Clubman

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Emmett, circa 20,000 B.C.?

Emmett, circa 20,000 B.C.?

In my research, I’ve seen Emmett described a lot of ways, but I have to admit, when I first saw the adjective ‘clubman,’ my reaction wasn’t positive.

Let me add that I didn’t have my reading glasses on at the time and so, initially, thought it said ‘caveman.’

On second glance, with glasses on, I was still a bit perturbed by the term.

I first saw it in his ‘pretend’ engagement announcement that went out in 1911, before he decided to run for U.S. Congress (more on the pretend engagement in another post). In context, the sentence said that Emmett was “…a prominent young lawyer and clubman” of Pensacola.

It turns out that membership in certain clubs was (and is today) considered a status symbol. Emmett, who was new to Pensacola in 1906, was intent on building his career and so, associating with the top lawyers and politicos in Pensacola would be to his advantage. Where better to do that than at the local social gentlemen’s clubs?

Elk's (left) and Osceola Clubs, Pensacola. Neither building survives today, although the Elk statue is elsewhere in the city. Source: State Archive of Florida.

Elk’s (left) and Osceola Clubs, Pensacola. Neither building survives today, although the Elk statue is elsewhere in the city. Emmett belonged to both the Elk’s Club and the Osceola Club. Source: State Archive of Florida.

One also didn’t just join ANY club: The club to belong to in 1906 when Emmett moved to Pensacola was The Osceola Club. There isn’t a lot of information available today about this social club, but what I have been able to get from my friends at the Pensacola Historical Society is that it was expensive, membership was very exclusive, and if a young man wanted to work his way up the social and political ladder, this was the place to do it.

W.S. Keyser, 1910. Yale alumni, prosperous lumberman from Massachusetts. Source: A History of the Class of Eighty, Yale College, 1876-1910.

W.S. Keyser, 1910. Yale alumni, prosperous lumberman from Massachusetts. Source: A History of the Class of Eighty, Yale College, 1876-1910.

Members included bankers and business owners, such as Andrew Warren (president of the Warren Fish Company), John Merritt (head of a shipping firm), James Campbell Watson (who led a real estate and insurance business, among other interests), and W.S. Keyser, with whom Emmett developed a close working relationship. In fact, it seems like Keyser was the ‘sponsor’ for Emmett’s club membership, and introduced him not only to key society players who would help Emmett along with professional aspirations, but also to yacht parties and 20-year-old Scotch.

Membership in the Osceola Club back then was expensive, too. Dues ran in the neighborhood of $500 a year (and up); in today’s dollars, that would be about $10,000 a year.  Emmett held memberships in the Elk’s Club, the Osceola Club, and the Pensacola Country Club.

Early on in my research, I wondered why Emmett never owned real estate or an automobile. If he was paying expensive club dues every year, and trying to keep up with an elite crowd while on an Assistant District Attorney’s salary, I now can see why. I do think Emmett tried to get the most of his club membership, too. I found an article from 1912 lampooning Emmett for the amount of time he was spending at the Osceola Club — it seemed like he was spending almost every spare moment he had at the club, and probably not playing dominoes, either.

The article is an imaginary interview with Woodrow Wilson, discussing inventions needed for a more ‘progressive mankind.’ The direct quote from the article in the November, 1912 Pensacola Journal, is as follows:

text_PJ_nov1912I’m still a bit divided on whether I think the term ‘clubman’ was meant as a positive descriptor. From where I sit, it seems it describes a behavior a bit in excess — so much so that it is noticeable, if you see what I mean. These clubs had significant memberships, but I don’t think every member would have been described as a ‘clubman’ per se, especially if one is looking for a positive descriptor.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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