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Guide to the Records of the Andiron Club of New York City MC 19

New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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New York, NY 10012
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New York University Archives

Collection processed by Marlon Ficke

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 11, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Finding aid revised by John Zarrillo Edited by Jennifer E. Neal for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description. Edited by Makoroba Sow to reflect newly processed collection material  , June 2018 , December 2018 , July 2019

Historical Note

On December 20th, 1907, a group of college instructors and undergraduates met before an open fire and planned two institutions: the Andiron Club and the Colonnade. They came together with the purpose of proliferating the old European philosophical assemblies where learning and erudition mixed with good fellowship. Such a club was in keeping with all the values associated with the belle époque of the 19th century. It seems as if the club operated with one mind, one final cause as it were, but in reality there were several dedicated young men who constituted the core of the group for several years. Among these individuals were M. G. Bishop, John W. Draper, George B. Hotchkiss, Arthur H. Nason, S. M. Tucker, and Henry Melville Love. These men exemplified the role of scholar and friend through the early days of the club, establishing an Andiron tradition, which has kept this club alive up to the present day (1988). In the early days, club rules and goals were well defined. A 1914 statement of policy (see Club Manual) affirmed the tradition of "Romantic Idealism over Naturalism and Realism," and proceeded to publish accordingly, in The Colonnade (1907 to 1922), pieces most appropriate to their doctrine.

In the days before the war and before faculty constituted the majority of members, the club flaunted a youthful fraternity-like atmosphere. Some of the rules of the Club were as follows:

No.3: That the Andiron Club strive to keep its roll of members free from the name of any man not literary in his sympathies and an enthusiastic supporter of literary work.

No.11: Have no relations save the most casual and informal kind with the downtown schools.

No.12: Let the fraudulent contributor be ostracized.

No.15: Maintain an enticing secrecy about the affairs of the Andiron Club.

No.17: Have nothing to do with the Eucleian. (The Eucleian Society was a rival student literary society established in the early nineteenth century at New York University.)

The early history of the Andiron Club falls roughly into four distinct periods: (1) the years between its birth in 1907 to the beginning of the Draper administration, 1913-17; (2) 1925-26, with the interregnum, during World War I, of Carey C.D. Briggs; (3) the dictatorship of Royal J. Davis, from 1926 to 1934; and (4) Frederick S. Boas, Professor of English at Columbia University, who became the dictator following the death of Davis.

The Bronx University Heights campus was all-male and as a consequence, Andiron was not open to women until 1968. Original members frequently donned tuxedos and puffed on cigars during meetings, but institutional chauvinism gradually died. In the 1950s Andiron rapidly lost its members and membership was principally elderly alumni, and although excellent speakers occasionally appeared, the club was on the verge of collapse. Then, Coleman Parsons, a professor of English with no affiliation with NYU, was named dictator. He enthusiastically extended membership so that it included any studious man or woman, regardless of professional status or educational background. He used his academic connections to insure programs of consequence and once again literary scholars of note tried out their theories on an active body of perceptive generalists.

Dr. Parsons' four years as dictator (now called "president") was followed by a succession of distinguished men and the club's first woman president: Edmond Volpe, now President of the College of Staten Island; Arthur Waldhorn, first and third Director of the Davis Center of the Performing Arts; James Tuttleton, Chairman of English at New York University; Frederick Goldin; John Maynard, Chairman of English at New York University; and Michael Joan Peyser, President of the Andiron Club of New York City.

These dictators who succeeded Coleman Parsons, although they continued to emphasize the literary and scholarly traditions of Andiron, extended its scope. In addition to literary scholars and biographer-scholars, such as Martin Duberman, Leon Edel, Robert Gutman, Edgar Johnson, Aileen Ward, we heard working critics such as Leslie Fiedler, Helen Vendler, Denis Donoghue, Pauline Kael, John Simon, and Diana Trilling; and novelists such as Joseph Heller, Anthony Burgess, Malcom Bosse, E. L. Doctorow, and Toni Morrison; art historians, Sir John Pope-Hennessy and Robert Rosenblum; poets, John Hollander and Galway Kinnell; musicians and musicologists who included Charles Rosen, Sir Rudolf Bing, Steven Sondheim, Judith Raskin and Alan Rich; cultural historians including Paul Fussell and Joseph Murphy, Chancellor of the University.