Part II: Hayes in Cincinnati
Cincinnati Literary Club
A continuing, slightly humorous series to raise awareness of Rutherford B. Hayes and erect a statue of him in Cincinnati.
As far as I can tell, Rutherford B. Hayes was an enthusiastic member of the Literary Club. Hayes arrived in Cincinnati on Christmas Day, 1849, and by early 1850 was a member. Friendships forged in the Literary Club, in many cases, would be life-long. Even though President Hayes moved his permanent residence to Fremont in 1873, after his second term as Governor of Ohio, the Literary Club remained important to him. During his term as President he even met up with those members living and working in DC at the time. For instance his diary notes a meeting in 1878 to celebrate the 29th Anniversary of the Club.
Founded on October 29, 1849, the Literary Club is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. One hundred members, all men, meet weekly for much of the year and present essays on a variety of topics. In the early days, meetings included debate and discussion of the day’s events. Currently, the Club is housed at 500 East Fourth Street. The building, constructed circa 1820, is Greek Revival with a sympathetic rear addition complete by Elzner & Anderson in 1930. It has served as the Club headquarters since that time.
I have been spending some time reading the President Hayes diary and letters from the time he was in Cincinnati. There are many great references to the Literary Club and thought I’d share a few:
February 19, 1850.
DEAR UNCLE: . . . I belong to a delightful little club, composed of lawyers, artists, merchants, and teachers, which meets once a week--has debates, conversations, (similar, I suppose, to those of the "Fremont Literary Association, H. Everett, Secretary"), essays, and oysters.
QCS Note: This is an additional excerpt from the letter in Part I. Hayes’s father died before he was born and he was very close to his maternal Uncle Sardis Birchard. Uncle Sardis built Spiegle Grove where the Hayes's lived fulltime (besides time in Governor's Mansion and the White House of course) beginning in 1873. Rutherford B. Hayes expanded it a few times over the years. Uncle Sardis lived with them in his retirement.
March 3, 1850.
. . . Made my first speech in the Club last night. So-so, but ratherish good, considering. Shall improve the privileges of the Club in the future to the full. About ten adjourned. Went to Masonic Hall with friend Collins just in time to witness reception of the Legislature who had come down on the new railroad . . .
QCS Note: "Collins" is Isaac Collins, a lawyer, eventual Common Pleas Judge, and one of the founders of the Literary Club. Hayes mentions going to Masonic Hall. Hayes was a member of the I.O.O.F. and a ‘Son of Temperance’ which I think was part of the Masons or related to them somehow. I honestly am not sure yet.
Sunday, May 26.
This evening our Literary Club met and received a visit from Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson. He, after being introduced to each member, sat down and began a free and easy conversation on literary men and things in England. Talked two and a half hours on all matters from letters to raising corn and pigs. A very pleasant man . . .
QCS Note: This is a diary entry from 1850 though not noted as such.
November 7, 1850.
DEAR FANNY: I reached home in company, as I anticipated, with Lieutenant Collins in time to attend a very gay meeting of our Literary Club held in honor of its first anniversary. The good things that were read, spoken, sung, toasted, and eaten, were quite "too numerous to mention in one advertisement," making no allusion to "things" good or evil which were smoked and drunk. Suffice it, that the ceremonies beginning at nine o'clock P. M. did not "taper off until" after two A.M., nor till all were satisfied that we had had "one of the times we read of." Since then nothing has occurred to disturb the usually tranquil current of my affairs and thought.
QCS Note: Fanny, again, is his much beloved sister.
July 4 or 5, 1857.
MY DEAREST: It is either very late or very early—either the 4th near midnight or the 5th in the morning. I suspect the latter. I have just returned from the club celebration and as I feel no disposition to sleep will spend a few minutes in talking with my darling about it. I do regret, as so many of your friends did, that you were not here. It was one of the pleasantest-- perhaps the very jolliest gathering we ever had.
CINCINNATI, July 5, 1860.
DEAREST LUCY: . . . George Strong said: "I hear the Club has grown dignified and orderly. Oh, don't. I long for the good old days when we called the President, not Mr. President, but Rud or Billy."
QCS Note: "Dearest" and "Dearest Lucy" of course refer to his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes. At this time, I do not know who George Strong was.
Next . . . Part III: Hayes in Cincinnati – Cincinnati Gymnasium & Athletic Club