TURN OF THE CENTURY FRIENDSHIP CLUB REPORTS
A collection of five humorously written annual reports dating from 1914 to 1917 for the Friendship Club of The Northfield, a loose knit group of young adult men and women from Massachusetts and New York who met for an annual winter outing at The Northfield, a popular Massachusetts hotel. The members braved bitter winter temperatures in February each year for their week-long outing highlighted by tobogganing, skiing, skating, brisk picnics, songs, and friendship.
The typed annual reports are illustrated with black and white photographs of young people sledding, snow shoeing, and enjoying the outdoors. The Club took over the inn with nightly story-telling sessions, songs, charades, and other events, including a Dutch breakfast hosted by the chaperones of the group who were celebrating their wedding anniversary. A photograph in the 1914 report shows the women in the group wearing Dutch caps: “At each place, we found facsimiles of ourselves in our Dutch costume and, in some cases, a comrade also, was beautifully represented. Suitable sentiments were superscribed on each card and on the reverse side were written practical rules on ‘How to Behave at a Dutch Breakfast’.”
Beyond what is reported in these less-than-serious accounts, which range in length from 13 to 31 pages, little is known about the Club, which was founded in August 1910. For the years of the reports present here, the group was headed by Herbert S. Stone, who was also the assistant general manager of The Northfield. The 1915 report states that the social club had 25 active members and 10 honorary members.
The hotel was located in Northfield, Massachusetts, a town which achieved prominence after one of its residents, D.L. Moody, gained worldwide fame as a Christian evangelist and founded the Moody Church. Closer to home, Moody opened the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879, which created an increase in demand for services such as hotels. The Moody family opened the 125-bedroom Northfield in 1887 just a short distance away from the seminary. Its guests were most often in town visiting the women’s seminary students or students at the Mount Hermon School for Boys, which consolidated to become Northfield Mount Hermon School in 1971.
In the annual reports for The Friendship Club, the secretary wrote that girls from the seminary visited the hotel to entertain the members of The Friendship Club. According to the 1915 report, Mrs. Ambert Moody was the official chaperone and “has won the distinction of being the first one courageous enough to undertake to chaperone a Friendship Club house-party single handed. She did not seem at all dismayed at the prospect.” Mrs. Moody was the wife of the hotel manager Ambert Moody, grandnephew of the famous evangelist.
From the reports, all of the actions of the Club appear to focus on enjoying one another’s company and having a good time. The only note of somberness was introduced at the end of the 1917 report, in which Bertha Chamberlain, secretary pro tem, wrote: “Nothing can blot from our memory the many good times enjoyed by the faithful “Friendshippers’ during this famous re-union. With was and rumors of war hanging over our heads our brave little band, though sadly depleted in numbers, rallied around our banner, responded faithfully to our Treasurer’s call. When the bugle rings out next year may we all be ready to heed its note.”
It is unknown whether Friendship Club met again in 1918 or thereafter. Facing dwindling guests, The Northfield closed in the 1970s and was demolished, although its well-landscaped grounds became home of the Northfield Golf Club. A few reminders of the old hotel still exist, including the pond in the foreground, the stone wall, and the footbridge across the stream.
The reports are generally in very good condition. Each are bound with a small ribbon or string. The color construction paper covers are chipped, with a few closed tears and a bit of fading. Item #73705