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The scope of topics have ranged from international issues, a report by Sinclair Kennedy about his travel to New Zealand in 1911 to study the country's election regarding prohibition; to a report by Samuel Elliot about his visit with the Indian Agents in the Southwest U.S. in 1914; to the to nuts and bolts topics pertaining to the civic well-being of the City of Cambridge, including "Some of the Sanitary Questions Affecting our City" in December 1888. The meetings have long given its members, who themselves are active in City life, relevant information to enable them and the groups they represent be effective as civic activists.
The topics were found by searching the archives of the Cambridge Chronicle and other newspapers of the times through the searchable data base at the Cambridge Public Library. As an example, we found the following article in the 1891 Chronicle that celebrates the fact that Club members convinced Frederick Rindge to provide the City with a new library.
The topics are grouped by year, with 1882 being the earliest found. Click on the dates or on the internal links to go to the list of that year's articles where you can read them directly from the newspaper. This section is a work in progress and more topics are added regularly.
Click on the link for each decade to find all the articles for those years. Sometimes one of the newspapers will carry a detailed story about the meetings' discussions. Those are fascinating!
Researched and compiled by Nancy Woods, President, 2013-15, with thanks to Alyssa Pacy, Archivist for the Cambridge public library.
In addition to the Cambridge newspaper archive, The Cambridge Historical Society--now renamed History Cambridge--has a collection of early documents from the Club. While they are not digitized, History Cambridge has detailed finding aids: https://historycambridge.org/research/cambridge-club-and-harvard-lyceum-papers-1894
From Cambridge newspapers
October: A long letter to the editor that bemoans the moving of the meetings to Boston. The anonymous writer mentions several times the reason the club was formed. It’s signed “A Member”.
February: Is communication with Boston by means of an elevated road desirable and practical to carry passengers to the centre of Boston in three minutes at a cost of two cents each. Full article.
1884 and 1885 No articles found
October: The valuation of real estate and personal estate for the purposes of taxation. NOTE: if you are a Cambridge tax geek, this detailed article is for you. The Club discussed valuation, types of property and the role of the City assessors, who had the job “until they died” and more.
October: Should Taxes be levied upon Real and Personal Property, or only on Real Estate?"
December: Some of the Sanitary Questions affecting our City.
March: Ladies night; guests--Gov. Ames, Lieut.-Gov. Brackett and Mayor Gllmore
November: What is the matter with "Old Cambridge Club”? The principal "matter," neighbor, in this case is that the new club is not the "Old Cambridge Club.”
April: no topic, speakers-- Gov. Brackett, Prof. George H. Palmer of Harvard, and ex-Mayor Russell
April: Ladies night. Program by Professor J. W. Churchill, the reader, and noted teacher of elocution at Phillips Andover
April--special reception at the new Cambridge Public Library, seen as a model for the rest of the country and as the library of the future. Club members were instrumental in Frederick Rindge donating the library to the city.
January: Changing the methods of electing aldermen. Also, long eulogies for H.H. Gilmore and B.R, Tilton, including favorable attributes of Cambridge.
February: A very lively debate on the rapid transit issue. Lots of details on how (above or below ground and locations of the lines.
April: Ladies night honoring Columbus. Full account here.
December: A long, detailed discussion of the Charles River Basin and locations of, composition of pollution.
November: Some Recent Developments in Mechanical Engineering and an Address on The Harvard Exhibit at the World's Fair
March: World's Columbian Exposition."
January: Relief for the Unemployed. Article
February: The Proposed Law for the Construction of Underground Conduits
March: Municipal Lighting by the City of Cambridge
October: The Proposed Dam and Lock in Charles River. Detailed article here.
November: Scientific Road Building and the Application of its Principles to the Streets of Cambridge
January: The Clay Pits of Cambridge
February: The Proposed Widening of Boylston Street.
March: Metropolitan Water Supply--Planning for 50 years and beyond. Detailed article--a must read
April: Ladies Night, featuring a speaker from the Club's sister club for women: The Cantabrigia. Discussion of "The Women's Movement"
October: The Charities
November: Illustrated talk "A Trip to Alaska"
December: Massachusetts Policy of County Management. Full article
February: Municipal lighting
March: The New Railway Terminals of Boston. Article
May: certain amendments to the by-laws concerning the admission of new members were considered. Includes a complete list of members
October: The Sanitary Conditions of Cambridge
November: Our Charles River Bridges
December: Commercial Relations of the Grea
May: Informal discussion—no program
January: The Cambridge Club--What may be done to improve It?
February: The Proposed Metropolitan County, is it of Advantage to Cambridge?
April: Ladies night--Miss Ella Chamberlain, whistling soloist, and James S. Burdett, humorist
November: How Can Our Electoral System Be Improved?
January: The Streets of Cambridge--Is it Wise to Borrow Money to Improve Them? ($200,000)
February: The Charles River Improvement
March: The Charles River Bridge
April: Ladies Night
October: Cambridge Schools
November: Seven Clergymen Speak Briefly and Make the Monthly Meeting Interesting - Some Thoughts on tne Minister As Layman From the Preacher's Point of View--Pointed Suggestions Interspersed With Wit and Humor. [Note the full article is worth reading for its observations of Cambridge]
December: Our Municipal Government, Can It's Character and Efficiency Be Improved?
January: Tributes in memory of late members, J. Mason Brooks and William Jewell
February: Public Baths
March: Manufacturing in Cambridge
April: Ladies Night
October: The Associated Churches Movement
November: University in its relations to the town
December: Municipal Conduits and its Legislative History
October: Rapid Transit Between Boston and Cambridge
November: (20th anniversary of Club) Municipal Reform Where Reform is Needed
December: Improvement of Boston Harbor--Interesting and Timely Subject Fully Explained Full article here.
January: Development of Charles River Basin
February: Former Cambridge
March: Cambridge Geography and Cambridge Post Offices
April: Ladies Night
January: New York's Municipal Revolt
February: Cambridge Trees and Their Enemies
March: Proposed Widening of DeWolfe Street; speakers, Frederick L Olmsted and Charles W. Eliot
April: Ladies Night; a reading of Enoch Arden by Professor George Riddle
October: Trusts and questions pertaining to economies
November: Shall the two branches of the City Council be consolidated?
December: This meeting contains 1).a detailed discussion how members, "the most highly esteemed residents of the City" are brought into the Club 2) A presentation on electricity and its promise of "splendid things for the future" .
January: Africa past and present
March: Reclamation of Alewife Brook District and the issue of mosquitoes causing malaria in the Cambridge, Belmont, Arlington, Somerville area adjacent to the Alewife marsh. Note that this ia a long and detailed article demonstrating intra-town concerns.
April: Ladies Night---College Life Past and Present
October: A year abroad in the United States, with a focus on the South and "the negro question" and the harsh condemnation of the South by Northern men. Described as one "of the most interesting and instructive programs ever given at the club.
December: Rapid Transit to Cambridge, in the light of European Experience
January: The Cambridge hospitals--what they are doing and what they might do. Includes history of hospitals and detailed presentation of costs
February: Municipal Real Estate in connection with street improvements and the revised laws of eminent domain
March: The City's problem with reference to the reconstruction of the upriver bridges between Boston and Cambridge. Issues--design, ornamentation, durability, orientation, costs and how raise revenue. Frederick Law Olmsted was one of the speakers Detailed article.
April: The remarkable instance of a bear weaned by a woman at a Maine lumber camp. Ilustrated by stereopticon. The speaker, an MIT professor brought the grown bear to his Belmont home
October: The Charles River Basin and Dam
November: Juvenile Crime and Criminals
December: Electrical developments in Cambridge
January: Glimpses of Local Transportation in American and European Cities
February: Park Work in Cambridge; full text article
March: The Sanitary and Mortality Conditions of Cambridge and Immediate Vicinity; full text article
April:cl leA talk on Eastern Questions; full text article
October: The Present Condition of the Cambridge Water Works and the New Pipeline
November: Cambridge Street Railway Facilities and the Present Capacity and what the Two Track Thoroughfare will add
January: Some Considerations of Cambridge; long article
February: The New City Charter; full article
March: Taxation of College Property
April: Cambridge Hospital for Tuberculosis (this was a special meeting)
April 30th: The Message of Germany to the Cities of America; full text
October: Our Public Library and Its Work
January: Municipal Finance in Cambridge, Present and Future
February: Should all Telephone and Telegraph and Electric Light Wires in Cambridge be Placed in Conduits Owned by the City?
March: Subway Stations in Cambridge
November: Proposed Amendments to the City Charter Relating to the School Committee
December: China and Its Recent Awakening
January: The Charles River Basin
February: A Recent Trip among the Volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands
March: The Smoke Nuisance
October: Address on “Central Africa”
November: The Crusade against Tuberculosis
December: The Government of Cities
January: How They are Living and What They are Doing in the Panama Canal Zone Today
February: Should the Cambridge Manual Training School be Made a State Industrial School?
March: Metropolitan Park System and its Relation to the City of Cambridge
October: The Cambridge Municipal Art League and What it is Seeking to Do for the City
November: The Transfer of the River Front Parkway to the Metropolitan Park Commission
December: What Has America to do in the Orient?
January: Municipal Finances.
February: Are we now ready for a new Metropolitan County of Boston?
March: Economic Wastes in a Public School System.
April: Traveling with Peary in the Arctic
October: The Relation of the University to the City. The Cambridge Chronicle article is a full account of the presentations, including the speech by President Lowell of Harvard. He stresses the need for a city-university board; the many ways that citizens can benefit from the resources of the school; scholarships so that “no poor boy” from East Cambridge or Cambridgeport would be turned away. Fascinating article.
November: Improvements in Cambridge Streets.
December: The History of the Development of the Charles River Basin
January: Election of Club officers
February: The Main Thoroughfares of the Metropolitan District and the Proposed Boulevard Connecting Harvard and Wellington Bridge
March: Discuss the report of the joint committee to "promote more cordial relations between the University and the city"--including potential taxation and scholarships. The other topic of the evening will be: “Government of Cities by Commission.”
October: Some objections to the Proposed Charter for Cambridge Governance
November: The Cambridge Main Street Subway Extension and the East Cambridge Elevated Extension
December: Workingmen's Compensation
January: Journey with an Indian; plus annual report of Club finances
February: Changes in President Making
March: Harvard Night
April: Ladies Night
November: A substitue speaker due to the unexpected illness of Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard; new topic--Pompeii and Amalfi
December: Observations from Travels through China by Dr. Charles W. Eliot. Includes details about Chinese laborers and work ethic. Read full text.
January: Annual report plus a detailed history of the Cambridge Water Works, improvements made now and plans for the future. Read the full article.
February: Should the $12 Tax Limit be Abolished?
March: Harvard College Library
April: Glimpses of Tibet; Ladies night
October: Hunting with Canoe and Camera in New Brunswick
November: Impressions of Japan after three months of travel, including domestic observations and assessment of likelihood of war. Full article.
December: The Aims and Methods of the Proposed Cambridge Sanitary Survey Commission, including the dirty and untidy conditions of the streets and the serious mosquito problem. Full article.
January: The Cambridge Hospital and the Avon Home
February: Back to the Sixteenth Century—The Indians of the Far Southwest
March: The Railroads and the People
May: Ladies' night for wives, women relatives and friends with a banquet, and vocal and instrumental music and readings
December: Some Comments on the New Zealand Situation
January: The European War from Personal Observation
March: Harvard night—Medicine, Classics, Divinity, Law (Felix Frankfurter), Business, Economics
April: The Experiences of a Periodical Man (from The Atlantic Monthly) With His Subscribers
November: Plan B, a new form of charter for Cambridge which was adopted at the recent election
December: New Methods of Real Estate Assessment to Be Adopted in Cambridge in1916
January: Observations on Various War Zones in Europe
February: Cambridge Industries--Woven Hose & Simplex companies
March: Impressions of France during WWI
April: Presentation by a Palestinian in the Turkish Army
October: Poliomyelitis or Infantile Paralysis
November: Recrudescence of Personal Government
January: The Department of Public Safety; The Streets;…..
February: Taxation, City and State
March: What Harvard and Technology (MIT) are doing for Cambridge
October: Immigration and Uncle Sam’s Sieve
November: The Red Cross Commission
December: Experiences in Siam
January: Administrative Policies
February: The Cambridge Water System: it’s Past, Present and Future. Is it Expedient to Construct a Filtration Plant at This Time?
March: Cambridge Industries including growth of East Cambridge
April: The Soul of Italy
October--Meeting postponed because of the prevailing epidemic
November: The Student Army Training Corps
December: Is Universal Military Training in the U.S. Advisable?
January: Labor in Textiles. Its Importance to New England
February: Personal Experiences in the War
March: Labor’s Revolt against Business Methods
April: Some New Industrial Tendencies
November: The Hospitals of Cambridge
December: What does the Taxpayer get for his Money?
January: Some Cambridge Developments in the Last Decade
February: The Americanization Problem
March: Public Schools and the Public
November: War Memorial for the City of Cambridge
December: Housing Conditions in Cambridge
January: The Gloucester Fishermen at Work
February: Waterways and Highways in Massachusetts
March: A Greater Metropolitan System
April: Their Wedding Journey
October: What is the Solution of the Unemployment Situation in the Commonwealth?
November: The New Poland and its Problems
December: The Zoning System in Cambridge
December: City Officials present a detailed account of City finances, including water supply issues and the need to invest in Kendall Square to build more factories. The City Officials also criticize Club members for not being active in civic affairs as they once were.
Cambridge Chronicle, volume 46, April 18, 1891
Grand Library Reception for the Cambridge Club
The reception given at the Public Library building by the trustees of the library, last Monday evening, to the Cambridge club with ladies, was a grand though informal affair. There were present the portly and dignified ex-Mayor, grave-faced aldermen, bustling council men and prominent citizens, together with bright, handsome, and richly dressed women: about 200 in all and they moved about as free and chatty as at a church tea party.
They visited all sections of the building from top to bottom, read the inscriptions and commented on them, looked at the long rows of valuable books, and the pictures and stationery, looked at the tables and longed for the hour of refreshments, enjoyed themselves as much as they could and tried to be agreeable to others, till the hour of Col. Higginson's speech.
Very likely the affair was more informal without an orchestra, yet we could not help thinking what an improvement joyful and inspiring music would have been; besides people will talk more freely when the sound of their voices is somewhat dimmed by the strains of music, so they feel a little more secluded and all to themselves.
Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, chairman of the board of trustees, gave a most interesting talk on the library, he told them of the early completion of the new building and the first subscriptions by members of the Cambridge club, how through the efforts of Gov. Russell that Mr. Frederick Rindge contributed the magnificent gift which produced the present noble edifice, a model of excellence, he stated briefly the growth and progress of the library and made several suggestions as to present needs. He said the time was when the public library was for the poor to go and read the books: the rich were able to read at their books at homes; that the library is now something the people buy for themselves. He recounted many of the successful features of the present management, and traced in glowing terms what he fancied would be the library of the future.
Under the lead of Col. Higginson, the Cambridge library is likely to become a recognized model for all the libraries of this country. And why not?
After the address the company was invited to the hall below, where, behold, Miss Martha Jones had been before them, and supper was ready.
By such receptions the city becomes acquainted with Its own institutions. More of such are to be desired.
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