Today I’d like to share another find from the church archives: a small card, advertising a Book Social to be held in our Parish House in November 1906.
I’d never heard of a Book Social, but I’ve found that that around the turn of the century, they were a common way of attracting book donations for a library. As the announcement explains, the “admission fee will be a book suitable for the library of the Sunday School.”
In some cases, book socials were designed to create a new library, but that was not the case here. St. Paul’s had had a Sunday School library for many years. We know, for instance, that the former librarian, Ira Porter, Jr. had served for an impressive 45 years.
In 1906, St. Paul’s Sunday School had been a thriving part of its outreach for most of the church’s 79 years. In 1907, the Year Book reported attendance of 225, plus another 39 on the “cradle roll.” There were 26 teachers and 7 officers, including two librarians.
The Social was sponsored by the St. Paul’s Guild, a group “composed of young people of the parish” which had only been organized that year. In 1907, the Guild listed 36 members, most between the ages of 18 and 25. The month after the Book Social, the St. Paul’s Guild also sponsored a Christmas entertainment for the Sunday School.
Unfortunately, we don’t know any details about the entertainment the Guild provided. The tableau would have consisted of a classical or religious scene, depicted by costumed performers. Might the music have been provided by organist Robert H. Moore, who was also pianist for the Sunday School?
We do know the event’s location: the Parish House, which at that time was the rooms on Jay Street that had been donated by Van Antwerp in 1883. You can see the exterior in these two photos, the first from 1920, the second from 1964, just before the Parish House (and church) were demolished.
It is likely that this event was one of the many new projects initiated by St. Paul’s energetic young rector, Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks, then in his first year at the parish. In a sermon that fall, Brooks urged the congregation “to repair and beautify their church by memorial gifts.” Completion of those enhancements was still years in the future, as was a renewal of parish social programs.
But one change initiated by Brooks had already been accomplished. Two months before this Book Social, St. Paul’s chorus of men and women with four soloists had been replaced by a choir of men and boys.