American History Club Records
An Inventory of the Collection
The American History Club (AHC) was formed on December 1, 1893 by eight women for the purpose of studying United States History. The first meeting took place in the parlor of the organizations’ founder, Mrs. Bride M. Taylor (Thomas F.). Along with Mrs. Taylor, charter members included Dora F. Arthur, Laura Brush, Minnie J. Colby, Lucy L. Davis, Lizzie Freeman, Rosa freeman, Fannie Gooch Iglehar, Estelle Lewright, Laura L. Steele, Maimie Spalding. This was the second women’s group of its kind established in Austin. Three years earlier, the Pathfinders Club (AR.1994.084) was founded to promote the study literature for the purpose of mental improvement.
During the first meeting of the AHC, a temporary organization was created, bylaws and program committees were formed and membership was set to fifteen people. During the second meeting, Bride Taylor was elected president and a constitution was officially created. At this time, it was decided that meetings would be held bi-monthly and that members would present papers and answer roll call with information on a selected topic of study. The very first topic selected was "Pre-Columbian Discoveries" and two papers, to be discussed at the third meeting, were assigned: "Leif Ericsson and Other Norse Explorers" by Mesdames James J. Arthur and "Other Traditional Discoverers" by Laura Freeman.
In 1897, the club became a charter member of the newly established Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. According to the club's minutes, on March 5 of the same year, the treasurer "reported purchase of a tin trunk - price $1.50…for the archives, and other books, etc. pertaining to the work of the club." Members were required to place their papers in the trunk. Anyone who failed to do so was fined one dollar. The contents of the trunk were donated to the Austin History Center in March, 1977 by Mrs. Lloyd Lockridge.
Over the next two decades, the club's membership grew to twenty-five. As a result, the club's interests and concerns broadened to include the arts as well as civic, educational, and philanthropic issues. The club played an important financial role in establishing the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs headquarters in Austin, the District Federation of Women's Clubs, the Red Cross Emergency Fund, the Red Cross War Chest, Big Bend National Park, and the Endowment Fund of the Austin Public Library. During the mid -1920's, the club contributed $6,000 toward the purchase of the North-Evans House for the Austin Woman's Club.
During World War II, the club's topics once again broadened to include international affairs. This trended continued over the next two decades to include U.S. relations with Canada as well as developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Membership declined somewhat during the 1960s and 70s and the club's focus shifted once again, this time to the preservation of historic artifacts, particularly in the downtown area. Members disapproved of and voiced concern over controversial remodeling work done to the State Capitol Building in 1970 and, a year later, participated in the campaign to save the Driskill Hotel from closing. In more recent times, the club's interests have shifted to reflect contemporary issues in science, technology, medicine and culture.
Creative works, administrative and financial records, project information, yearbooks, correspondence and assorted printed material document the activities of the American History Club (1893-2005; 609 items). The bulk of the collection spans 1894-1902. The first series is composed of creative works (1894-1962, undated) authored by club members. It is further divided into two subseries: Papers Presented (1894-1903, undated) and Club Speeches (1897, 1943, 1962). The first group (47 items ) contains research papers presented by members during meetings. The bulk of this material spans 1894-1902 after which dates and, in some cases, authors, are unknown. Papers presented during 1893, the club's first year of existence, are not included in this collection. However, topics and authors for this year and others can be found in the meeting minute books (1893-1988) contained in Administrative Records. The second, much smaller group (6 items) consists of anniversary (1943, 1962) and retirement (1897) speeches.
Activities and evolving interests of the club are best documented in 16 meeting minute books (1893-1988, undated) and one folder of unbound minutes (1895-98; 1941-42, undated) contained within the second series, Administrative Records (1893-1988; 78 items). It should be noted that minutes for 1903-1913 are missing. In November, 1926, the club secretary called for a vote regarding the character of meeting minutes. A consensus was reached that the minutes should simply be "…a record of proceedings rather than a legal statement of business proceedings". Substantial financial contributions in support of various organizations including the Texas Federation of Women's Club, the National Federation of Women's Club, Big Bend Park and Austin Public Library are also recorded in the club minutes. Additional expenditure and investment information regarding such contributions may be found in the fifth series, Financial Documents (1894-2005; 211 items).
Activities and affiliations with other important women's organizations including the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs and the General Federation of Women's Clubs are illuminated in the last two series, Correspondence (1893-1969; 70 items) and Assorted Material (1895-1970, undated; 68 items). Biographical information about Harriet Wingfield Smither (1953-1955; 9 items), longtime club member and Texas State Archivist, 1925-1953, is included within the final series along with a copy of the Senate memorial resolution passed in her honor.
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Restrictions on Use
American History Club Records (AR.O.004). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1961/002
Donation Date: 1977 March (Mrs. Lloyd Lochridge)
1993 December 7 (Mrs. James Moll)
1994 March 31 (Mrs. Hans Baade)
1994 June 10 (Mrs. Donald Morgan)
1994 September 1 (Mrs. James Moll)
1996 January 10 (Mrs. Donald Morgan)
1996 October 9 (Glenda Crout)
1998 October 21
1999 May 18 (Mrs. Hans Baade)
1999 October 6 (Janie Orr)
2002 June 23
Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing By Ruth Baker 2002 October 28. Consolidation of further donations and processing by Robert Olds 2007 July. Encoding and Finding aid by Susan Rittereiser 2009 April.
Detailed Description of the Collection