correspondence, 1928-1941.
Box 4 Folder 8
Thorton Oakley incoming correspondence, 1937-1951.
Box 5 Folder 1-3
Nominations and membership, 1886-1897, undated.
Box 5 Folder 4
Club regulations and member lists, 1887-1888.
Box 5 Folder 5
Membership applications, 1899-1912, undated.
Box 5 Folder 6
Ballots for raising membership fees, undated.
Box 5 Folder 7
Remarks by members, 16 January 1939.
Box 5 Folder 8
Clippings and articles concerning club members, 1938-1941, undated.
Box 5 Folder 9
Tickets, invitations, miscellaneous printed matter, 1886-1901.
Box 5 Folder 10
Reply cards, 1887-1902, undated.
Box 6 Folder 1
Club endowment fund, 1936-1939.
Box 6 Folder 2
Checks, 1918-1932.
Box 6 Folder 3
Attendance cards, 1937.
Box 6 Folder 4
First draft of Contemporary Club constitution, undated.
Box 6 Folder 5
Constitution, list of members, historical sketches, 1890-1904.
Box 6 Folder 6-13
Constitution, list of members, historical sketches, 1909, 1912.
Box 7 Folder 1-2
Railroads and the Public by Joseph D. Potts, 1892.
Box 7 Folder 3
Temple Law Quarterly, v. 2, no. 2, January 1928.
Box 7 Folder 4
A History of 46 Years, 1932.
Box 7 Folder 5
Constitution of the Contemporary Club of Philadelphia, 1938.
Box 7 Folder 6
Limits of Record Search and Therefore of Notice, Parts I, II, III [Reprints], December 1944, March 1945, June 1945.
Box 7 Folder 7
The Next Step in Christianity by S. D. McConnell, undated.
Box 7 Folder 8
New Theories of Constitutional Construction by Thomas Raeburn White, undated.
Box 7 Folder 9
"What Does the Artist Want?", 1952.
Box 7 Folder 10
Miscellaneous, 1940, undated.
Box 7 Folder 11
Photographs, undated.
Box 7 Folder 12
Meeting minutes (volumes), 1899-1919.
Box 8 Volume 1-3

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