Boston Club

Contributors

The Boston Club was a social club founded in 1841 through which men could enjoy the popular card game called “Boston.” [1] Members of The Boston Club organized and rented rooms in their club house to play “Boston” as well as other card games and for some gambling. [2] In addition, according to its 1867 charter, the purpose and objects of the corporation are: “the cultivation of literature and science by the establishment and gradual increase of a library of well assorted and standard books for the free use of all members and guests with no charge.” [3]

History

The Boston Club is the third oldest social club in the United States. [4] The Boston Club formed in 1841. It was first incorporated for a period of 25 years and the act of incorporation passed on April 8, 1867. State authorities approved the charter on April 16, 1867, which contained articles, rules, and by-laws about the president, vice-president, secretary, executive committee, regulations of games and rooms, rates of charges on games played, and restrictions on betting. At the end of 25 years, the charter was renewed. [5]

Many New Orleanians felt there were not enough social clubs in New Orleans. They also wanted a club that was more laid back and not so secretive or formal. “New Orleans needed another club –a social, open, liberal, cosmopolitan organization, with abundance of elbow room and the necessary spirit of progress as its animating motive.” [6] A meeting for citizens interested in the formation of a new club was called, and those who attended expressed the desire for a location where they could play cards, especially the popular game “Boston.” [7]

Colonel Stafford of the Union forces closed the Boston Club on August 15, 1862. It closed for 3 years during war, but federal forces used the building as naval headquarters. The Boston Club then reorganized after the Civil War. [8]

Description

The Boston Club was a beautiful and lavish structure.
“The canal street entrance to the club is by way of a 10×12 vestible. The parlor on the ground floor is 55-feet deep from the property line and enhanced with a bay window overlooking a side yard paved with granite slabs. Leather chairs, rockers, lace curtains, foremost men of New Orleans found discussing events of the day. There is a Billiard room, a pool room, a cafe, a fountain in center of room, metal tables, and chairs. In the backyard there is a bicycle rack to leave your bicycle. There is also a wine closet, a filtration system with water pumps. Inside there is a winding staircase that leads to the card room and lunchroom on the second floor. There is a Louis XV chandelier, walls papered in terra cotta, and water colors on the walls.” [9]

Members and Guests

Membership in The Boston Club “perpetuated the finer traditions of the social charm of New Orleans and the spirit of the fraternal privileges of a convivial gentlemen’s club.” Membership was very exclusive, with a long waiting list starting at ten years and there were no automatic memberships. Existing members had to vote using a “black ball” system. Members could reject potential new members with a certain number of black balls placed in a box. [10]

Directly after the Civil War, the club hosted balls to which wives, sisters, and daughters of the members could attend. The Boston Club also had a reputation for its food, including its lunches and dinners that reputable members of society often attended. The cook’s wages were a great expense, at $3000 a year. [11]

In 1873, the Boston Club entertained Lord Roseberry with a luncheon. [12]
In 1880, General U.S. Grant visited New Orleans and accepted an invitation to lunch at The Boston Club. [13] Other famous guests included General O. M. Schofield, commander in chief of the United States army, on May 22, 1985; President Taft; Wu Tang Fan, Chinese prime minister to the U.S., in 1900; General Pershing on February 17, 1920; Henry Clay before the Civil War; and Jefferson Davis after the Civil War. [14] It was also customary for Rex and his queen to lunch at club after the Rex parade. In addition, the Boston Club entertained queen of the carnival. [15]

Homes of The Boston Club

1. 1851: Merchants Exchange, 126 Royal Street
2. 1835-1862: 129/130 Canal Street, next to Moreau’s Restaurant at that time
3. 1962-1865: Club closed
4. 1865-1867: 214 Royal Street (currently location of Hotel Monteleone)
5. 1867-1884: 4 Carondelet Street, three story residence of New Orleans financier, Edward J. Forstall
6. 1884: 824 Canal Street (then called 148 Canal Street), mansion of Dr. William Newton Mercer, designed by J. Gallier. Fully purchased in 1905. [16]

Significance

The Boston Club was an elite social club comprised of rich, white men. It served as a place that held balls, lunches, and exquisite dinners. Its events and social activities produced many newspaper articles in the late 18th century and throughout the 20th century. The idea that such a lavish club could be created for something as simple as playing cards serves as a symbol and reminder of the wealthy life in New Orleans before the Civil War and even after. Social clubs held reputable members who partied with the highest members of society. Due to their wealth, they enjoyed things outside of the club as well, such as the opera, carnival, and hotels. Overall, the Boston Club helped create a cultural production of carnival events, dinners, and balls for wealthy men and their guests. The Boston Club, like the Pickwick Club, was a location where krewes passed during Mardi Gras. The culture of festivity and celebration remains in the social clubs of New Orleans today.

Works Cited

  • Landry, Stuart O. History of the Boston Club. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Company, 1938. p. 5.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 7.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 7.
  • Times Democrat. 18 December 1881. Quoted in Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6-7.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6-7.
  • Times Democrat. 4 June 1899. Quoted in Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 6.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 8.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 8.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 8.
  • New Orleans Times. 3 April 1880. Quoted in Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 8.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 8-9.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 9.
  • Landry. History of the Boston Club. p. 10-13.

This page was last modified on 18 April 2012, at 06:28

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Boston Club

214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA

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Boston Club

130 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA

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Boston Club

824 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

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Boston Club

100 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA