The General Society 100 Years Ago
Craftsmanship and Civic Leadership Awards
Board & Staff
John M. Mossman Lock Collection
Fall newsletter 2013
SOME NOTABLE EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE GENERAL SOCIETY
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York was founded in the early days of the Republic on November 17th, 1785. The Society was organized at Walter Heyer’s Tavern on Pine Street (then King Street) near Broadway, by a committee of twenty-two persons comprising employers and workmen representing organizations of various trades. The population of New York City at that time was 23,614.
On March 14th -- The Original Charter was granted the Society by the New York State Legislature.
A committee was appointed to inform all citizens of New York “that it was repugnant to the objects of the Society to have anything to do with politics.”
The City Hall Building was constructed. The Architect, the Master Stonecutter, Master Masons, Master Carpenter and Clerk were all active members of the Society, two having served as President of the Society.
The Society set about the erection of a Mechanics’ Hall. This was completed and dedicated on January 4th, 1803, with appropriate ceremonies, in the presence of Hon. Edward Livingston, then Mayor of the City, and a large assemblage of distinguished citizens. This building remained standing until 1870, when a commercial building was erected, known as the “Varick Building.”
GSMT founded the Mechanics’ Bank, the fourth chartered bank in New York at that time, which later became the Mechanics’ National Bank, then the Mechanics and Metals National Bank, and is now the Chase National Bank.
The Mechanics’ Institute School was instituted in quarters of the New York Free School in Chatham Street. Also, the same year the “Apprentices’ Library” was established to serve the Institute.
The School and Library moved to 10-14 Chambers Street.
The General Society moved to 30-36 Crosby Street.
The cholera scourge made its appearance in the City and the Crosby Street building, by permission of the Society, was occupied as a hospital, and the improvements to that property were suspended until about 1834.
The Society established a series of Free Lectures. Such men as Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, Bayard Taylor, James W. Gerard, Wendell Phillips, Charles F. Deems, H.C. Potter, and Rear-Admiral Robert E. Peary delivered lectures.
The General Society purchased 472 Broadway, and Benjamin DeMilt, a Society member, bequeathed his collection of 1,833 volumes to the General Society Library.
New York established its public school system and The General Society closed its day school. In its place, a night school was established for the technical training of young men employed during the day.
The Society presented a stand of colors to the First New York Volunteer Engineer Regiment (this was the first regiment of its kind to be equipped and organized in the United States Service), which was composed exclusively of mechanics, many of whom were members of the Society. The battle flags were presented to the Society after their return from the war, and are now in our possession, preserved in glass cases in the Library.
The General Society purchased the Suydam Mansion at 18 East 16th Street.
Courses for women in stenography and typewriting are added to the Mechanic’s Institute’s offerings.
November 16th - The One Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of the General Society was held at Delmonico’s, attended by New York’s industrial titans and City dignitaries.
GSMT purchased the property at 16-24 West 44th Street, the fifth and current home of the Society.
Brother Andrew Carnegie gave a total of $537,000 for the purpose of making alterations to the building and for the establishment of an educational endowment fund.
John M. Mossman presented his unique collection of locks to the General Society. This collection is now displayed on the balcony of the GSMT building and has “museum” status.
The Society received a legacy from the estate of Amos F. Eno in the amount of $2.4 million.
Lure of the Lock
, a catalogue of the Mossman Lock Collection, is published.
The Society conducted an evening school sponsored by the United States Government. The purpose of the school was to assist those industries needing key men with Mathematics, Mechanical Drafting, Blue-Print Reading and other skills for the expansion of the plants and production. About 1,000 men participated in these courses to prepare for jobs in our war-time munitions plants.
November 3rd - The officers and members of the Society attended the opening ceremonies in connection with the planting of trees in City Hall Park in celebration of its Golden Anniversary.
A magnolia tree was donated in honor of the Society, whose members participated in the erection
of City Hall.
The Society celebrated its Two Hundredth Anniversary, at which the Founders Day Award was inaugurated, by honoring four Past Presidents of the Society.
The Society’s building facade at 20 West 44th St. was designated a New York City Landmark.
The Society’s By-laws were revised to establish an elected Board of Governors to oversee the operation of the Society.
The annual Craftsmanship Award was initiated to recognize individuals in the building and construction industry who demonstrate leadership in their respective fields and who promote exceptional professional standards.
Twelve historic and genealogical non-profit organizations took up long-term tenancy in the Society’s building.
he Society’s building at 20 West 44th St. was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The General Society constructed an environmentally controlled room for storage of its historic archives and rare books with the help of grants from the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York State Dormitory Authority.
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen celebrates 225 years of service to the City of New York and the building and construction industry.
The General Society’s new Artisan Lecture Series continues to great interest and acclaim. The aim of the Artisan Series is to promote the work and art of skilled master craftsmen and assist in ensuring their unique knowledge is understood and carried forth for generations to come.
Mechanics Institute introduced BIM FOR THE TRADES as a pilot program. Classes for our advanced
AutoCAD students will begin in the Fall, 2013, to enable them to work with this new state of the art technology.