Records of the Abracadabra Club of Washington, D.C., 1893-1999

Records of the Abracadabra Club of Washington, D.C., 1893-1999

Finding Aid

Collection No. 62 (8 linear ft.)
D.C. Community Archives


The records of the Abracadabra Club of Washington, D.C., were donated to the Archives in 2003 by Thomas H. Bramel, last President of the Club. The records were gathered and created by the club’s officers and members from 1893-2000.


Twelve members of the Metropolitan Presbyterian Church established the Abracadabra Club in 1893 as a literary society for Washington, D.C. The original name of the club was “The Fortnightly Club of Capitol Hill.” After two years, the members discovered that another club already had the same name, so in 1894 they changed it to “Abracadabra.”  

From its inception, the membership was limited to 30 members with an equal number of men and women. In December of 1893, it is interesting to note that the Club decided, “the number of ladies had exceeded the number of men, so that it was voted that no more ladies should be admitted unless accompanied by a gentleman, ‘though the gentleman need not belong to her.’”  By 1907, the limit had been raised to 50 members. For most of the club’s existence, the membership stayed at or below 50. Over the years, however, membership began to decline and in 2003, the Abracadabra Club disbanded.

The membership adhered to the same meeting procedures throughout the club’s existence.  Meetings consisted of a roll call with a response from each member (each response was based on a topic chosen for the meeting), a paper on a subject of interest to the speaker, and “a reading in lighter vein, and a period of sociability in conjunction with the inevitable cooks.”  Paper topics varied greatly, as did the membership.  Membership included “doctors, lawyers, scholastics, scientists, travelers and gardeners,” among others.

The club’s most notable member was Dr. Charles Greeley Abbot (a member since 1897), scientist, inventor and head of the Smithsonian Institution from 1928-1944. He also served a term as president of the Abracadabra Club in 1902.

Dr. Abbot presented many papers at club meetings, which most often covered the latest scientific discoveries/research. His passion was the study of solar energy. However, Dr. Abbot presented papers on other subjects as well, including: “The Eclipse of 1900,” “What Civilization Owes the Arabs,” “Resume of the Louisiana Purchase,” “The Travels of Marco Polo,” and “Fifty-five Years With Abracadabra,” among others.

Dr. Abbot remained a member of the Abracadabra Club until he died in 1973.

The purpose of the Abracadabra Club was to provide its membership with an outlet of discussion for its scholarly, political and personal interests. This continued throughout the club’s life. In 2003, the Abracadabra Club met for a final time.

List of Past Presidents of the Abracadabra Club, 1893-1987:
Samuel D. Luckett, 1893-1894 Melville D. Lindsay, 1917-1918 Loyal B. Aldrich, 1953-1954
John P. Clum, 1895 Joseph W. Thompson, 1919 Linwood K. Bailey, 1955-1956
Appleton P. Clark, 1896-1897 Frank J. Metcalf, 1920-1921 Daisy Barrett Breakey,
L.D. Clark, 1898 Bloomfield H. Howard,
Paul Howard, 1959-1960
Brock, F. B., 1899 Blanche H. Ray, 1924-1925 Sara Smith Aldrich, 1961-1962
John D. Croissant, 1900 Sherwood D. Shankland,
William A. Moyer, 1963-1964
C. H. Squier, 1901 John M. Sylvester, 1928-1929 Elva Marsh Webner,
Charles G. Abbot, 1902 Harold E. Warner, 1930-1931 Helen Murray Bailey,
Sidney I. Besselieure, 1903 Addams S. McAllister, 1932-1933 John Gordon Steele,
Henry Baker, 1904 Lloyd H. Sutton, 1934-1935 Cynthia Crocker Warner Brooker, 1971-1972
Appleton P. Clark, 1905 Ethel Haskell Shankland, 1936-1937 Lloyd Tibbott, 1973-1974
James McKee, 1906 Joseph H. Batt, 1938-1939 Brian K. Grimes, 1975-1976
Aurestus S. Perham, 1907 Walter P. White, 1940-1941 Louise Crafts Branstead,
George C. Potwin, 1908 Homer Stephens McAllister, 1942-1943 Florence Stacey Steele,
Horace P. McIntosh, 1909 Herbert A. Breakey, 1944-1945 Gladys Harlow West, 1981
Edward D. Hardy, 1910 Verne E. Chatelain, 1946-1947 John Gordon Steele, 1982
Arturo Y. Cassanova,
W. Elwood Baker, 1948-1949 Dorothy Merriman Korgen, 1983-1984
Newton W. Preston,
Ernest A. Black, 1950 Betty Lundquist Tibbott,
Gaius M. Brumbaugh,
J. Orin Powers, 1951-1952 Janice Hinote Grimes, 1987

Scope and Content Note

The records consist of meeting minutes, attendance records, financial records, correspondence, clippings, pamphlets, photographs and yearbooks, all related to the activities of the Abracadabra Club and its members. The collection also contains two gavels and a block used to call meetings to order. The records reflect the intellectual interests of the members of the Club and cover a wide variety of topics spanning over a century of time. 

The collection is divided into six (6) Series:
I. Meeting Minutes II. Yearbooks III. Photographs
IV. Biographical Files V. Financial Records VI. Ephemera

Series Descriptions

Series I: Meeting Minutes, 1893-1996 (3 linear feet)

This series consists of the meeting minutes and related records of the Abracadabra Club. The records are contained in five (5) bound volumes and three (3) 5.0” legal size archives storage boxes of loose materials. It includes transcriptions of speeches, minutes, attendance records, correspondence, pamphlets, membership lists (1893-1937), clippings and treasurer’s reports. Meeting minutes for 1982-1984 are missing. There are also indices to these records in the series. 

Correspondence and speeches related to bound materials are also in this series.

Series II: Yearbooks, 1896-1989 (3 linear feet)

This series consists of the yearbooks published by the Abracadabra Club and distributed at the annual meeting each year. They are housed in eight (8) archival storage boxes in chronological order. The yearbooks contain information stating the officers and membership of the club. They also list the date of each meeting, the names of the hosts/hostesses, speakers, and the titles of their talks. 

Some yearbooks contain copies of the club’s constitution and list the names of past oresidents and memorials to members who have passed away. Yearbooks for 1935-1936 are missing.

Series III: Photographs, 1966-1995, No Date (.5 linear feet)

This series contains photographs of various events held by the Abracadabra Club and the members attending the events. All of the photographs are in color.

Series IV: Biographical Files, 1907-1999 (.5 linear feet)

This series consists of items related to the specific members of the Abracadabra Club. The materials are primarily newspaper clippings and, obituary notices. Notable figures include Dr. Charles G. Abbot, past club president and former head of the Smithsonian Institution.

Series V: Financial Records, 1940-1996 (.5 linear feet)

This series consists of the financial records generated by the Abracadabra Club. They include receipt books and treasurer’s records.  They are housed in one (1) small archival storage shoebox.

Series VI: Ephemera, 1934-1986, No Date (.5 linear feet)

This series consists of two (2) gavels and a block housed in one (1) flat storage box, holiday greetings, publications, directions to meetings, sheet music and various other ephemera.

Box Inventory

Series I: Meeting Minutes

Box 1    

  • Minutes, 1893-1913 (Bound Volume)

Box 2    

  • Minutes, 1913-1918 (Bound Volume)
  • Minutes, 1918-1926 (Bound Volume)

Box 3    

  • Minutes, 1926-1933 (Bound Volume)
  • Minutes, 1933-1938 (Bound Volume)

Box 4   

  • Related Correspondence (with no Minutes), 1925-1926
  • Speech/Report (with no Minutes), 1935-1936
  • Minutes, 1938-1955 (17 folders)

Box 5

  • Minutes, 1955-1972 (17 folders)

Box 6

  • Minutes, 1972-1996 (22 folders)
  • Index of Papers/Speeches/Reports
  • Index of Roll Call Responses
  • Membership List, 1893-1937

Series II: Yearbooks

Box 8    

  • 1896-1923

Box 9    

  • 1923-1939 (bound)
  • 1920-31 (loose)

Box 10    

  • 1931-1960

Box 11    

  • 1960-1989

Series III: Photographs

Box 15

Number 1 Dr. Abbot and Mrs. Odom, May 1966
Number 2 Dr. Abbot and Mrs. Odom, May 1966
Number 3  Brian, Mr. Burton and Mr. Moyer, May 1966
Number 4  Unknown, May 1966
Number 5 Dr. Abbot and Mr. Baker, December 1968
Number 6 Christmas Tree, December 1968
Number 7 Floral Arrangement, December 1968
Number 8  Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Mr. Moyers, March 1970
Number 9 Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Moyers, March 1970

Box 15

Number 10 Dr. and Mrs. Abbot, Dr. Abbot’s 100th Birthday, April 1972
Number 11 Dr. and Mrs. Abbot, Dr. Abbot’s 100th Birthday, April 1972
Number 12 Cynthia Brooker and Betty Tibbott, April 1972
Number 13 Dr. Verne Chatelain and Helen Bailey, April 1972
Number 14 Negatives, April 1972
Number 15 Negatives, April 1972
Number 16 Negatives, April 1972
Number 17 Negatives, April 1972
Number 18 Negatives, April 1972
Number 19 Helen and Paul Howard, Wedding Fete, March 1975
Number 20 Gordon and Elva Webner, December 1986
Number 21 W. Elwood Baker, 98th Birthday, November 1987
Number 22 Mr. Baker, Mrs. West, Mrs. Chatelain and Mrs. Wallman, December 1987
Number 23 Mrs. Korgen, Mrs. Tibbott and Mrs. Gettens, December 1987
Number 24 Mr. West and Mr. Wollman, December 1987
Number 25 Dr. and Mrs. Chatelain, March 1988
Number 26 Rebecca Hayes, Virginia Garber and Mrs. Gettens, March 1988
Number 27 Mrs. Tibbott, March 1988
Number 28 Mr. and Mrs. West, and Mrs. Chatelain, May 1988
Number 29 Shirley Wilhelm and Brian Grimes, May 1988
Number 30 W. Elwood Baker, 100th Birthday, November 1989
Number 31 W. Elwood Baker and Mrs. Gettens, April 1990
Number 32 Dr. and Mrs. Chatelain, April 1990
Number 33 Katharine Gettens and Helen Howard, December 1994
Number 34 Katharine Gettens and Helen Howard, December 1994
Number 35 Tom and Jody Bramel, and Betty Tibbott, October 1995
Number 36 Bob Tibbott, October 1995
Number 37 Dr. and Mrs. Abbot, No Date
Number 38 Moyer’s House, No Date
Number 39 Moyer’s House, No Date
Number 40 Moyer’s House, No Date
Number 41 Moyer’s House, No Date

Series IV: Biographical Files

Box 16

Folder 1 Dr. Charles G. Abbot, 1907-1973
Folder 2 Dr. Charles G. Abbot, Scrapbook, 1928-1967
Folder 3 R. B. Branstead, 1973
Folder 4 Dr. Verne E. Chatelain, 1986
Folder 5 Katharine Covella Gettens, 1997
Folder 6 Lois W. Howard, 1973
Folder 7 Helen Day Moyer, 1984
Folder 8 Obituary Scrapbook, 1906-1967
Folder 9 Edward E. Odom, 1978
Folder 10 Anita French Sanderson, 1984
Folder 11 Gladys Harlow West, 1999

Series V: Financial Records

Box 17

Receipt Book  1942-1945
Receipt Book  1945-1947
Receipt Book 1948-1950
Treasurer’s Book 1940-1961
Treasurer’s Book 1970-1996

Series VI: Ephemera

Box 16

Folder 12 Dr. Charles G. Abbot’s Publications, 1940-1966
Folder 13 Club Song, No Date
Folder 14 Christmas Carols, 1941-1983
Folder 15 Holiday Greetings, 1968-1986, No Date
Folder 16 Miscellaneous, 1934-1980, No Date
Folder 17  Travel Instructions, No Date
Folder 18 Addresses, Speeches, Presentations, No Date 

Box 17

Folder 19 Addresses, Speeches, Presentations, No Date  

Box 18

  • Two (2) Gavels and One (1) Block

DC Public Library, Special Collections
D.C. Community Archives

Back to Special Collections Homepage