Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Schenectady Liederkranz

Group photograph of members of Schenectady Liederkranz at clambake, 1922.
Photograph from the Schenectady Liederkranz records.
Schenectady Liederkranz, a German men’s singing group, was founded in 1871 with thirty-six charter members. The organization’s first meeting was held at John Haubner’s tavern at 716 State Street. Its first president was John Bernardi. The group met at various private homes and saloons in the area around State Street and Albany Street in Schenectady during its early years, including George Hennemann’s saloon on State Street near the Arsenal and Peter Marx’s tavern at 769 State Street.  By 1910, the group had established its Liederkranz Hall at 749-757 Albany Street, alongside Nicholas Sartoris’ Liederkranz CafĂ©, and had begun a ladies’ auxiliary. In 1924, the Liederkranz moved into their new building at 302 Schenectady Street, remaining there for over fifty years until the group relocated its headquarters to Niskayuna at 850 Middle Street in 1978. The group’s membership declined throughout the 1990s; the Schenectady Liederkranz finally disbanded in 2005.

Collection of individual photographs of
Schenectady Liederkranz members, ca. 1901.
Photograph from the Schenectady Liederkranz
records. The collection also includes the
individual photographs featured here.
The city directories of the late 1800s through the mid-1900s indicate that the group met monthly. A 1937 Schenectady Gazette article states the organization’s membership at that time as 250. In addition to musical activities, the Liederkranz also functioned as a means of social gathering. The Liederkranz held parties, picnics, pool tournaments, skits, and other events for its membership and their families. The organization also held open houses for the public in celebration of German-American history and culture. 

In addition to local events, the Schenectady Liederkranz also participated in regional singing competitions with German singing groups from other areas of the state during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These events, organized in various area cities by the Central New York Saengerbund, were held over three days.  The Saengerfests generally included a mass chorus, concerts, competitions, parades, and parties or picnics.

Application for membership. Document
from the Schenectady Liederkranz records.

The collection of records of Schenectady Liederkranz (click here for finding aid) is comprised of sheet music, applications for membership, financial records, photographs, audio-visual materials, plaques and awards, and ephemera. The collection includes over 600 applications for membership in Schenectady Liederkranz, dated from 1931 to 1992, arranged alphabetically. Information contained on the membership applications includes date of application, name, age, birthplace, occupation, residence, signature of applicant, name of person who has recommended the applicant, and signatures of those who reviewed the application. Later applications also include whether the applicant is a United States citizen.

Photographs in the collection range in date from ca. 1880s to ca. 1980s, with the bulk of the photographs dated from ca. 1880-1920. The collection includes several group photographs, as well as numerous photographs of individual members of the group taken circa 1880s and 1901. Few of the photographs in the collection are identified. Sheet music in the collection includes a variety of handwritten sheet music, printed sheet music, and bound books of sheet music compiled or used by Schenectady Liederkranz.  Most of the sheet music in the collection is dated between 1889-1918. Audio-visual materials in the collection date primarily from the 1950s and 1960s and include footage of the organization’s events.

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