LIMA — The club’s bylaws include this phrase: “The object of this club shall be general study with an aim to cultivate the art of conversation.”
And nearly nothing has changed, even a century later. The Delphian Club celebrates its 100-year anniversary this year.
The club, for women, meets monthly at members’ homes for an educational program or talk. It also has a fundraising arm, helping support community projects.
In its beginning, the club met twice a month from fall to spring, with summers off. The topics of discussion were beyond the norm. A club booklet from 1915-16 includes the following topics: modern plays, antique furniture, landscape gardening, Luther Burbank (horticulturalist), interior decorating, modern music, forestry, Oriental rugs, silver, modern art, home economics, china, modern architecture, growth of Socialism and anarchy, modern warfare, modern philosophy, motion pictures, child psychology, and birds. Officers during that time were Gladys Alderman Deisel and Pauline Wemmer Gooding — and their names speak to the class of woman involved.
The following year, all the programs focused on Russian literature and opera. In the 1918-19 season, the club focused on “Our Own United States.”
In the earliest days, the meetings were at 2:30 p.m. on weekdays — members didn’t need bother with jobs — and the dues were $1 per year. If a member were tardy for roll call, she was fined 10 cents. Potential members could only attend if invited, and membership was voted upon by the group. Details were noted in meeting minutes, kept diligently.
From those minutes come details on the “Jitney Party” given in about 1917. It was the club’s first effort to hold a fundraising party. The minutes note the party cleared $20.25, which was given toward comfort kits for soldiers.
“Like most women’s organizations of the day, the 12 friends who met on a weekly basis in 1911 spent afternoons crocheting, knitting, embroidering and spinning yarns about the duties of motherhood and homemaking,” according to a Dec. 7, 1975, newspaper story about the club. “Then in 1913 a total of 19 members, with Mrs. A.W. King as their president, the Delphian Club was formed. … But it was not until 1922 that the group planned its first Charity Ball.”
The club became known for its annual ball, which raised money for many community organizations but primarily Lima Memorial Hospital. The ball was held at a variety of appropriate spaces around town, from the Milano Club to the Elks ballroom. It was popular, based on ticket receipts. In the 1930s, the club voted to pay for furnishings for the entire third floor of Lima Memorial Hospital — so long as the cost didn’t exceed $5,000, the extent of the funds available. They contracted with Stickley Brothers Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich., makers of now quite collectible furniture. (The beds were just under $50 apiece.)
The Delphian Club also funded bedspreads and curtains, contracting with G.E. Bluem Co. downtown at Market and Elizabeth streets for custom work.
Fashion pages from newspapers in the 1970s offer glimpses of the charity ball. In 1970, the ball from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a buffet and dancing to a Columbus orchestra.
“Over the years, the formal yule social has been held in a variety of ballrooms from the present Moose Hall to Shawnee County Club and the Milano. In the newly redecorated Elks ballroom, the 1970 edition promises an evening of great fun,” a Dec. 13, 1970, story reported. The ball was scheduled for the day after Christmas.
Also from that era:
“The real holiday gala will be at the Milano Club with cocktails from 9 until 10 p.m. followed by dancing to the 18-piece orchestra of Don Hurless until 2 a.m.,” a Dec. 16, 1973, story reported.
In 1974, Don Hurless and his orchestra was again booked for the event at the Milano Club. Cost was $20 per couple that year.
“Though the first Charity Ball was held in 1922, there are no records of proceeds until 1925 when the club presented a check for $502.33 to the hospital,” a Dec. 8, 1974, story reported. “Items such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, inhalers, curtains, hospital beds, tables and lamps were purchased with dance monies in the years up until 1948 when Delphians turned over $5,000 for a new nursery addition. Since then, members have bought a resuscitator, therapy and X-ray equipment, bassinets, 11 air conditioners and an isolette incubator, a total of $50,421.71 in equipment and money toward building pledges since 1922.”
The late ’70s brought another change: The Delphian Club began focusing on the Allen County Museum. It helped the museum ready a children’s exhibit, one in which children “will be invited to touch, smell, taste, try on, climb into and on top of and under the exhibit,” said chairwoman Diane Leonard in a Jan. 15, 1978, story.
This exhibit turned into a push for a children’s museum wing, which opened in 1982. The ladies volunteered to do the Hands-On History exhibits, a program that helped the children understand what they were seeing and how it relates.
Also in the 1980s, the club offered a Christmas sale at Gregg’s Department Store.
“The annual sale is a holiday collection featuring unusual gift giving ideas, home decorations and elegant Christmas wrap,” a Nov. 4, 1984, story reported. Admission for a special preview night was $15 per couple.
The Delphian Club, in honor of its 100th anniversary, has donated a paver and a tree to the Children’s Garden at the Allen County Museum.