Long Island University Logo

Department/Office Name

Search our Site:

 

Special Collections: Finding Aids

RECORDS OF THE NEW YORK AFRICAN SOCIETY FOR MUTUAL RELIEF

Finding Aid

Arranged and Described by:
Ellen H. Belcher
June, 1997

HISTORICAL NOTE
The New York African Society for Mutual Relief was a beneficial society for African American men that had its first public meeting on June 6, 1808 and printed their first constitution in that year. The Society is said to have met in secret as early as 1784, but the records do not document its existence this early. Incorporated under the State of New York in March, 1810 the Society continued to exist at least into the 1950s, however the records document only into the 1940s. The Society functioned as one of the first fraternal societies that provided sick and death benefits to their members at a time when insur-ance was not available to African Ameri-cans. The membership of the Society was diverse, consisting of men in professions as varied as carpenters, boot makers, real estate agents, merchants, porters, and ministers. Preeminent early members of the Society include William Hamilton, said to be a descendent of Alexander Hamilton; Cato Alexander, keeper of an inn near Shot Tower [now 23rd street and 3rd avenue]; Philip Bell, editor and publisher of The Colored American; and Abraham Lawrence, president of the Harlem Railroad. The Society owned buildings at 42 Baxter (once called Orange) Street [bought c1820, sold c1896-98], 27 Greenwich Avenue [bought 1888, leased 1927, sold 1936?] and 41 West 66th Street [bought 1900, sale undocumented]. Sometime around 1922, two related societies were formed, named after past presidents of the Society, the William Hamilton Society and the Eato Aid Society. Financial documents indicate that after a certain time one third of a member's mortuary benefits were paid out from each of the related societies.

COLLECTION SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection documents the Society's administration of its membership, ac-counts and properties through meeting minutes, annual reports, constitutions, correspondence, roll call and dues paid lists, legal and financial documents, certificates, mortgages and deeds spanning the dates 1867 to 1949; the bulk of the material dates to the 1930s and 1940s. Roll call books, correspondence and dues ledgers record the names and addresses of the membership as well as documenting the procedures for paying out of sick and death benefits to members and their beneficiaries. Many of the papers relate to the properties owned by the Society and their purchase, lease, upkeep and sale. Information on the properties can also be found in the minute books. Records of two related entities, the William Hamilton Relief Society and the Eato Aid Society, are also included in this collection in the form of meeting minutes and financial documents.

The records in this collection are not complete but represent whatever survived as a group over the course of time and after the disbanding of the Society. Missing records from the earlier periods of the Society likely were lost in a fire at 104 Leonard Street in January of 1867 which was the location of its meetings and the storage area for their books and records. Scattered gaps in later records no doubt are the result of the vagaries of retention by the frequently changing officers. There are no records documenting the later years or the disbanding of the Society.

PROVENANCE
The collection is said to have been found in a warehouse of the Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper. It was donated by Thomas Kemeny of London, England in early 1981.

REFERENCES
Jones, Robert G. "How One of America's Oldest Landlords Does Business; Not for Sale." Crisis (May 1952): 285-88.

Zuille, John J. Historical Sketch of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. New York: 189-. (Microfilm available from New York Public Library)

Hamilton, William. "A Defense of the Negro," (Address to the New York African Society for Mutual Relief, January 2, 1809.) pp. 26-27 in Philip Foner, ed. The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1971. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

RELATED COLLECTIONS
Microfilms of various Society documents are at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

 

RECORDS OF THE NEW YORK AFRICAN SOCIETY FOR MUTUAL RELIEF SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

SERIES 1: MINUTES OF SOCIETY MEETINGS -- General Membership Meetings
Handwritten in record books by the secretary of the Society, these note the proceedings of the monthly and special meetings of the members of the Soci-ety. The date, time and place of each meeting is noted as well as old and new business. The subjects discussed in the meetings include discussions of mon-thly finances, management of the properties owned by the Society, sick and mortuary disbursement and considerations on applications for membership.
Chronological, 1867 - 1930.
1 Linear Foot (7 volumes), boxes #1-2.

SERIES 2: RECORDS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The governing committee of the Society went through three name changes: from the Standing Committee to the Board of Directors to the Board of Trust-ees. These names are reflected in the minute books which record chronologi-cally successive meetings of the same form and function. Minutes of the mon-thly and special meetings include the place, time, date and attendants of meet-ings. The subjects of old and new business include reports from housing, sick aid and auditing committees dealing with financial and real estate matters of the Society. Included are incoming and copies of outgoing correspondence from the board. Each folder corresponds to one fiscal year, concluding at the end of October. A typescript of the annual report of the board is at the end of folders dated 1911 to 1935.
Chronological, 1886 - 1936.
1 linear foot (11 folders, 3 volumes), boxes #3-4.

SERIES 3: CONSTITUTIONS AND ANNUAL REPORTS
Constitutions discuss the mission of the Society and outlay its bylaws. Annual reports briefly outline the financial status of the Society and list the officers for the year. Comparative statements contrast the financial conditions of two concurrent fiscal years. Most reports and constitutions were printed in pamphlet form and exist in multiple copies. The annual reports series is not complete; reports for a few years are missing. Typescript and handwritten drafts may be found in the October or November meeting minutes for that year (series 1-2). It cannot be determined if the series of constitutions are complete as they were not published in a regular pattern. Chronological, 1869 - 1945 .75 linear feet (46 folders), boxes #5-6.

SERIES 4: RECORDS OF THE SECRETARY
This series includes correspondence and miscellaneous documents created and collected by the secretary of the Society. Alphabetical files include correspondence and related documents ordered by member name mostly relating to death and sick dispersement. Roll Call and Dues statements list members, their due payments and attendance status 1929-1931. Notable documents are consent and release forms that served to form the related William Hamilton Relief and Eato Aid Societies (1925) and a mutual fund proposal (1928).
Chronological and Alphabetical, 1900 - 1936.
.75 linear feet (27 folders, 2 volumes), boxes #6-7.

SERIES 5: RECORDS OF THE TREASURER
The records of the treasurer document the financial activities of the Society and status in journal and ledger form. Also in this series are canceled checks, bank correspondence, and a receipt book. Correspondence and check vouchers relating to payment of sick and mortuary payments are ordered by date of check voucher.
Chronological Within Format, 1904 - 1949.
.75 linear feet (7 volumes, 21 folders), boxes #8-10.

SERIES 6: DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE PROPERTIES OWNED BY THE SOCIETY
This series contains correspondence, ledgers, financial and legal documents relating to the properties owned by the Society. Included in the correspondence are shelter tickets from the city to pay for tenants at 41 West 66th Street who could not pay their rent during the Depression (box 11). Corre-spondence and other items relating to a legal dispute with the lessor of 27 Greenwich street are filed in box 11. Bills, check vouchers and correspondence relating to the upkeep of 41 West 66th Street primarily date to major renovations of the building in the late 1930s (box 12). Mortgages and deeds document the purchase and sale as well as past owners of 42 Baxter (Orange) Street and 27 Greenwich Avenue (box 13).
Alphabetical and Chronological by Property, 1820 - 1944.
1 linear Foot (26 folders), boxes #11-13.

SERIES 7: RECORDS OF THE WILLIAM HAMILTON RELIEF SOCIETY
This series includes documents relating to meetings, dues and finances of this Society. This Society worked very closely with the other two, sharing the same officers and members but maintaining separate financial accounts. Annual reports are financial statements that some years were printed on the same sheet at those of the Eato Aid Society. A few annual reports are missing; typescript drafts of the reports were retained (folder 9). Documents relating to mortuary benefits include canceled checks, check vouchers and correspon-dence.
Chronological by Format, 1922 - 1942.
.5 linear feet (3 volumes, 12 folders), box #14.

SERIES 8: RECORDS OF THE EATO AID SOCIETY
This series consists of meeting minutes, annual reports, beneficiary reports, canceled checks and a receipt book. Financial records indicate that the accounts were kept distinct from the other two societies. Annual reports were sometimes printed together with the William Hamilton Society. A few annual reports are missing but a series of typescripts and handwritten drafts of annual reports are in folder 8.
Chronological by Format, 1924 - 1938.
.5 linear foot (1 volume, 12 folders), box #15.

SERIES 9: HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE AFRICAN SOCIETY FOR MUTUAL RELIEF
This series is comprised of a single typescript, 174 pages long. The typescript appears unfinished, illustrative photographs are listed but not inserted. Included is a membership list and society by-laws. .1 linear foot (1 folder), Box #15.

 

NEW YORK AFRICAN SOCIETY FOR MUTUAL RELIEF BOX LIST

Box 1: Meeting Minutes of the General Membership
    Vol. 1/1          February 25, 1867 - January 11, 1875
            1/2         September 13, 1886 - June 10, 1901
            1/3         July 8, 1901 - February 8, 1909
            1/4         March 8, 1909 - May 16, 1914

Box 2:
    Vol. 2/1         June 8, 1914 - May 12, 1920
            2/2         June 14, 1920 - February 4, 1926
            2/3         March 8, 1926 - January 13, 1930 (includes index)

Box 3: Records of the Board of Directors
    Meeting Minutes
    Vol. 3/1         Standing Committee, March 17, 1886 - August 25, 1886
            3/2         Board of Trustees, September 15, 1886 - October 5,1905
            3/3         Board of Directors, November 1905 - November 1917

Box 4: Correspondence and Annual Report Typescripts
    Fol. 4/1         1898
           4/2         1910
           4/3         1911
           4/4         1926
           4/5-11    1929 - July 1936

Box 5: Annual Reports and Constitutions
    Printed Constitutions
    Fol. 5/1         1869
           5/2         1881
           5/3         1886 5/4 1887
           5/5         1891
           5/6         1901
           5/7         1912
           5/8         1929 (printer's galleys)
           5/9         Constitutional amendment (no date)

    Printed Annual Reports
    Fol. 5/10-12 1888 - 1890
           5/13-14 1894 - 1895
           5/15-18 1897 - 1900
           5/19       1902
           5/20       1905
           5/21       1907
           5/22       1909
           5/23-26  1911 - 1914

Box 6:
    Fol. 6/1-6      1915 - 1920
           6/7         1922
           6/8-25    1924 - 1941
           6/26       1945 draft

Comparative Financial Statements
           6/27-31    1938 - 1945

Records of the Secretary
Miscellaneous Materials
    6/32           Treasurer's Balance Sheet November 1910 - November 1911
    6/33           Death Certificates of Members
    6/34           N.Y.A.S.M.R. Consent and Release to William Hamilton Relief Society and Eato Aid                       Society February 9, 1925
    6/35           Consent and Release, November 16, 1931
    6/36           Auditors Statement, September 30, 1934

Box 7: Correspondence and related documents
    Fol. 7/1-14  Alphabetical Files
           7/15     Program for Centennial Service, June 7, 1908
           7/16     Contract with Carnegie Hall for banquet June 11, 1908
           7/17     Invitation for 125th anniversary service, June 4, 1933
           7/18     Mutual Fund Proposal, Drafts, Memoranda, 1928
           7/19     Art work for society seal
           7/20     Membership certificate printing block
    Vol. 7/21     Dues Ledger and Roll Call Book, 1868 - 1872
    Fol. 7/22     Roll Call, 1929 - 1932
           7/23     Dues Statement 1929 - 1931
    Vol. 7/24    Gratuities Book 1897 - 1909

Box 8: Records of the Treasurer:
    Treasurer's Journals:
    Vol. 8/1      October 31, 1904 - April 30, 1908
           8/2       May 31, 1908 - September 30, 1914
           8/3      October 31, 1914 - September 30, 1921
           8/4      October 31, 1921 - September 30, 1931

Box 9: Treasurer's Ledgers:
    Vol. 9/1 1904 - 1914 (in order of account, with index)
            9/2 1906 - 1912
            9/3 1914 - 1931

Box 10: Financial Records
    Fol. 10/1-13 Bills and Check Vouchers 1931, 1935 - 1944, 1946
           10/14     Receipts Book December 12, 1932 - September 11, 1939
           10/15     Loans Account 1935 - 1936
    Canceled Checks
           10/16     July 29, 1930 - September 15, 1930
           10/17     October 9, 1930 - December 22, 1930
           10/18     Bank Correspondence 1931 - 1942
           10/19     Sick and Mortuary Dispersements 1930
           10/20     Sick Aid Correspondence and Check Vouchers, January 15, 1937 -
                         March 9, 1949
           10/21     Bonds/Shares, Investment Statement (fragment)

Box 11: Documents Relating to Properties Owned by the Society
    Fol. 11/1      Documents regarding 27 Greenwich ave.

    41 West 66th Street
           11/2      Memoranda regarding Rent Payments
           11/3      Rent Related Correspondence, Balance Sheets 1931 - 1935.
           11/4      Shelter Tickets and Invoices 1932 - 1935
           11/5      Rent Related Correspondence, 1938
           11/6      Rent Balance Sheets
           11/7      Payroll 1935 - 1936, 1942, and related documents
           11/8      Correspondence, Legal Documents 1924, 1934 - 1943

Box 12: Accounts for 41 West 66th Street
           12/1      Allied Exterminating
           12/2      Charles P. Blakeney
           12/3      Charles Spoth
           12/4      Dykes Lumber
           12/5      Gernier W. Turner
           12/6      J. Rose & Co.
           12/7      McElvavey and Hauck Co
           12/8      Muller and Spelling
           12/10    Republic Plumbing Supply
           12/11    Seneca Tile Works/Charles Morreno
           12/12    Stroh and Wilson
           12/13   Vaughn, Charles
           12/14   Vendovato Brothers
           12/15   Water, Tax Bills (includes bills for 27 Greenwich Avenue)
           12/16   Westminster Laboratories
           12/17    S. Wolf's Sons
    Miscellaneous Accounts
           12/18   April 1934 - October 1935
           12/19   June 1936 - July 1944

Box 13: Legal Documents related to Society properties
    Fol. 13/1-2 Regarding 42 Baxter (Orange) Street

    27 Greenwich Ave.
    Fol. 13/3    Results of Document Search (history of ownership)
           13/4-6 Mortgage
           13/7     Documents Regarding Lease of Building
           13/8     Petitions 1927, 1934
           13/9     Consent of Members to Sell Property, 1936

Box 14: William Hamilton Relief Society
    Annual Reports
    Fol. 14/1     1922
           14/2     1924 - 1936
           14/3     1937 (Treasurer's Statement)
           14/4-6  1938 - 1941
           14/7      1944 - 1945
   Vol. 14/8       Meeting Minutes of Membership and Board of Directors October 10, 1921 -                          November 18, 1937
    Fol. 14/9 Meeting Minutes, Annual Report Typescripts 1929 - 1942
           14/10    Correspondence, Cancelled Checks, Check Vouchers Regarding Mortuary Benefits
           14/11    Canceled Checks and Vouchers August 1935 - June 1936, Bank Statements 1936
           14/12    Constitutional Amendment, 1933
           14/13     Resolution January 14, 1935
           14/14     Blank membership certificate
    Vol. 14/15    Society Dues Book 1935 - 1942
            14/16   Receipt Book May 1935 - July 11, 1938

Box 15: Eato Aid Society
    Fol. 15/1-7 Annual Reports 1924 - 1930, 1931 - 1940
           15/8    Meeting Minutes and Annual Report Typescripts, 1929 - 1936
           15/9    Documents regarding Mortuary Benefits, Beneficiary Stat-ements 1923
           15/10  Canceled Checks and Check Vouchers Aug. 1924, 1935
           15/11  Bank Statements 1929 - 1936
           15/12  Resolution, January 14, 1935
    Vol. 15/13  Receipt Book May 13, 1935 - July 11, 1938

    Historical Sketch of the New York Society for Mutual Relief
    Fol. 15/14  Typescript compiled by W. N. Beekman, 174 pgs.

Top Of Form

Created By: Ellen Belcher

Revised: 3/14/2000

 
 
Long Island University Brooklyn Campus LIU Libraries