In the early 1890s, chemical gatherings for chemists, businessmen, and New York-resident members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the New York Section of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) were held in private homes or lecture halls of the chemical departments of local colleges and universities. As the gatherings attracted an increasing number of participants, a permanent location for chemists to connect with each other outside of scheduled meetings became necessary.1
An organizational committee was formed to procure a location for the first Chemists‘ Club, and to promote the Club to those in the chemical industry in the NY metropolitan area. The building of choice was the Mendelssohn Glee Club at 108 West 55th Street.1
The first Club building was leased at 108 West 55th Street, and consisted of a large assembly hall, small chemical library, and reading rooms. Connections with the library of the ACS provided accessible chemical literature to club members. The Chemists‘ Club could not secure a long-term lease for the Mendelssohn building, however, and the Club moved on.1
Under the leadership of President Morris Loeb in 1909, the Chemists‘ Club found suitable land for a new Club building at Nos. 50-54 East 41st Street. The Chemists‘ Building Company was incorporated to finance the construction, and sold stocks to those in the chemical industry. The completed building consisted of a social floor, a scientific floor, three laboratories for rent, and residential areas for visiting members.6 The Chemists‘ Club moved into the new building by Saint Patrick‘s Day 1911.1
The Club Library, now known as the Chandler Library'', flourished. Monetary donations and the addition of the Library of the ACS and private libraries of Club members expanded the Club Library to a total of 36,000 volumes by 1914. The Library was opened to the general public in 1913.7
The Club building was sold in 1987 and renovated multiple times until New York real-estate investor Morris Moinian acquired the building to reopen it as an upscale boutique hotel. All renovations left York & Sawyer‘s facade carefully intact.9, 11, 12 Many aspects of the former Club building were retained in the edifice, which would eventually reopen in 1988 as the Dylan Hotel NYC. The building has been proposed as a landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.13
The Chemists‘ Club was originally founded by members of the New York Sections of the ACS and SCI. The private Club welcomed regular meetings of the New York Sections of the ACS, SCI, and the Verein Deutscher Chemiker (the Association of German Chemists). As the Club expanded, a great number of chemical societies were welcomed.
Both technical and social chemical gatherings were held at the Club building. As the Club grew in influence, the Club building came to host international chemical gatherings as well. In 1912, the Club building served as the headquarters for the 8th International Congress of Applied Chemistry in New York.1
The chemical industry flourished after WWI and the Chemists‘ Club rose higher in prominence. The convenient Midtown location of the Club allowed it to become an information hub for chemists from all over. The Club‘s Rumford Hall became the official meeting place for the 1928 meeting of the SCI, held in New York and hosted a party from Great Britain for the first time since 1912.1
As the United States entered WWI, anti-German tensions developed back home. Under pressure from widespread fears of German espionage and sabotage, the Chemists‘ Club requested that German not be spoken in the Club and that those not in accord with the U.S. in WWI, resign their Club membership. The Club acknowledged that while chemistry is something that has for so long been intimately connected with things German the Chemists‘ Club is, and always has been, in the front ranks as a patriotic institution.16
The Chemists‘ Club was similarly active during Prohibition, and publicly spoke out against the Volstead Act in 1921. Prohibition nevertheless became law, but a conference of industrial alcohol manufacturers and Prohibition enforcers was later held at the Chemists‘ Club so that the government and alcohol manufacturers might reach an understanding.3
The Chemists‘ Club also honored many distinguished figures and their contributions to science and chemistry over the course of history. Honorary membership of the Chemists‘ Club was conferred to many outstanding individuals, including French chemist Henry Louis Le Chatelier, author of Le Chatelier‘s principle,19 and Danish physicist Niels Hendrik David Bohr, Nobel laureate and developer of the Bohr atomic model.1
The Chemists‘ Club has had a long history of supporting students of the chemical sciences. In 1903, Junior Membership of the Club was established for those who had graduated from a professional school less than five years ago. In 1916, the Bloede and Hoffmann scholarship funds were established for students studying industrial chemistry or chemical engineering.1, 8
In 2012, the Chemists‘ Club allowed membership to students of New York colleges and universities. New York University (NYU), the City College of New York, the Cooper Union, and Columbia University opened up university chapters of the Chemists‘ Club.21
In the early 1890s, professional, independent, and university chemists, businessmen, and members of chemical societies such as the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the New York Section of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) gathered in homes, or in the lecture halls of the chemistry departments of New York University, the City College of New York, or Columbia College. As the chemical gatherings attracted an increasing number of participants and the ACS and SCI developed, some members began to speak of a permanent location for the first Chemists’ Club. The late A. A. Breneman, later the first Librarian of the Chemists’ Club, suggested the idea of a club room with a lecture hall attached, enabling chemists to connect with each other outside of scheduled meetings.1
Dr. Charles F. McKenna suggested the Mendelssohn Glee Club at 108 West 55th Street as an affordable building in a convenient location. After discussing at the next chemical gathering, an organizational committee was formed to rent and develop the Club building. The committee consisted of Professor Charles F. Chandler of Columbia University as Chairman, Marston T. Bogert as Secretary, with Charles F. McKenna, C. A. Doremus, I.W. Drummond, Edward R. Hewitt, William McMurtrie, William H. Nichols, Thomas J. Parker, and Edward R. Squibb. To cover the expenses of the club for the first year, 28 of the chemists present at a subsequent chemical gathering each pledged $100. Charles F. Chandler loaned $1000 to the organization, becoming the Chemists’ Club first president until December of 1900.1
The membership of the burgeoning Chemists’ Club exploded, promoted by the committee to those in the chemical industry in the New York metropolitan area. The Chemists’ Club celebrated 154 charter members on November 29, 1898, and filed for incorporation on December 9, 1898. Supreme Court Justice J. F. Daly certified the papers on Christmas Eve, 1898. Secretary of State John Hay recorded the incorporation of the Club on December 30, 1898. The certificate of incorporation of the Club was signed by eleven eminent New York chemists.1
The Club, now incorporated, pledged the following in its charter:
To promote the interests of chemists and those interested in the science and applications of chemistry, and to this end to provide a place in which the members may come together for social intercourse and meetings, to equip the same with books and periodicals relating to the Science of Chemistry and to general literature.1
The first Club building, previously occupied by the Mendelssohn Glee Club, included a large assembly hall, small library, and reading rooms. The first floor consisted of the Assembly Hall, where prominent chemists were invited to speak, and the primary Reading Room, which contained contemporary chemical periodicals. The second floor consisted of the main library and a smaller reading room.1
The chemical library was one of the Chemists’ Club’s main attractions. The literature of the Library of the ACS had previously been in storage, but connections with the library of the Chemists’ Club broadened accessibility to NY resident and non-resident members alike. Visitors enjoyed the facilities of a private study as well as the conversation and literature of experts in various fields of the chemical industry.1
The Chemists’ Club’s primary attraction was the opportunity for socialization. Once a month, the Club held smoker social events that many chemists and guests, regardless of affiliation, attended with great enjoyment.
Starting from October 19, 1900, meetings of the New York Section of the SCI were held at 108 West 55th Street. The New York Sections of the SCI and the Verein Deutscher Chemiker (the Association of German Chemists) also came together after each meeting for a social hour involving beer, sandwiches, and songs.2
The Chemists’ Club could not secure a long-term lease for the Mendelssohn building, however, and plans for a new Club building were made. The last meeting at 55th Street was a smoker event held on March 4, 1911.1
Plans for a new Club building were discussed with Morris Loeb, Professor of Chemistry at NYU and member of the wealthy New York Loeb banking family. Elected president of the Chemists’ Club in 1909, Loeb set out to build a permanent location for the Chemists’ Club right away. Suitable land was found at Nos. 50-54 East 41st Street, which Loeb purchased for $175,000 under his own name. To promote the new Chemists’ Club building, Loeb also created the following committees: the Committee on Ways and Means with Maximilian Toch as Chairman, and the Committee of Plan and Scope with Dr. Charles F. McKenna as Chairman.1
The Chemists’ Building Company was incorporated to help finance the building, with the following incorporators: Morris Loeb, Marston T. Bogert, William McMurtrie, Charles F. Chandler, Charles A. Doremus, Maximilian Toch, William H. Nichols, Jr., Leo H. Baekeland, Virgil Coblentz, Arthur H. Elliott, Jacob Hasslacher, Albert Plaut, Charles Baskerville, Milton J. Falk, and Frank Stone. On November 12, 1909, the following Directors were appointed: Morris Loeb as President, Charles F. Chandler as Vice President, Albert Plaut as Treasurer, and Leo H. Baekeland and William H. Nichols, Jr. as Secretaries. The Company sold shares of stock to raise money for the building, expecting that those who purchased stock would ultimately donate the amount to the Chemists’ Club after having been shown the Club’s capability of managing significant real estate responsibilities.1 Morris Loeb personally donated $75,000 to the final construction cost of over $500,000.3 Next to Loeb, the most generous investor was the President of the General Chemical Company, Dr. William H. Nichols. All shares of stock were paid off or donated by the Golden Jubilee celebrating fifty years of the Chemists’ Club in 1948.1
In January 1910, architects York & Sawyer filed plans for a ten-story building that would eventually become the twelve-story private Club.3, 4 The Club itself occupied the lower six floors, leaving the floors above for laboratories. Morris Loeb was provided with a private laboratory in appreciation for his generosity in financing the building.3, 5 The front of the first floor consisted of a large auditorium for lectures and meetings. Social rooms and a dining room were located in the rear half of the first floor.3 The second floor, known as the Scientific Floor, housed the Club Library and gallery.6 According to the New-York Tribune, The fourth and fifth floors [were] devoted to living and sleeping rooms for the members.3
Each of the two suites and eighteen bedrooms in the sleeping rooms was named after a college, university, or engineering school and furnished by alumni. Participating institutions included Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, MIT, and Cornell, as well as universities from Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and Great Britain.6
The Chemists’ Club moved into the new building by Saint Patrick’s Day 1911. Opening ceremonies were held from March 17th-19th in the auditorium, named Rumford Hall for American chemist and physicist Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. The following scientific papers were presented:1, 4
The Rare Gases of the Atmosphere by Richard B. Moore
The Characteristics of Living Matter from the Physico-chemical Point of View and Physiological Developments and Recent Experiments in the Mechanism of Life by Jacques Loeb 1, 4
Mental Catalysis by Willis R. Whitney
The Chemistry of Phosphorescence by Wilder D. Bancroft
The Contributions of Chemistry to Sanitation by William P. Manson
The History of Chemistry in New York City by Charles F. Chandler
A House Warming event was held for the new Club building on April 29th.1
The Library of the Chemists’ Club continued to flourish with the additions of the private libraries of Morris Loeb, Charles F. Chandler, Durand Woodman, John W. Mallet, Frederic Schniewind, Hugo Schweitzer, J. Merritt Matthews, and others. In 1903, the Library Committee, with Professor Virgil Coblentz as Chairman, launched a campaign to develop the Chandler Library.1
With the cooperation of various publishing houses of the day, the latest physics and chemistry publications were displayed in the Club rooms. In 1912, the Library of the ACS and the Library of the NY Section of the SCI were officially merged with the Club Library for a total of 8,800 volumes.2 In 1913, the Library was opened to the general public. Donations of money and chemical literature in subsequent years expanded the Library further.1 By May of 1914, the Library boasted 36,000 volumes and 400 journal sets, with 18,000 volumes of copies available to loan to members for just 25 cents.7 By October of 1928, the Library inventory grew still larger, containing 50,000 volumes. The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry declared it the most complete exclusively chemical library in the Western hemisphere, according to the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.8
The Club building was also unique for its provision of laboratories to outside chemists who could not afford a private space. Three laboratories were available for rent by the week or month.3 These laboratories were very popular, each with a waiting list at any given time.7
The lecture room, known as Rumford Hall, had auditorium seating up to 300 for demonstrations and experiments. The Hall became the regular meeting place for the New York sections of the ACS, SCI, and the American Electrochemical Society.7
Some other unique idiosyncrasies of the Club at the new building included the giant alligator hanging above the table where the directors met. According to a member who spoke to The New York Times, the Club was not able to find the famous icon of alchemy, a salamander. We had to get the next best thing -- an alligator.3
Under President Steck, the Club also developed the tradition of Passing the Pot. The name of a new President was engraved onto the President’s private coffee pot, and with ceremony, the reigning President passed on the pot to their successor.1
In a tragic twist of fate, the driving force behind the construction of the new Club building, Morris Loeb, died of typhoid fever not nineteen months after its opening. Loeb passed away at his summer home in Seabright, NJ on October 8, 1912, leaving the building at 52 East 41st Street as a monument to his memory.5
The Chemists’ Club building at No. 52 East 41st Street underwent a number of renovations over the years.1
In 1918, Mrs. Herman Frasch funded the construction of the Frasch Conservatory as a memorial to the late Dr. Frasch. The Conservatory replaced the original Tulip Garden area of the Club building with a sturdier rear, outside dining room. In 1926, due to rising demand for bedroom facilities, the sixth and seventh floors of the Club building were converted to bedrooms to augment the fourth and fifth floors for a total of 43 rooms.1
In 1987, due to uncertainty in the chemical industry and real estate, the Chemists’ Club sold the Club building and held meetings at the Princeton Club instead.9, 10 The Club building underwent a series of further renovations. The architect Stephen B. Jacobs began a $75,000 project to repair the upper balcony of the building in the fall of 1993. According to Jacobs, the owner [realized] that the value of the building is related to the value of the facade. Instead of stripping the balcony, its terra-cotta flooring and rusting, lacy ironwork was simply replaced.9
In June 1997, New York real-estate investor Morris Moinian acquired the building and began a total reconstruction into a 108-room boutique hotel. Moinian’s renovations included the construction of two new floors and the restoration of the plasterwork in the common areas and the grand staircase. The building’s ballroom was restored and divided into individual meeting rooms.11 The Chemists’ Club’s boardroom, initially built to resemble an alchemist’s laboratory, was also restored as the Alchemy Suite, a chamber evocative of a medieval Gothic style.12 Eventually, the former Club building, with York & Sawyer’s sophisticated facade intact, reopened in 1988 as the Dylan Hotel NYC.3 The building has been proposed as a landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.13
The Chemists’ Club was established by members of the ACS (founded in 1876) and the SCI (founded in 1894). In expanding the Club, the New York Sections of various chemical societies came into closer contact. The Club building welcomed regular meetings of the New York Sections of the ACS, SCI, and the Verein Deutscher Chemiker.1
The Chemists’ Club came to host a number of significant chemical gatherings, both technical and social. In 1904, the annual meeting of the SCI was held in the Club building, marking the first time the SCI convened outside of Great Britain. In 1906, the Club hosted a social smoker event for members and friends of the ACS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Social smoker events were also held for the American Electrochemical Society as they held their meetings in New York in the autumns of 1907 and 1908.1 On April 6, 1912, the Club hosted the American Peat Society in a meeting discussing the problems of wastelands and peat swamps and the possibility of turning the New Jersey peatlands into farmland.3
International events were also held at the Chemists’ Club as the Club grew in influence. In 1912, the Club building served as the social headquarters for the 8th International Congress of Applied Chemistry’s first gathering in the U.S.14 Scientists from Japan, China, South Africa, and Europe alike enjoyed the reception at the Club.3 In 1918, the Club hosted the organization meeting of the New York Section of the Societé de Chimie Industrielle of France, with Leo H. Baekeland as Chairman in the Club’s very own Rumford Hall.1 At the Chemists’ Club’s annual meeting in September of 1928, the Club hosted a delegation of 140 British chemists headed by the president of the SCI, Francis H. Carr.15
The chemical industry boomed in the years following WWI, and the convenient location of the Club in midtown New York allowed it to become an information hub for chemists from all over. The Salesmen’s Association of the American Chemical Industry added their own to the membership of the Chemists’ Club, held meetings at the Club building starting in 1923,1 and occupied offices at the Club from 1964 to 1987.10 The Club’s Rumford Hall became the official meeting place for the 1928 meeting of the SCI, held in New York and hosting a party from Great Britain for the first time since 1912.1
As the United States entered WWI, anti-German tensions developed back home. The Chemists’ Club faced pressure to oust alien enemy German members, as was declared in the New-York Tribune on April 1, 1918.3 The Trustees of the Chemists’ Club later sent a letter and questionnaire to Club members requesting that German not be spoken in the Club and that those not in accord with the U.S. in WWI resign their Club membership. Despite these new rules, the Club acknowledged that chemistry is something that has for so long been intimately connected with things German, and that it was natural that Germans or German-Americans should feel an interest in the club and apply for membership The recent letter of the Trustees has resulted in a few resignations, but the Chemists’ Club is, and always has been, in the front ranks as a patriotic institution.16
The Chemists’ Club was similarly active in WWII, with many of the topics centering on the enemies’ use of mustard gas, sneeze and nausea gas in chemical warfare.3
The Chemists’ Club continued to respond to the tides of history, and spoke out against the Volstead Act and Prohibition on July 1, 1921. Club President Dr. John B. Teeple and ACS Director Charles H. Herty declared that the federal and state governments threatened the vast business enterprises in the alcohol industry, which was the source of millions in revenue and certain necessaries of modern life. Prohibition nevertheless became law, but a conference of industrial alcohol manufacturers and Prohibition enforcers was held at the Chemists’ Club in subsequent years. The meeting was called by Brigadier General Lincoln C. Andrews, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury of prohibition enforcement, who sought to make the Club a place where the government and alcohol manufacturers could reach an understanding.3
In 1914, Chemists’ Club member Charles F. Roth saw the need for a center of distribution for chemical information. With the help of fellow Club members Arthur D. Little and Charles H. Herty, the New York Chem Show was established. The first exposition drew some 60,000 visitors. The New York Chem Show became a biennial affair, lauded by The New York Times in that a more practical method of ‘booming’ an industry could not be devised.10
On May 5, 1971, the Chemists’ Club opened membership to women. The first woman to be accepted was the industrial chemist Hazel Bishop, known for founding the cosmetics company Hazel Bishop, Inc. and for inventing the first long-lasting lipstick.17 The second woman to join was E. Janet Berry, a chemist and expert in patent law who became one of the Club's board of directors.
The Chemists’ Club also honored many distinguished figures and their contributions to science and chemistry over the course of history. On September 22, 1915, Thomas Edison was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted at the Club.2 On November 29, 1932, chemistry Nobel laureate Dr. Irving Langmuir was the guest of honor at a Club dinner before his departure to receive the Nobel Prize from the King of Sweden.18
Honorary membership of the Chemists’ Club was conferred to many outstanding individuals throughout history, including the following:
March 17, 1921: Professor Giacomo Ciamician of the University of Bologna, Professor H. L. Le Chatelier of the Collège de France, Dr. Ernest Solvay of Brussels, Sir Edward Thorpe of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, Dr. John Uri Lloyd, Dr. W. H. Nichols, Dr. Edward Fahs Smith, and Dr. Edward Weston 19
June 24, 1948: Charles Lathrop Parsons, Milton C. Whitaker, Hugo Rudolph Kruyt, and the Hon. Viscount Leverhulme 20
May 3, 1950: Niels Hendrik David Bohr, James Kendall, Leslie Herbert Lampitt, and Eric Keightly Rideal 1
May 5, 1954: Roger Adams, John V. N. Dorr, and Hugh Scott Taylor 1
May 4, 1955: Peter J. W. Debye, Otto Maas, and Warren K. Lewis 1
The Chemists’ Club has had a long history of supporting students of the chemical sciences. In 1903, Junior Membership of the Club was established for those who had graduated from a professional school less than five years ago. In 1916, two $10,000 scholarship funds were established by Victor G. Bloede and William T. Hoffmann.1 The scholarships were first awarded in June of 1916, to students studying in the fields of industrial chemistry or chemical engineering.1, 8
In the fall of 2012, the Chemists’ Club opened up membership to students of New York colleges and universities. New York University (NYU) was the first to open up a Chemists’ Club university chapter, followed by the City College of New York, the Cooper Union, and Columbia University. Over 100 students from NYU and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU attended the inaugural meeting of the Chemists’ Club in October of that year.21
The Chemists’ Club has seen the turn of the century twice and continues to change with the times, but steadfastly upholds its earliest objectives: to promote the interests of those in the chemical and chemical engineering sciences, and to provide a space where members might connect, share expertise, and lift one another up as they work to advance the frontiers of chemistry. Today, the Club is vibrant and more alive than ever before. We are proud to promote and bring together student and professional members in the chemical and chemical engineering industries, and welcome the changes that might be rich additions to the long history of the Chemists’ Club. In the words of Club Historian D. H. Killeffer, our growth and progress have been closely interwoven with chemistry, the chemical industry and the vastly important services they have rendered people everywhere. With these we grow and change, and through them achieve our destiny.
Killeffer, D. H. (1957). Six Decades of The Chemists' Club. New York, NY: Chemists' Club.
Berolzheimer, D. D. (1942). History of the American (Formerly New York) Section of the Society of Chemical Industry. Chemistry and Industry, 438-441.
Miller, T. (2014, October 25). The 1911 Chemists' Club -- No. 52 E. 41st Street [Web log post]. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-1911-chemists-club-no-52-e-41st.html
Chemists Have a Dinner. Celebrate the Opening of Their New Building in Forty-first Street. (1911, March 19). The New York Times.
Prof. Morris Loeb, Educator, Is Dead. (1912, October 9). The New York Times.
Loeb, M., & Richards, T. W. (1913). The Scientific Work of Morris Loeb. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Dudley, W. L. (1914). The Chemists' Club. The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 6(5), 407-411.
Howe, H. E. (Ed.). (1928). The Chemists' Club of New York. Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 6(20), 1-1.
Gray, C. (1993, November 28). Streetscapes: The Chemists' Club and the Godmothers League; Two Ways of Dealing With Aging Non-Landmarks. The New York Times, p. 5.
The Chemists' Club: One Hundred Years in the Chemical Community. (1998). Chemical Heritage Foundation.
POSTINGS: $400 a Night on East 41st Street; The Former Chemists Club Is Being Turned Into a Hotel. (1999, January 3). The New York Times, p. 1.
Holusha, J. (2001, June 3). Commercial Property/Dylan Hotel; A New Boutique Hotel With Medieval Touches. The New York Times, p. 10.
Dylan Hotel NYC: About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.dylanhotelnyc.com/about-us.htm#
Famous Chemists of the World to Gather Here. (1912, August 25). The New York Times.
British Chemists Here. (1928, September 3). The New York Times.
Chemists Bar Germans. Club Takes Questionnaire to Eliminate Enemies. (1918, May 5). The New York Times.
Reese, K. M. (1971). Newscripts: Chemists' club to admit ladies to membership. Chemical & Engineering News, 49(23), 76. doi:10.1021/cen-v049n023.p076
Dr. Langmuir Sails to Get Nobel Prize. (1932, November 30). The New York Times.
New York Chemists' Club Confers Honorary Membership. (1921). The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 13(4), 355-357.
Chemists' Club Celebrates 50 Years. (1948, July 12). Chemical & Engineering News, 26(28), 2057-2057. doi:https://doi.org/10.1021/cen-v026n028.p2057
Park, S. (2012, November 12). NYU opens first university chapter of Chemists' Club. Washington Square News, pp. 1-3.