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Guide to the Records of the Harmonie Club
1852-1995 (Bulk 1860 - 1935)
 MS 282

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Peter Asch

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on September 25, 2013
Description is in English.

Historical Note

The Gesellschaft Harmonie, later The Harmonie Club, was founded on October 16, 1852 by N. Gutman, M. Werner, H. Beer, H. Cohn, Chs. Werner, and Sigmund Werner to create a "mutually beneficial entertainment, occasional singing entertainments, lectures, etc" for recent German immigrants. The first meeting of the club was held November 8, 1852 in a rented room on Broome Street with thirty-nine members in attendence. Between 1852 and 1867, the burgeoning club was regularly moved as the membership outgrew each rented space. After this nomadic period the club purchased land at 45 West Forty-Second Street to erect a permanent location and raised enough funds to have architect Henry Fernbach design the building.

The growth of the club was supported through dues and the creation of a nomination process to accept new members. To govern the organization, the club held monthly meetings run by elected officers. During the first ten years of existence the group held balls, lectures, and other social events throughout New York City. The tenth anniversary was celebrated on October 18, 1863 with a banquet and ball attended by over one hundred and fifty members. Two years later the club was incorporated as, "The Harmonie Social Club of the City of New York" with two re-incorporations in 1867 and 1894. The first re-incorporation altered the provisions to allow the club to own property and the building on Forty-Second Street. The latter reincorporation was to change the name to "The Harmonie Club." The members continued to use the former name, Gesellschaft Harmonie, until the use of German as the official language was changed to English in 1893.

The large building erected on West Forty-Second allowed the Harmonie Club to host inhouse events, and for the next forty years the club regularly scheduled events such as dances, lectures, concerts, theatrical performances, billiards, cards, and bowling. In 1891, the Admission Committee was created, removing the task of approving and voting on new members from the general monthly meetings. The turn of the century brought several changes to the club. These changes included the first events for non-married members, declining interest in large social gatherings such as dances, and increasing property taxes along Forty-Second Street. In response to these pressures, the decision was made to relocate to a more suitable building. The club solicited donations from its members to build a new Harmonie Club House at Four East Sixtieth Street. The building was officially opened in December 1905 at a banquet attended by over four hundred members.

To meet the changing interests of its members, the Harmonie Club purchased the North Shore Country Club on Long Island in 1914. According to an April 1914 President's Report: "The trend of time is toward the country club and healthy outdoor activity. With the increasing tendency to spread the weekends in suburban surrounding, with the increased use of the automobile, and with the increased desire for outdoor exercise, especially on the part of the younger generation." After several years of renovation the country club opened for Harmonie Club members only. This arrangement was designed to both serve and increase interest in the parent organization. Over the years, the North Shore Country Club has hosted several tournaments and still operates today as a private course.

The growth of the Harmonie Club was slowed by the outbreak of World War I. This was because of the club's German affiliation and the wartime service of current and potential members. The Club supported the United States' campaign through hosting events for enlisted men and their families. In additon, fifty of the club's members served in the war effort. Following the war, the club prospered reaching a record high of eight hundred and fifty members in 1929. This number was cut in half by 1934 with the onset of the Great Depression. The Board of Governors began a large scale renovation of the building on Sixtieth Street under the expertise of architect Benjamin Morris in the late 1930's. The new facilities along with a series of changes in the club's bylaws were designed to modernize the organization and did attract a large number of new and young members. The growth of the Club was halted in 1941 with the American entry into World War II. The Harmonie Club continued to operate throughout the war and resumed its philanthropic programs from World War I, such as hosting functions for enlisted men. Following the war, the Club's membership returned to pre-Depression numbers. The Harmonie Club still exists today and regularly hosts social functions as well as educational and entertainment events.

Sources: One Hundred Years The Harmonie Club, New York : Harmonie Club of the City of New York, 1952.