The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1985, Volume 31, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

by Sylvia K. Flanigan
Graduate Student in History, the University of San Diego

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America, in the decades following the Civil War, experienced an academic and consequent cultural revolution. Schools were being founded that specialized in science, technology, architecture, agriculture, and mechanical arts. Graduate schools originated in the 1870s with Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore being the first. They offered advanced training in science and the arts. Women’s colleges, such as Vassar and Smith, opened their doors to increasing numbers of women high school graduates. With the encouragement of educational opportunities, specializations, and advancement, the United States as a nation undivided, began its search for its own culture and intellectual identity, separate from Europe and other parts of the world. The generation produced after the Civil War was comprised in part of a group of young men and women of well-to-do, often eminent family backgrounds. They were the first cluster of a native intellectual aristocracy to appear since the days of Boston and Concord. Many of these people sought nurturance in elite intellectual groups where they could socialize with others of similar birth and background and immerse themselves in the stimulating thoughts and ideas of their day.

San Diego in the late nineteenth century searched for its own intellectual identity. This microcosm of American society was nestled in a growing cosmopolitan western city that had all the components of the eastern seaboard. San Diego at this time had its share of elite hotels and growing business establishments which lured educated people to its shores. With their arrival, they did not give up their search for American creativity and essence. They, too, as their eastern counterparts, needed mental stimulation and created an outlet for this need with the formation of the College Graduate Club on October 8, 1896.1

At the October 8 first meeting, twenty-one persons, including thirteen women, gathered together and planned this organization which was to bring together persons with academic degrees to discuss at regular monthly meetings, current topics of the day.2

This group established the criteria for association with this club. Members had to be graduates of designated colleges and universities. These included such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Vassar, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Dartmouth, Oberlin, the University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Only two California universities were considered, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.3 The majority of the members at this time were graduates of either Stanford, the University of California, Harvard or Vassar.4

Club members wrote a constitution consisting of eight articles. These articles provided for a membership committee of three to hold office for one year. These individuals maintained the list of acceptable colleges and universities, received all membership applications, checked the eligibility of the applicants, and reported the names of prospective members to the club to be voted upon. Members were elected by a 4/5 vote of those present at a regular meeting. There was a provision for a secretary who was expected to keep records of club proceedings and to notify members of the place and time of meetings. All regular meetings were scheduled for every other Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. Article #6 was very specific in regards to the way meetings were to be conducted. Each meeting was to be presided over by an essayist who conducted the evening’s discussion, and who then chose the essayist for the succeeding meeting. It was understood that no member would serve twice until a complete rotation of all the members had been accomplished.

The meetings were to start with a general business presentation including the announcement of the essayist for the next meeting. Immediately upon the conclusion of general business, the essayist was expected to begin the reading of the evening’s paper which was not to exceed twenty minutes. Following the discourse, a discussion of the topic was to ensue by the members after being called upon by the chairman. Each member was limited to five minutes until all had been called upon. Wives and husbands of members were designated honorary members of the club, could participate in discussions, but could have no vote on business matters. If a member missed two consecutive meetings without excuse, he or she was to be terminated from club membership.5

Some of the original members of the College Graduate Club included retired Senator David L. Withington, Judge Moses A. Luce, Kate Sessions, Dr. Fred Baker and his wife, Dr. Charlotte Baker, Waldo and Hazel Waterman, Julius Wangenheim, Harry Morse, Mrs. Elisha Babcock, and Russell C. Allen.6

Dr. Charlotte Baker hosted the first Tuesday evening meeting on October 22, 1896, by proxy, at her office, and provided extracts from Macaulay’s History of England, taking up the subject of coinage. Judge Morris Luce conducted the second meeting by reading an article entitled “Then and Now” where he took a look at the “good ole times” and compared them with modern conditions. The discussion focused on the condition and advancement of women. Subsequent meetings emphasized topics such as Darwinism, race progress, universal peace, psychics, and the debate as to whether the higher education of women should differ in scope and direction from that of men, considering “certain recognized mental differences.” Other topics included “Manual Training in the Schools,” “Culture and America,” and the last topic of the nineteenth century featured the subject, “What Shall We Do With Our Girls?”7

The twentieth century brought some new ideas to the group for discussion. The club took great interest in political reform, religion, minorities, labor, and the accomplishments of American men and women. Topics included: “Christianity and Imperialism” with Judge Morris Luce presiding, Mr. Morse conversed on “Christianity at the Grave of the Nineteenth Century,” Judge Sloane emphasized “The Negro,” and Waldo Waterman focused on “Municipal Ownership of National Monopolies.” Mrs. Waterman spoke on “Organized Labor.” Other themes were: “Charity and Progress,” “Christ and the Rich, Young Man,” War and Peace,” “Selfishness and Evolution,” “The Increase of Lawlessness in the U.S.,” and in 1905, Mrs. Waterman presented a talk advocating the proposition that men under forty had accomplished practically all the valuable work of the world. Additional discussions centered on women’s inability to compose great music, the Pure Food Law, and whether or not newspapers weaken our national fibre.8

This active intellectual group suffered a decline in its original strength and enthusiasm starting in 1906. In May of that year, the group changed its name to the University Club hoping to attract new members. The group decided to elect a president and a secretary-treasurer to hold office for one year at a time commencing in January. The president was expected to appoint an executive committee of three members of which the secretary-treasurer was to be the chairman. The club meetings were changed to every other Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. The executive committee now was to be responsible for choosing the essayist. Dues were set at 50 a year payable at any time during the year.9 However, even with a new club name and amended rules, apparent member disinterest caused the termination of club activities in 1907.10

In late 1907, however, some male members of the moribund University Club joined with a group of men in the area who belonged to college fraternities and reorganized the University Club which now included only male members and was open to all college alumni. This organization changed some of its original membership requirements and was directed by three prominent San Diegans, Edgar A. Luce, an attorney; William S. Hebbard, an architect; and Frank Von Tesmar, a teller for the First National Bank. These men were responsible for soliciting members for this new group.11 They met next on December 8, 1908, and formally organized the University Club of San Diego. Dr. H.P. Newman was chosen chairman. A committee consisting of E.L. Hardy, Julius Wangenheim, Dr. D.D. Whedon, Hebbard and Luce were responsible for its incorporation as a bona fide organization. The first president of the University Club, Russell C. Allen, an early member of the College Graduate Club, was elected.12

Under the Articles of Incorporation of 1909, the University Club was to be a private corporation. The organization was to promote literature, art, and general culture among the members by establishing and maintaining a library, reading room, or gallery of art. It was to stimulate and encourage among young men the desire to secure a higher education through the colleges and universities. It endeavored to foster and preserve college and university traditions. It planned to buy or lease premises for a club house where college and university men could acquire ideals of higher education and where good fellowship could be developed.”13

Early members of this establishment included such distinguished San Diegans as Arthur Marston, Edgar A. Luce, S.T. Black, Rev. W.B. Thorp, Ernest E. White, Austin Fletcher, Capt. A.P. Ballentine, U.S. Grant, Jr., Dr. Fred Burnham, V. Hugo Klauber, George Marston, Duncan MacKinnon, and Rev. Charles Spaulding. By 1911, 125 members were active participants in this club.14

The By-Laws of this organization were promulgated in 1911. They specified that the club would have officers consisting of a president, vice-president, secretary, and a treasurer. The board of directors was to consist of the club officers and seven additional members. The club members were expected to be either graduates of colleges or universities, non-graduates of universities or colleges who had been in attendance at a school for a period of two full years, those who had received honorary degrees from a college or university of approved standing, graduates of professional schools, or commissioned officers of the U.S. Army or Navy. The board of directors determined which colleges, universities, and professional schools were satisfactory. Resident and non-resident members were accepted, but resident membership was limited to two hundred individuals. All new members had to be voted upon by the board of directors. The initiation fee for resident members was set at $50. Non-residents paid nothing and dues were $2.50 per month.15

The University Club rules were published in 1911 as well and advised that no tips were to be paid to employees or attendants in the service of the club. Visits of ladies to the club house, except on stated occasions were discouraged, but “if the visits happened to be unavoidable, the ladies should be shown to the correspondence room.” Dogs were not to be kept on the premises.16

The reorganized University Club met in a rented mansion at the corner of Fourth and A Streets. There were ninety-two charter members when these quarters were first inhabited in 1909, and a steak dinner at this establishment cost 35′. Prices changed and so did the need for a permanent club house. A four-story Spanish-style structure was designed by member architects, William S. Hebbard and Carleton Winslow, Sr., and built in 1916 at 1333 Seventh Avenue. The ground floor contained the offices, reception desk, and a lounge to serve members with ladies or ladies alone. The upper two floors housed bedrooms and suites for members and guests. The cost for this building was estimated at $29,000.17

Other changes were also made in 1916. The By-Laws were revised to state that officers of the U.S. Army or Navy or any scientific corps of the U.S. who happened to be on active duty when elected to membership, could waive the $50 initiation fee. Clergymen were charged no fee. The annual dues of residents was raised to $30 and non-residents now were required to pay $15. Any member in good standing could obtain a life membership in the University Club with exemption from paying dues for the remainder of his life for $600.18

The House Rules were updated in 1916 as well. The club was open for members at 7 a.m. daily and closed at 12 p.m., after which admittance would be only to those living on the premises. No visitor or guest was permitted to introduce “strangers” to the club. No more than two guests were allowed at one time. Guests could pay for rooms at the cost of $1.50 per day. Private dinners could not include women, and no poker or gambling was allowed.19

A highlight of the University Club was its Friday noon luncheon programs. The participants were people of “local and national eminence who reflected the broad gamut of human experience.” Many notable individuals came to speak. Included among them were: Hamlin Garland, the American writer, who spoke in 1923 on “A Literary Summer in England;” Charles Coburn, the actor, who in 1923, discussed “The Theater;” Edgar Hewett, the director of the San Diego Museum who in 1924 talked about “Recent Explorations in Western Asia;” Armand Jessop in the same year presented “Rambling Through Africa;” and Ali Kuli-Khan (Nabiled) Dowleh of Persia visited in April 1927, and spoke on “Persia’s Contributions to Western Culture.” In February 1929, Leland Stanford discussed “Around the Corner,” and George Marston’s topic in 1933 was “Life Begins at Eighty.” Morgan Eastman in 1940 explained the “X-Ray of Motion;” Glenn A. Rick, the same year, questioned the aim of city planning; Ed Fletcher in 1942 presented “Our State Water Program;” and Richard Pourade in 1945 talked about “Experiences as a Washington Correspondent.”20

In later years, the topics were just as varied and interesting. On November 11, 1960, Lute Mason of KFMB-TV discussed the “1960 Olympic Games in Rome,” Major General V.H. Krulak of the U.S. Marine Corps came in 1961 and spoke about “The Place of the American Military Man in Our Country Today.” Other speakers and themes included: Jack Kemp of the San Diego Chargers who in 1961 explained the “Chargers’ Arrival in San Diego” and showed a 1960 Charger highlight film; Jim Mulvaney of the Padres in 1964 argued “They Don’t Make Ball Players Like They Used To;” Barry Goldwater, Jr. of Arizona State University also in that same year presented “A Victory We Shall Have;” Frank L. Hope, Jr. gave the “San Diego Stadium Story;” Pete Wilson in 1972 offered “Reflections on the System and Challenges to It;” and Lionel Van Deerlin, Congressman from the 41st District, emphasized “Gas Rationing Now” in 1973.21

By the late 1960s, club members decided that they needed new facilities. The white Spanish-style structure they had met in since 1916 was rapidly deteriorating and the plaster inside and out was crumbling. Member architect, Frank L. Hope, Jr., was asked to design a new club house. He planned a three-story modern brick building which was erected on the corner of Seventh and A Streets. The old building was razed to make room for this structure. The new University Club, completed in November 1970, contained a gymnasium, sauna, steam room and billiard room on the first floor. The second floor was reserved for parking up to fifty cars. The third floor housed the main dining room and several private rooms as well as the club offices and library. There were no living quarters. To finance the cost of this building which was estimated at $1 million, $300,000 worth of bonds were sold to members and the rest was borrowed from a group of local financial institutions.22

For the first thirty years after the reorganization of the University Club, women were taboo. They did not experience the same recognition they had received in the early years of the College Graduate Club. Later, members’ wives were permitted to eat in a dining room separate from the men’s dining area, but still could not affiliate with the club in any other manner. However, by April 1975, the viewpoint towards women was changed by the directors of the club mainly because they needed new memberships to help finance their new building. They could no longer afford to operate an exclusively male organization. They voted this same year to allow women to become full-fledged members. Karen Johnson, a retired school principal from St. Paul, Minnesota, officially became the first female member. Membership rolls did not become greatly enlarged by feminine members, though, as only twelve of this sex had joined the club by August 1976.23

The University Club of 1985 is a diversified, active organization with 650 members.24 The affiliates reflect the broad gamut of San Diego society, ranging from businessmen, attorneys, educators, bankers, physicians and military personnel to college students. These individuals still have the intellectual and cultural needs of the early founders. Their program offerings extend beyond small dinners and gatherings and Friday noon luncheon programs. The club offers trips and outings for members including tours up the coast of California, Padres tailgate parties, group excursions to the symphony and ballet, and even special trips to Los Angeles to take advantage of plays and other intrigues of this Southern California city.25

With inflation and more club offerings, membership fees have increased. A resident member, thirty-nine years of age or older, pays now a $300 initiation fee and monthly dues payments of $60. The social members group, comprised of women only, contributes a $100 initiation fee with $38 monthly dues costs. There are other membership categories with varying initiation and monthly dues charges.26

The University Club of San Diego, the outgrowth of the College Graduate Club organized in 1896, has not lost the essence and fervor of the original group which sought to bring persons together with academic degrees to discuss current topics of the day. Professional members in growing numbers express through their membership their need to socialize and communicate with others of similar backgrounds. Their search for cultural and mental stimulation has not declined in the ninety years since this organization was originally founded, but has only grown stronger, as the current membership, the largest ever, attests.


1. Hand written records of the first meeting for the organization of a College Graduate Club are contained in the Record, a lined hardbound notebook located at the University Club. Additional information about the formation of the club is found in The University Club of San Diego, Membership Roster, 1980-81 (Los Angeles: Universal Directory Publishing Corp., 1981).

2. See The University Club of San Diego, Membership Roster, 1980-81.

3. There were 35 colleges and universities listed as acceptable in 1896, with 6 other colleges added on September 1, 1898. It seems the acceptable colleges and universities happened to be the ones from which the early members had graduated. The names of these institutions are included in the Record, pp. 95-96.

4. In the Record, pp. 7-9, is a list of all individual members written in the members’ own hands which states their names, universities of attendance and the years of graduation. The list stops with 67 members in 1906. Of these members, 14 had graduated from Stanford, 16 from the University of California, 3 from Harvard, and 6 from Vassar.

5. The eight articles of the first Constitution are found in the Record, pp. 1-3.

6. All members of the club are listed with their colleges and dates of graduation in the Record, pp. 15-22.

7. The minutes of all club meetings which include business discussions, topics presented, and any new members elected are contained in the Record, pp. 15-22.

8. The minutes of club meetings became briefer with the turn of the century. The Record, pages 26-42, lists the meetings from 1900-1906, but includes in most cases only the date of the meeting, the essayist, the topic presented and the book from which the topic was taken.

9. Amendments to the regular College Graduate Club Constitution were written in the Record, pp. 4-6 on May 22, 1906.

10. The information on the deteriorating, newly named University Club is found in The University Club of San Diego, Membership Roster, 1980-81.

11. The reorganization of the University Club and its founders is described in The University Club of San Diego, Membership Roster, 1980-81. The professions of Hebbard, Luce, and Von Tesmar are found in the San Diego City and County Directory of 1908.

12. The committee that worked on building the new University Club is listed in The University Club of San Diego, Membership Roster, 1980-81.

13. The 5 Articles of Incorporation for the University Club of San Diego are found in the “Articles of Incorporation of the University Club of San Diego by the State of California,” July 6, 1909, and deposited in the files of the University Club.

15. The 8 By-Laws are contained in the booklet, The University Club of San Diego, 1911, pp. 5-10.

16. The Rules for the University Club are also contained in the booklet, The University Club of San Diego, 1911, p. 11.

17. Information about the various club houses is found in an article, “University Club: 7th & A: Milestone for Future,” written in the San Diego Union, August 8, 1976, B-l, and in the Club Book, 1956, The University Club of San Diego, 1333 7th Avenue, pp. 5-6.

18. Changes in the By-Laws is mentioned in a booklet, The University Club of San Diego, 1916, By-Laws and House Rules with List of Members (Jones Inc. Printers, 1916), pp. 17-18.

19. The House Rules of 1916 plus the listing of 310 club members is found in The University Club of San Diego, 1916, By-laws and House Rules with List of Members, p. 19.

20. All Friday noon luncheon speakers and topics written in each speaker’s hand commencing in 1922 and continuing through 1960 are located in a lined hardbound book, Friday Programs, The University Club of San Diego, Vol. I, on file at the University Club.

21. Additional Friday noon luncheon speakers and their topics are hand-written by the speakers in Friday Programs, The University Club of San Diego, Vol. II, July 1960-February 1978, on file at the University Club.

22. Detailed information about the construction of the present-day University Club is found in “University Club Dedicates New Home,” the San Diego Union, November 20, 1970, p. 3.

23. Information on women members, including Karen Johnson as the first, is included in “University Club: 7th & A: Milestone for Future,” San Diego Union, August 8, 1976, p. B-l.

24. Jo Ellen Kerl, membership director for the University Club, provided in a telephone interview on April 18, 1984, the present club membership.

25. Information about 1984 club offerings is contained in The University Club Newsletter, Vol. XV, No. 6, March/April 1984.

26. All membership and dues fees are listed in the University Club membership packet, 1984.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.