Did you have an ancestor in one of the many 'Singing Societies'?
The group was founded in 1836 and merged with the Germania Männerchor in 1899. It was the second oldest singing society in the United States, the first being Philadelphia (1835). Those two groups invited each other to their visit. The Baltimore group made a motion and invited Philadelphia to a fraternal union. The Baltimore group visited Philadelphia on March 13, 1837 and the Philadelphia group visited Baltimore on March 28, 1837. This was considered the first ‘Sängerfeste’ in the history of the United States. The public was admitted to the third of such gatherings in Philadelphia in 1846. It is interesting to note that both societies were founded by the same man. The Philadelphia Männerchor, founded on January 15, 1835 by German immigrant Phillip Matthias Wohlseiffer existed until 1962. The following year, in 1836, Herr Wohlseiffer, an accomplished musician from the Rhineland, moved to Baltimore where he founded the Baltimore Liederkranz.
Eichenkranz means oak wreath in English. Its members came to Baltimore in the late 1800s. Philip Wagner founded a German social club/singing society on March 18, 1894. Its name was Eichenkranz. The director of the group was Prof. G. Poehlman. The original headquarters was located at Fait Street and East Ave. The original membership was 13. They frequently gathered at the Highland Academy or Conklin Hall as it was commonly called. It was located at the corner of Conkling Street and Eastern Avenue. They would frequently perform there with a 30 voice choir. On June 8, 1934, the Eichenkranz Ladies Choir was founded. On November 16, 1939 the Eichenkranz was incorporated and opened its doors in a newly build residence for them at 611 South Fagley Street. Eichenkranz was host to many events and served its old world fare to the public in its 1st floor dining room. Many of the original members passed away and the club membership dwindled.
A. AUBREY BODINE: A CRAB FEAST IN BALTIMORE
In 1954, members of a German-American singing society gathered over steamed crabs and beer at the (now closed) Eichenkranz Restaurant in East Baltimore's Highlandtown, which was then a working class ethnic neighborhood. Bodine (1906-1970) was an internationally recognized, award winning photographer for the Baltimore Sunpapers.
Can you identify the Singing Group or any of the individuals?
The restaurant aspect of the club flourished. The club ultimately disbanded, giving its club treasury to the Baltimore Kickers. The building was sold to private parties and the restaurant and the name carried on. In the seventies it became the Kozy Inn, but reopened as Eichenkranz in 1985. After several owners and another closing the present owners Harold and Audrey Bowles reopened the restaurant in 1990. It was been completely remodeled and opened September 21, 1991. Closed May 1, 2015.
Note: Eichenkranz closed it's doors after 75 years. See the Sunpaper article here.
Was someone in your family a member of the Eichenkranz Männerchor or Damenchor?
See the members of the 1939 Eichenkranz Choirs
The Germania Männerchor (men’s choir) was established in 1856, with quarters first at 192-194 W. Lombard St., then 212 (ca. 1882-1886) and 410 (ca. 1888-1912) W. Lombard St., and finally at 848-850 N. Howard St. (ca. 1913-1917). In August of 1871, the choir performed at the Schützenfest held by the Baltimore Schuetzen Society at the society’s park on Belair Road (south of North Ave. and east of Gay St.), an annual event from the 1860s to 1890s featuring prize shooting, bowling, music, dancing, illuminations, and fireworks. In 1906, the organization maintained offices at 410-412 W. Lombard St., a performance hall at 408 W. Lombard St., and a Country Club at Garrison Ave. and W. Arlington. It also celebrated it’s Golden Jubilee with plenty of festivities.
Frohsinn Singing Society
Frohsinn meaning cheerfulness or mirth. This singing society was founded on November 14, 1872. It began with 13 members and grew to rank fifth among the singing societies of Baltimore. The organizers were F. Elenbrok, J. Muenzing, F. Steinwedel, A. Steinwedel, C. Gackenheimer, C. Murbach, J. Murbach, G. Steinwedel, H. Sander, C. Steinwedel, A. Gayer, C.F. Meyer and Otto Buchner. They celebrated their Silver Anniversary in 1897. The celebration began with a concert at Germania Hall on Lombard near Paca Street. It concluded with a banquet at the hall of the society, Frohsinn Hall, located on Frederick Avenue and Payson Street. This was a big event in Baltimore and many of the elite from the singing societies attended. The concert was under the direction of Prof. Hubert Kruppel. Many gifts were presented to the society.
The hall was purchased on August 20, 1894. Prior to owning the hall most of their concerts were given at the Concordia Opera House. The Hall was sold in 1912 to Frank Steil Brewing Company. The price was $9,500.
There was also a very active Frohsinn Ladies’
Society that planned and sponsored many events.
The Germania Männerchor was one of 40 German singing societies in Baltimore in 1890. Unfortunately as with the schools and the newspapers, many of these established cultural events disappeared at the onset of World War I. The Germania Männerchor disappears from the Baltimore Directory after 1917.
However, in the late 1930s, there were still cultural and social activities of the Baltimore German community taking place in the same location as the Germania Männerchor’s last venue: Lehmann Hall (around 850-856 N. Howard St.) was the site of theatrical and musical events including performances of a Männerchor, a Junger Männerchor, and a Kinderchor (children’s choir).
Harmonie Singing Society
Harmonie Singing Society 1903
Photo Courtesy of http://www.zither.us/
The Harmonie Singing Society was founded in the old St. Stephen's Lutheran Church on Hamburg and Hanover Sts. They became independent on 7-4-1853. They met on W. Fayette Street. The Building Society was incorporated for the purpose of buying, selling, leasing, improving, disposing of and otherwise dealing in land. The Society's first project was to purchase a building at 414 W. Fayette Street, and rent it back to the Singing Society.
The Singing Society remained there until 1905, when the premises were rented to the Gottlieb, Bauernschmidt, Strauss Brewing Company. In 1911, the brewing company agreed to lease the third floor back to the Singing Society.
In 1903, an offshoot of the Harmonie Singing Society was founded: the Harmonie Schützen Verein. The shooting society was one of a number in Baltimore established by the German community.
The Harmonie Singing Society was involved in programs with national and international societies. They had relationship with the Lancaster Verein in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the Wien Verein in Vienna, Austria.
They celebrated their 75th Anniversary on October 24, 1928 with a concert at the Lyric.
The Harmonie Singing Society disbanded sometime after 1957.
The New York Times reported in an article on 11.1.1892 that of the five leading singing groups in Baltimore, four are considering leaving the Baltimore Sängerbund or the United Singers of Baltimore. It reported that the Germania Männerchor voted to withdraw from the United Singers at their meeting. The four groups were the Germania Männerchor, Arion Society, Arbeiter Männerchor and the Baltimore Liederkranz.
In 1854, and again in 1859, the Grand National Sängerbund assembled in Baltimore. This group was established because not only was Baltimore blessed with a large number of choral groups, so too, were areas surrounding Baltimore and Maryland, such as Brooklyn, New York; Camden, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Neward, Washington, Wilmington, Wilkes Barre, etc. This led to the Northeastern Sängerbund that consisted of a membership that exceeded 6000.
The group met in Baltimore in 1903. The festivities were held at the Fifth Regiment Armory. It was a four day event that included picnics, parades and a festival address delivered by the then president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Competition was divided depending on the size of the group and awards were given to the best choral group with 200+ members and one for those under 200 members. There were also special awards for the ‘best musical composition’ and for the ‘best poem that could be set to music’. A special prize, a gift from the German Emperor, William II (Kaiserpreis), drew special attention. It was a statuette, two and a half feet high, the work of a silversmith, said to be valued at $20,000. As a finale, the Star Spangled Banner was sung in German.
The group held these large festivals every three years.
By the late 30's there were 10 German singing societies in Baltimore, including the Harmonie which met on W. Fayette St., and the Arion and Damenchor, both of which met in Arion Hall on Frederick Ave. In 1938, Baltimore German societies, including the Deutsches Ring, were consolidated in the Deutsches Haus, in the former BrynMawr Schoolbuilding at Cathedral and Preston Sts. At about this same time, Baltimore hosted a national saengerfest (choral festival). By 1969 the only remaining German singing societies were the Arion Singing Society, the Eichenkranz Society, the Deutscher Damenchor Society, and the Eichenkranz Damenchor Society.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, there were a large number of singing societies that comprised more than 500 members:
(If you have information, news articles, programs, etc., that you would like to contribute on any of the above, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
They joined forces to form The United Singers of Baltimore (See program at top of this page) and held large concerts, many of which were held in Germania’s Hall at 410-412 West Lombard Street. The United Singers took part in memorial services and provided charity concerts.
See also Baltimore Liederkrantz above.
The United Singers of Baltimore
In the spring of 1837 the two oldest German Singing societies, the Philadelphia Männerchor (1835) and the Baltimore Liederkranz (1836) paid each other a visit. The Baltimore organization made a motion and invited the other group to form a fraternal union. On the 13th of March 1837, Baltimore visited Philadelphia and on the 28th of March the Männerchor made a return visit to Baltimore. These engagements are regarded as the first ‘Sängerfeste’ in the musical history of the United States. The mixed chorus idea was not new. The New York Liederkranz accepted the ladies of Zionskirche in Baltimore as members in 1838.
The ‘Sängerfests’ became a public event in 1846 with many of the concerts being held in open air venues. It was not uncommon to host 20,000+ at these events.
The ‘push’ behind these events was the work of Philipp Matthias Wolsieffer (1808 Rhenish Palatinate). He arrived in Philadelphia in 1835 and founded their Männerchor and came to Baltimore to teach at the Zion School. There he became the founder of the Baltimore Liederkranz.
The events were very competitive. The judges were often screened from the contestants to prevent bias. The events were held all along the East Coast. The top prize was for that of the best ‘United’ Männerchöre (the choirs all from the same location, thus the United Singers of Baltimore), which could comprise 200-600 members competing with united singers of other cities.
Baltimore gained from the events in several ways. Of course, the large crowds were good for business and the city as a whole, but Baltimore’s United Singers were a group of the best. They proved this by twice bringing home the grand prize. The prize was a statue/bust of a famous German composer.
In 1900 Baltimore won the first prize at the 19th Triennial National Sängerfest held in Brooklyn, New York. The event was held from June 25th to July 4th and drew over 5000 singers. According to the New York Times, ‘The National Sängerfest, which takes place in Brooklyn June 30 to July 4, is to be the greatest yet given in the history of the Northeastern Saengerbund. It is he nineteenth Saengerfest, and at the same time the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the society’. The German Emperor was in attendance. [June 25, 1900]
The prize was a bronze bust of composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The song ‘Sheiden’ (Parting) by D. Malamet was the winning song. The singers gifted the statue to the City of Baltimore and the bust was placed at the lawn of Druid Hill Park’s Mansion House. The statue was created by German born, New York sculptor, R.P Golde.
The event was held in Baltimore at the Fifth Regiment Armory in 1903/ Nordoestlicher Sängebund’s triennial festival. The New York Times reported that this event was attended by President Roosevelt and six or seven thousand members of the singing societies in the Eastern States. [June 7, 1903, pg. 26]
Again, in 1915, the United Singers of Baltimore took home the esteemed prize at the 24th National Sängerfest. This event was also held in Brooklyn New York. The prize was a scultpture/bust of Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849). The winning song was written by F. Langer. The statue stands in the Sculpture Garden at Patterson Park. This too was created by R.P. Golde.Photos above courtesy of Brad Schlegel
The United Singers or the Vereinigte Saenger also took part in almost all of the festivals in the German Community. In 1933, at the end of prohibition, the United Signers co-sponsored with the Independent Citizens Union, a Volksfest. See Sunpaper article dated June 5, 1933.
Sources: The German element in the United States with special reference to its political, moral, social and educational influence. Albert Bernhardt Faust, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909.
Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City.
Nordöstlicher Sängerbund von Amerika (NOSB)