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Mermaid Club records


Held at: Germantown Historical Society [Contact Us]5501 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144

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

The Mermaid Club was organized in 1887 as an extension of the "Band of St. Michael," a social group for boys founded by Ms. Agnes Lambdin and affiliated with St. Michael's Church of Germantown. Young men who attained the age of 19 were no longer eligible for membership in the Band. The decision to establish the Mermaid Club stemmed from a desire to provide the young men who lacked the means to pursue further formal education with an opportunity to read and discuss great books as a way to engender intellectual stimulation and enlightenment. At its founding, the average age of the club members was 16. The name of the club has its root in the Mermaid Tavern which, as legend has it, served as a meeting place for the literary elite of the Elizabethan Era, including such figures as Sir Walter Raleigh and John Donne among others. The club motto, Ventilare Scintillam, translates to "Kindle the Spark."

During its existence, the Mermaid Club held debates, sponsored a series of public events that included a course of 6 lectures on the topic of Russian literature and history, presented by Nathan Haskell Dole, considered a pre-eminent scholar of Russian literature at the time and collected their own writings into a yearly publication called "The Mermaid Inn."

In 1894, members of the Mermaid Club lobbied extensively to have a branch of the newly established free library located in Germantown. In 1895, their efforts came to fruition and the Germantown branch opened in Vernon Hall at Chelten and Germantown Avenues--that branch is now known as the Joseph E. Coleman Regional Library.

The Mermaid Club collection documents the founding of the club and club activities until its end in 1923.

The Mermaid Inn manuscripts include the original essays written by the members for the purpose of presentation to the club members for the annual closing meeting.

Overview of Arrangement:



Rules and Regulations

Minutes 1883-1888, 1888-1893, 1901-1909, 1913-1919, 1919-1922

Courses of Readings


Drafts--The Mermaid of the Past, The Mermaid Club

Essays related to Mermaid Club

Unrelated essays


Essays--subject Macbeth

Essays--subject Shakespeare

Mermaid Inn--1881, 1882, 1883, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888

History--Mermaid of the past, Record of a reading club, The Mermaid Club

Correspondence and memoranda

Accession information for this collection is undocumented. Most probably the Mermaid Club collection came to the Germantown Historical Society from Edwin Jellett, one of the founding members and prominent figure in Germantown during the late 19th and early 20th century. The photographs included as part of the collection had been separated out and are housed in the photo file cabinets. Several of the manuscripts have site and relic society labels affixed inside the front covers indicating that the records were accepted by the GHS in 1909 from Edwin Jellett. Materials in the collection cover a period extending to 1922, suggesting that Edwin Jellett made additional gifts of his papers subsequent to 1909.

Germantown Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

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