Guide to the Records of the Epoch Club (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 1898-1994

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of the Epoch Club (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Creator
Epoch Club (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Collection Number
MSS#165
Date [inclusive]
1898-1994
Extent
2.5 cubic feet (3 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
The Epoch Club was organized on January 12, 1898 as a literary club for women in Pittsburgh's East End neighborhoods and suburbs. The club was also active in social welfare and civic activities. These records include correspondence, minutes, financial materials, scrapbooks, writings, yearbooks, photographs and other sundry items documenting the club's activities.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of the Epoch Club (Pittsbugh, Pa.), 1898-1994, MSS #165, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

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Historical Sketch of Epoch Club (1898-)

The Epoch Club was organized on January 12, 1898 as a literary club for women in Pittsburgh's East End neighborhoods and suburbs. Drawing its membership primarily at first from the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh and the suburban communities of Wilkinsburg and Edgewood, the Epoch Club gradually accepted members from throughout the Pittsburgh area. The Epoch Club included among its members socially prominent women who were generally well-educated and well-traveled. Prior to the establishment of the club, some of the charter members met regularly to do fancy work (lace) and discuss books. However, at a meeting at the home of Mrs. John L. McCutcheon, the club was formally established with the stated purpose of "the mutual improvement through active participation in the study of literature, arts, science and vital interests of the day." It was officially organized in 1898, and in 1899, the Epoch Club joined the Federation of Women's Clubs of Pennsylvania. Charter officers were Mrs. McCutcheon, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Speer, Mrs. Samuel Irvine and Mrs. Frank I. Slocum. Membership in the Epoch Club was originally limited to twenty-six, but increased to forty in 1936. New members were nominated by the sponsorship of two existing members, and the acquaintanceship of two others.

The Epoch Club held meetings every two weeks from October to May with a different hostess for each meeting. Early in the history of the club, meetings were held at the hostess' home. In later years, the meetings were held at country clubs and club buildings in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, including the College Club, the Twentieth Century Club, and the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. The Epoch Club considered on numerous occasions the purchase or construction of a club building, but opted each time to operate without a club building. Each year, a topic for study was selected by the members and the programs were set accordingly. At meetings, members presented research papers about the topic, or told of personal and family experiences. Most meetings concluded with a discussion of current events.

The Epoch Club also was involved with numerous other endeavors. As stated in the secretary's yearly report of 1944-45, "the program of the Epoch Club is serious and social, but it takes an active interest in the community." To this end, the club raised money for relief efforts and education, and spoke out on many social issues. The Club sponsored a Summer or Vacation school and playground, where children could learn practical skills such as sewing and cooking. After World War I, members of the club raised money for relief of people in Armenia and the Near East and financially supported a French orphan. During World War II, the Epoch Club raised money for the United War Fund, Red Cross, Kingsley House settlement house in Pittsburgh, the Civic Club and to general Russian Relief. Money was also raised to assist soldiers and veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Members of the Epoch Club were often invited to attend functions at other clubs, including the Twentieth Century Club and the Jewish Women's Club. The minutes of the Epoch Club reveal that the club petitioned the United States Congress on many matters, from the protection of Appalachian forests and Niagara Falls, to prohibition, crime prevention, old age pensions, and divorce laws. Appeals were also made on behalf of local issues such as sanitary conditions, garbage disposal, street cleaning, housing, manual and domestic training in public schools, the veteran's hospital in Aspinwall, and objections to advertisements placed on the outside of new streetcars. Citing their function as a literary club and not one with civic or social aims, the Epoch Club left the Federation of Women's Clubs of Pennsylvania early in their history. Despite their resistance to rejoining the Federation, and disclaiming social aims, the club did endorse social goals, including women's suffrage and civil rights, child labor, and the welfare of women and children in general.

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Scope and Content Notes

These records include correspondence, minutes, financial materials, scrapbooks, writings, yearbooks and other sundry items. Items that provide the most comprehensive documentation of the Epoch Club's activities are the minutes (1898-1950), scrapbooks (1927-1957), and yearbooks (1898-1994). The minutes date from the first meeting through 1950 and provide comprehensive documentation of the Club's activities. The minutes provide information on the location of each meeting, topic of discussion, financial materials, and various news relating to resignations and nominations of members, motions, and the election of officers. Also included is information relating to the lives of members such as announcements of deaths and illnesses, reports on the activities of members in relationship to the Club, papers presented, books reviewed, lectures, music, current event discussions, and readings of letters to the Club. At the end of each club year is a summary of the events including attendance records, and matters of Club, local, national or worldwide interest which were discussed. The annual Christmas party, and the last meeting of the season, often a picnic, are briefly described. The yearly topics included studies of various geographic regions, urban life, the American melting pot, the changing world, Pittsburgh history, religions and numerous other topics.

The Epoch Club yearbooks are comprehensive through 1994 and contain vital information on the members and operation of the club. The yearbooks list regular, associate and honorary members, officers, programs with the topic and hostess, and memorials for members who died. Scrapbooks include newsclippings, yearbooks and photographs of club activities and members. In most of these scrapbooks, the yearbook is dismantled and arranged with photographs, newsclippings and other items from specific programs. Many of the early scrapbooks include photographs of members, their homes, and club activities, among others. The photos of homes include Mrs. Lamont Button's country estate, Chestnut Burr, and snapshots of Mrs. Hobart Ayers' storm damaged Rhode Island house. Newsclippings in the scrapbooks primarily depict the program of the club through the 1930s and afterward and document social events, such as wedding announcements of members and their families. The 1940-1941 scrapbook includes color caricatures of the Epoch Club members. These records also include treasurer's reports, writings, by-laws and miscellaneous materials. The treasurer's reports include financial information of membership dues, money spent by the club for entertainment, printing, and other expenses. Also included are lists of contributing members and the money raised for various relief efforts undertaken after World War I for Armenian and Middle East refugees. The writings include dramas, poems and essays, many of which were written by club members for presentation at club meetings. Of note with the writings are historical poems of the club and annual reports written in verse describing the activities of the club season. Also of note is a typewritten play, Lady Ashburton in Hell, (about the Victorian salon hostess Lady Ashburton) that was performed at the Victorian Literature Class of the College Club, with Epoch members in attendance, c. 1951 and two papers read before the Club,  The Chateau Country of France (April 27, 1916), and  A Sketch of Hermann Indermann (December 2, 1915). Miscellaneous materials include financial receipts and notes, a Christmas program from 1957, sheet music for Christmas carols, and an undated menu from Charles Ung's East Liberty Tea Garden. These records provide strong documentation of the club's activities and members throughout the history of the Epoch Club.

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Arrangement

The Records of the Epoch Club are housed in three archival boxes and are arranged alphabetically by folder title with miscellaneous materials arranged to the rear.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Summer, 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

These items came in one accession, 1990.

Acc# 1990.96 -- Gift of Mrs. Martha Trondle on behalf of the  Epoch Club, (Records. We have received single copies of the yearbooks in subsequent years and these donations have not received separate accession numbers.).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Beverly Wilhelm and  Corey Seeman on April 14, 1995.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Jennifer Marshall on August 4, 1999.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Epoch Club (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • College Club of Pittsburgh (Pa.)

Geographic Name(s)

  • Edgewood (Allegheny County, Pa.) -- Women
  • Homewood (Pittsburgh, Pa.) -- Women
  • Wilkinsburg (Pa.) -- Women

Subject(s)

  • Clubs -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Women -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Women -- Pennsylvania -- Edgewood (Allegheny County)
  • Women -- Pennsylvania -- Wilkinsburg
  • Women -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Women -- Societies and clubs
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief
  • Women
  • Women's Collection

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Collection Inventory

  boxfolder
By-laws c. 1900-1980 11

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  folder
Member Lists c. 1898-1947 2

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Minutes 
  boxvolume
 October 1938 - April 1950 2

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  folder
Newsclippings c. 1954-1958 1

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Scrapbooks 
 1927 - July 1932 
 October 1932 - July 1937 
 October 1937 - July 1947 
 October 1947 - July 1952 
 October 1952 - July 1957 

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  folder
Treasurer's Books 1898-1926 2

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  folder
Writings c. 1901 - 1952 3

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Yearbooks 
  folder
 1898-1900 4
  folder
 1900/01-1909/10 5
  folder
 1910/11-1920/21 6
  boxfolder
 1921/22-1930/31 31
  folder
 1931/32-1940/41 2
  folder
 1941/42-1954/55 3
  folder
 1955/56-1964/65 4
  folder
 1965/66-1976/77 5
  folder
 1977/78-1993/94 6

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  folder
Miscellaneous Materials c. 1922-1973 7

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