Collectors Club of Chicago

Early History

The 1920s-1930s Formative Years

During the 1920s and early 1930s, stamp collecting attained a marked degree of sophistication, and it was during this period that the Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps came into being, Stamps magazine made its appearance, Scott brought out its series of loose-leaf Specialty albums, and the peelable hinge became a must. Stamp auctions grew in popularity, becoming a big business.

The origins of the Collectors Club of Chicago (CCC) are traced to the informal meetings of specialist collectors residing in the Chicago area. The CCC was incorporated in accordance with the General Not For Profit Corporation Act on 13th October 1928 in the State of Illinois with nine members being named Directors, those nine members and their Club tenure dates being Richard McPherren Cabeen (1928-1969), Walter N. Emerson (1928-1937), Dr. Clarence William Hennan (1928-1956), James Lee Kirkland (1928-1937), C. F. Mann (1928-1937), Paul Elbert MacGuffin (1928-1937), Saul Newberry (1928-1950), Charles Esterly Severn (1928-1929), and B. L. Voorhees (1928-1937).

Due to a possible oversight or other unknown mitigating circumstances, the CCC neglected to file the required corporate annual report for the year 1936 to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. In an official notice dated 18th November 1936, the State proceeded with the steps necessary to dissolve the CCC for the failure to submit the reports as had been requested. A State of Illinois, County of Cook, court document dated 25th May 1937 states that the court certifies that a decree dissolving the CCC as a corporation was entered at the Superior Court of Cook County.

It is believed that during the late 1920s-late 1930s the scheduled monthly meetings were held in the homes of members, continuing up and until the beginnings of World War II. Although the CCC as a formal corporation ceased to exist, their meetings continued at members’ homes until the advent of World War II, at which time the meetings lapsed.

The 1944 Collectors Club of Chicago Reactivation

The late 1930s and early 1940s were a time ready for the resurrection of an intimate group of Chicago-area advanced collectors, whose major purpose would be to discuss stamps, their design, manufacture, usage and postal history. Charles F. Meroni Sr. (1944-1986), an advance collector of postal history, relocated to Evanston during the Fall of 1943. It was at that time that he and Dr. Hennan met at Meroni’s home and first discussed the possibility of resurrecting the dormant Collectors Club of Chicago.

Dr. Hennan, David Lidman (1944-1957, the then-stamp editor for the Chicago Sun Newspaper) and Meroni initiated preliminary plans to reactivate a Collectors Club of Chicago, and to that end, on 26th November 1944, a meeting was held at the home of Col. Max G. Johl (1944-1946). Those present were Arthur Edward Burke (1944-1946), Dr. Hennan, Waldo V. Kenworthy (1944-1957), David Louis Lidman (1944-1957), Meroni, Frederic W. Peters (1944-1953) and Anthony C. Russo (1944-1974). Dr. Hennan acted as chairman.

The stated purpose of the November meeting was for the planning of the reactivation of the “Chicago Collectors Club” as an intimate group of advanced collectors having similar interests. As in the original incorporation, the purposes would be to promote philatelic research, to exchange information concerning all aspects of postage stamps and postal history, and to promote social contact between good friends having a common bond through philately.

Also during the informal first meeting, it also was agreed that the reactivated club was to be named the “Collectors Club of Chicago”, rather than using the charter-named “Chicago Collectors Club” name, and that the organization was not to compete with other philatelic groups, was not to seek publicity of any type, and was to avoid philatelic politics and commercialism. Membership would be by invitation only, and stamp dealers would not be eligible.

It was further agreed that the charter members would be the first twenty-five members, that the membership would be raised to, but not beyond, one hundred members, and that the governing body would consist of nine members: the three officers (President, Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer) and six Directors. Elected were Dr. Hennan, President; Meroni, Vice-President; Bourke, Secretary-Treasurer.

During that first meeting, it was decided that the CCC would eventually make its permanent home at the Chicago Historical Society (renamed the Chicago Historical Museum in 2006), which is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at 1601 N. Clark St. It was also decided that there would be an initiation fee of $5.00, and that the dues would be $10.00 per annum. Dr. Hennan explained that under his plan, the Chicago Historical Society secretariat would handle such details as the mailing of the meeting notices, and that eventually there would be a permanent room for the Club at the Society. However, within weeks alternate meeting plans were developed, and to plans to meet at the Chicago Historical Society did not materialize.

This organization was not meant to be in competition with other philatelic groups, and was to avoid philatelic politics and commercialism. The name was designated to be the “Collectors Club of Chicago”, with Dr. Hennan as the president, Meroni as the president-elect, and Burke as the secretary-treasurer. Meroni, an attorney, drew up the by-laws patterned after the Detroit Philatelic Club. and arranged for the incorporation procedures. Burke and Kenworthy were appointed to design the Club seal. The Chicago-based organization was formed formally and specifically for the purpose of promoting philatelic research, for the exchange of information concerning all aspects of postage stamps and postal history, and for the promotion of social contact between good friends having a common bond through philatelia.

On 21st January 1945, a second meeting, which was the first official meeting, was held at the home of Meroni. The attendees included Burke, Dr. Hennam, Johl, and Russo. It was at this meeting that an agreement was reached whereby future meetings would be held at a public central location, and on 8th March 1945 the first such meeting was held at Chicago’s downtown Shamrock Restaurant. The restaurant was located around the corner from the LaSalle Hotel, which was situated on the corner of LaSalle and Madison Streets.

By December of 1945, the invited and then newly inducted CCC members included Lawrence M. Edmunds (1945-1957), Deloss A. Grant (1945-1958), John P. O’Connell (1945-1951), Dr. Herbert C. Pollock (1946-1984), Col Otto H. Schrader (1945-1959), Theodore Sheldon (1945-1958), H. N. Sprague (1945-1951), Col. Otto H. Schraderx. Julius P. Steindler (1945-1970), Julius M. Westphal (1945-1958) and Lawrence M. Winters (1945-1956).

On 5th June 1946, a tragic fire causing 61 fatalities occurred at the LaSalle Hotel, and through the efforts of Sheldon and Winters, the meetings were transferred to the University Club, located at 76 E. Monroe St., at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street. In September 1946, Meroni arranged for the meetings to be held at the Union League Club, located 65 W. Jackson Blvd. For the next twenty-three years, Meroni continued as host at the Union League Club, where there was a private, convenient meeting room well-stocked with a fine libations, and gourmet lunches and dinners. The venue served as the focal point for all CCC activities.

The Gift of the Cabeen House

In a letter to the Club dated 29th August 1967, CCC founding member Richard McPherren Cabeen and his wife, Blema, formally offered to the Collectors Club of Chicago in perpetuity their 1878-constructed stately four-level brownstone home, located in Chicago’s ‘Gold Coast’ area. On 13th September 1967, at a special meeting of the CCC Board of Directors, the Cabeen House gift was accepted.

When the property became available, a House Committee was organized under the direction of Raymond J. Vogel and Roger A. Swanson. The Committee diligently worked long hours in clearing the house of the many unneeded collections and furnishings, then in the house planning and remodeling procedures, and then for the installation new heating and air conditioning systems. On 8th January 1970, the CCC met for the first time at its new home. The Cabeen House was designated a Historic Landmark by the City of Chicago in 2002, and achieved listing on the ‘United States National Register of Historic Places’ on 21st August 2003.

Because of the foresight of the Chicago-area’s advanced philatelic fraternity of collectors in the formative years, the current CCC membership now enjoys the privileges and benefits of a permanent upscale clubhouse building, a very comprehensive philatelic library, and the opportunity to socialize monthly or more frequently with fellow collectors having similar interests.

Ω    Ω    Ω    Ω    Ω