German Social-Scientific Society of New York (Deutscher Gesellig-Wissenschaftlicher Verein von New York)

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The German Social-Scientific Society of New York (Deutscher Gesellig- Wissenschaftlicher Verein von New York) was founded in 1870 with about 20 members. It was created as a forum for the German language and intellectual stimulation. It provided an environment for members to socialize and exchange information through talks by its members on subjects of their expertise or interest. William attended meetings as early as 1875 and became a member in 1883.

The idea of creating this Social-Scientific Society arose at the Friedrich Kapp dinner held in his honor at the Apollo Hall in 1870, which William and Albert had also attended. (Diary, 1870-04-22)(3) The original founders declared its mission was to bring the best minds of the New York German-American community together for regular, consecutive monthly scientific lectures of general interest, presented in German, followed by discussion, and to make these lectures available to the public under the auspices of the society. It was equally important also to provide for a social gathering.(5) William, Fritz Steins and Theodore attend the Society's fifth anniversary celebration, where William was "in fine voice."(Diary, 1875-06-05)

Among the founders in 1870 were Dr. Abraham Jacobi, Dr. Hermann Althof, Dr. H. Guleke, and Dr. Friedrich Zinsser.(5) Friedrich Klamroth first came as a guest that first year but became a member and by 1880 was 1st Vice-President.(3) After a few years, by-laws and a committee structure were created. Members paid an initiation and membership fee of five dollars respectively and were expected to attend regularly. Members and approved guests volunteered to present a lecture at the regularly scheduled monthly meetings; these lectures became the property of the Society.(5) The Executive Committee endorsed these suggested lecture topics and also approved new members submitted to the Membership Committee earlier.(5) After just 10 years the Society boasted 150 members, 41 of whom were on the Executive Committee.(3) At its beginning the Society met at Sieghörtner's Restaurant (Diary, 1875-06-05) but by 1879 it met at Koster and Bial's establishment.(2)

One of the first lectures in 1870 was by Dr. A. Jacobi on "Comparative Anatomy."(3) In 1885, now President of the New York Academy of Medicine, he lectured on folk medicine [Volksmedizin.](7) Other monthly presentations included a recitation from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by actor Hermann Linde in October 1876 and a lecture by Dr. Semper in 1878 on "Sudden development of complicated organs."(3) In 1880 the Society decided to open these scientific lectures to the public under its auspices and to publicize them in the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung with the mission to increase their visibility. Women had already been admitted as guests in 1878.(3)

For its 10th Anniversary in 1880 the Society published a pamphlet on its by-laws and included a membership list,(5) which showed that many members had been long-time friends and acquaintances of William Steinway through the other German clubs and societies in New York, including Oswald Ottendorfer, Phillip Bissinger, Louis Kaemmerer, Dr. Zinsser, etc. At that time the Society also published a second pamphlet on its history 1870-1880 (3), which listed many of the lectures given over the years. These included, among others: Udo Brachvogel, the playwright, on the "German-American Press" in 1875; Albert Klamroth on the "History of the German school system" in 1877, which stimulated a lively discussion of the place of the German language in the public school system in general;(3) Dr. Hermann Schumacher on "Alexander von Humboldt in Bogota" in 1878; Paul Goepel on "Electric light" in 1879; Karl Knortz on "Walt Whitman" in 1886; and A. Speich on "Arthur Schopenhauer" in February 1888.(7)

By 1889 seventy new members had been added. The Society opened its new year with a lecture and social evening at the New York Männergesang Verein Hall [New York Men's Chorus Society] to a full house with a presentation by Mrs. Dr. Emily Kempin on "Rights at Home and in Society," which was followed by "a lively debate before the social portion of the evening began."(1) The Society was also invited to the Liederkranz Hall (Diary, 1883-06-16). William Steinway became a member of the society in 1883 (Diary, 1883-11-14) and attended a meeting with "Papa" Ranft at the Arion Hall.(Diary, 1884-10-18) The 100th anniversary celebration of the birth of the German poet Johann Ludwig Uhland was arranged by the Society together with the Liederkranz and Arion.(Diary, 1887-04-27) After this celebration the Society gave a dinner for the Arion and Liederkranz members at the Arion Hall on St. Mark's Place. The entire income from this evening directly benefitted the German Hospital of the City of New York.(4)

At the April 1891 meeting, William volunteered to give a talk before the Society at its May meeting on "The development of piano building in America, and Music + German Opera, aided by Mr. Franz Rummel who "illustrates" on two old pianos, Clavichord + Hammerclavier & finally on a Steinway Grand." (Diary, 1891-04-14, 1891-05-14)(6) In 1892 Dr. Friedrich Zinsser, former President, lectured before the Society on his research of the German folk tunes (Diary, 1892-11-18) (2) and was invited to repeat it at the Liederkranz Hall. In 1905 member Dr. Emanuel Baruch gave a talk on the German poet "Friedrich Schiller" at the 100th anniversary of his death.(3)

The Social-Scientific Society of New York existed until the 1950s and published a monthly bulletin entitled Welt-Spiegel.(7)

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Sources:

  1. "Club News," New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, August 5, 1889, p. 8.
  2. "The German Volkslied," New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, November 19, 1892, p. 5.
  3. "Geschichte des Deutschen Gesellig-Wissenschaftlicher Verein von New York 1870 – 1880" [History of the German Social-Scientific Society of New York], New York: Cheronney & Kienle, 20 pp., German Society of Pennsylvania, Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library, #AE4098.1
  4. "In Memory of Uhland," New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, April 27, 1887, p. 5.
  5. "Statuten und Mitglieder-Liste des Deutschen Gesellig-Wissenschaftlicher Verein von New York 1880" [By-Laws and Membership Listing of the German Social-Scientific Society of New York], New York: T. Gaus, 16 pp., German Society of Pennsylvania, Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library, #AE 4098.2
  6. Steinway, William. "The Piano Forte. – Speech by the Expert", New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, May 15, 1891, p. 10.
  7. World.cat/New York/Gesellig-Wissenschaftlicher Verein