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Records of the Grand Street Boys' Association

 Collection
Identifier: I-312

Scope and Content Note

The Grand Street Boys' Association Records document the activities of the Association, the Grand Street Boys' Foundation, the financial arm established in 1945, and its Hobbycraft Program, a charitable program staffed by volunteers who collected and redistributed donated items to charitable and nonprofit organizations. Materials include administrative records, financial records, correspondence, minutes, membership records, newsletters, yearbooks, artifacts, and photographs.

Series I, comprising the majority of the collection, contains the records of the Grand Street Boys' Association. In it are extensive membership records, meeting minutes, annual yearbooks, financial records, administrative material, newsletters, and artifacts.

Series II documents the Grand Street Boys' Foundation and contains administrative records and financial records. Some overlap of material will be found in Series I and II such as material pertaining to the relationship between the Association and Foundation.

Series III consists of photographs documenting both the Association and Foundation. The photographs show members and highlight the activities of the Grand Street Boys.

Dates

  • 1921-2014
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 2000

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Historical Note

Grand Street in the early 1900s was the center of a large immigrant neighborhood in the Lower East Side of New York and was home to many Eastern European (many of them Jewish), Italian, and Irish immigrants. Many of the first generation immigrant families later moved to other areas of the city when they could afford it. In 1916, a reunion was held in Manhattan for men who had grown up on or near Grand Street. Mirroring the demographic makeup of the Lower East Side in the early 1900s, attendees were primarily Jewish. The success of that reunion led to a second reunion in 1920. At the second reunion, it was decided that a permanent club should be formed and the Grand Street Boys' Association was incorporated in 1921.1 Their motto became "Good Fellowship, Benevolence, Charity."

At first, only men who grew up in the vicinity of Grand Street were eligible to enroll. This restriction was soon removed and the Association became the "headquarters of those who really love New York."2 Membership, though originally consisting of mostly first and second generation Jewish immigrants, was open to all regardless of religion or ethnicity and it spanned all sectors of social class and occupations. Alongside governors, mayors, judges, senators, and famous entertainers were bartenders, furriers, detectives, opera singers, restaurateurs, art therapists, umbrella salesmen, meter readers, and firemen. Well-known members included Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Irving Caesar, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Al Smith, John Lindsay, Robert F. Wagner Jr., Jonah J. Goldstein, Herbert H. Lehman, Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Cardinal Patrick Hayes.3

Initially, the Grand Street Boys raised money through membership fees and selling certificates of indebtedness to members. Meeting in banquet rooms and ballrooms in Manhattan hotels, the Association soon outgrew the rented spaces. With money collected from the fees and certificates, the Grand Street Boys' Association quickly raised enough money to acquire its first clubhouse. Opened in 1924 in the former MacDougal Club, located at 106-108 West 55th Street, the clubhouse had a gym, lounge, dining room, barbershop, auditorium, and a library. 4

The Association also raised money through selling tickets to their annual dinners and selling advertisements in its yearbook. From assets derived from investments, the Association was able to fund its charitable work. In 1945, the Grand Street Boys' Foundation was incorporated and tasked with the financial management of investments and assets, as well as distributing grants, scholarships, and awards.5

From the outset, the Grand Street Boys' Association was involved in civic and patriotic work, welfare projects, war efforts, and acts of good fellowship and tolerance. Its projects included financing college scholarships; assisting needy families with course tuition, school supplies, and other items; coordinating a "Hobbies for All Ages" program that supplied arts and crafts materials to homes for the elderly and to underprivileged children in the city (later the program was expanded and became known as the Hobbycraft Program); offering a fresh air camp and summer employment for youth; hosting Boy Scouts events at the clubhouse; and providing loans to recently released prisoners. The Association also offered high school excellence awards, gave out awards to New York City teachers, and held Golden Anniversary wedding celebrations honoring some of New York's longest married couples. Inclusive to all, the Grand Streeters hosted dinners, cultural performances, and holiday-themed events. They celebrated Purim alongside of Saint Patrick's Day.

The 1930s was a key decade for the Grand Street Boys' Association. During that decade the auxiliary groups the Amen Boys (for older members) and the Yeoman (for younger members) were formed; Judge Jonah J. Goldstein was elected president of the Association (a position he held for over thirty years); Wuxtra, the Association's newsletter, was first published; and the Association sponsored its first track and field team, an integrated amateur athletic team. The Grand Street Boys were committed to eliminating discrimination in sports and organized integrated sports competitions at the national and inter-scholastic levels.6

From its early days, patriotism was a core value for the Association. In the late 1920s, the Grand Street Boys formed American Legion Post No. 1025. On Columbus Day, Post 1025 held an annual march from the clubhouse in Midtown to nearby Columbus Circle. In 1954, on Veteran's Day, the Grand Street Boys' Post 1025 dedicated a plaque to war veterans. The plaque is located in Sherman Square, located on Broadway in the Upper West Side. 7 As part of its Hobbycraft Program, the Grand Street Boys donated books, maps, and other items to veteran's homes and medical centers throughout the United States.8

During World War Two, the Grand Street Boys and Sir Louis Sterling (a lifetime Grand Street Boys member), opened a recuperation center, the London House, for displaced mothers and children in Britain. Louis Saul Sterling (1879-1958) was an industrialist and philanthropist from the Lower East Side who immigrated to England in the early 1900s, where he became a leading figure in the record industry.9

From the post-war years through the 1960s, the Grand Street Boys entered into a stable period under the leadership of Jonah J. Goldstein. The Association received awards from local organizations and a playground in the Lower East Side was named in honor of Goldstein.10 Following Goldstein's death in 1967, the Grand Street Boys moved to a new clubhouse located at 131-135 West 56th Street. In the late 1970s, they sold that clubhouse and began renting space in the Grand Masonic Lodge of New York building located at 71 West 23rd Street.

In the 1970s, membership began to decline as members with ties to the Lower East Side were aging and dying. The Grand Street Boys expanded its efforts to attract new members and eventually began accepting women. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Hobbycraft Program remained a main focus for the Association. Financially, the assets of the Grand Street Boys' Foundation seemed robust and secure. In the 1990s, assets totaled nearly four million dollars.11In 2011, the Grand Street Boys' Foundation was dissolved and the majority of the remaining assets were dispersed to foundations started by the trustees of the Grand Street Boys' Foundation.12 As of 2015, the Grand Street Boys' Association was still in existence and was posting updates on its Facebook page.

References

  1. Marx, Jeffrey A. "Give Me My Childhood Again: The Grand Street Boys' Association, 1915-1945." American Jewish Archives Journal, vol. 43, no. 2 (1991) : 115-133. Accessed February 26, 2015.
  2. The Story of the Grand Street Boys' Association, undated; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; box 1; folder 13; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Marx, 17.
  5. Constitution and bylaws—Grand Street Boys' Foundation, 1945; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; box 53; folder 11; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.
  6. Marx, 123-124.
  7. "Sherman Square." New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Accessed February 26, 2015. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/sherman-square/history
  8. Acknowledgement and thank you letters for donations, 1980s-1990s; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; box 49-52; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.
  9. Martland, Peter. "Sterling, Sir Louis Saul (1879–1958)." In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP. Accessed February 26, 2015. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/56211
  10. Jonah J. Goldstein Playground—Delancey and Eldridge Streets—Dedication and opening, 1960; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; box 67; folder 5; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.
  11. Investment portfolio—Monthly statements, 1993-1998; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; boxes 61-62; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.
  12. Grand Street Boys' Foundation—Dissolution and distribution of assets, 2011-2014; Grand Street Boys' Association Records; I-312; box 4; folder 14; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Extent

43.5 Linear Feet (64 manuscript boxes, 2 half manuscript boxes, 2 record cartons, 4 oversized boxes, 3 oversized folders, and 2 map folders)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Grand Street Boys' Association began in 1916 as a reunion of men who had grown up on or near Grand Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan and quickly grew into an active club, open to all men (and eventually women) regardless of religion, ethnicity, or social class. The Association promoted welfare projects, acts of fellowship and tolerance, scholarships, youth employment, war efforts, and the elimination of discrimination in sports, among other projects. The collection documents the activities of the Association, as well as the Grand Street Boys' Foundation, its financial arm established in 1945, and its Hobbycraft Program, a charitable program tasked with collecting and redistributing donated items to charitable and nonprofit organizations. Materials include administrative records, financial records, correspondence, minutes, membership records, newsletters, yearbooks, artifacts, and photographs.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three series as follows:
  1. Series I: Grand Street Boys' Association, 1921-2014
  2. Subseries 1: Administration and Subject Files, 1921-2014
  3. Subseries 2: Finances, 1938-2012
  4. Subseries 3: Meeting Minutes and Agendas, 1951-2014
  1. Subseries 4: Membership Records, 1921-2014
  2. Subseries 5: Annual Dinner and Special Brunch, 1960-2007
  3. Subseries 6: Yearbooks, Newsletters, and Printed Matter, 1922-2004
  4. Subseries 7: Hobbycraft Program, 1984-2011
  5. Subseries 8: Artifacts, circa 1935-2014
  6. Series II: Grand Street Boys' Foundation, circa 1921-2007
  7. Subseries 1: Administration and Subject Files, circa 1921-2003
  8. Subseries 2: Finances, 1938-2007
  9. Series III: Photographs, circa 1925-2000
  10. Subseries 1: Subjects, circa 1939-2000
  11. Subseries 2: People, circa 1925-2000

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to AJHS in several accessions. The origin of the original accession is not known. Additional accessions were donated by John Kelly, 2013-2014. Kelly was a member of the Grand Street Boys' Association and also served as president. The oversized group photograph of the Amen Boys (1939) was donated by Adele Anish, the daughter of Grand Street Boys' member, Alfred Unger, in 2014. Another oversized group photo of the Amen Boys (1936) was donated in 2015 by Marge Feinberg and Pat Wilks Battle (accession number 2015.032).

Related Material

The American Jewish Historical Society holds the Jonah J. Goldstein (1886-1967) Papers. Goldstein served as President of the Grand Street Boys' Association from 1935 until his death in 1967.

Separated Material

Approximately three linear feet of duplicate and out-of-scope material was deaccessioned. The photographs have been moved to the AJHS General Photographs Collection. Oversized materials are housed separately from the main collection due to their size. Two yearbooks (1941 and 1943) were discarded due to mold damage (see "Processing Information"). Four 3.5 inch floppy disks have been temporarily removed to undergo processing.

Processing Information

Materials were refoldered and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes. Rusty paper clips were removed and replaced when needed. Approximately 3.5 linear feet of previously processed material was intellectually integrated into the three series of the new arrangement, though the box and folder numbers were retained. Two boxes of yearbooks were sent for conservation treatment for mold to the Center for Jewish History's Werner J. and Gisella Levi Cahnman Preservation Laboratory. Treatment of one box of yearbooks was completed in July 2015 (issues 1925, 1928, 1936, 1939, 1947, and 1965). Treatment of the second box of yearbooks (issues 1931, 1937, 1938, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1966, and 1997) was completed in January 2016. The yearbook for the year 1943 was too damaged by mold and was discarded. Conservation treatment of a membership certificate dating from 1929 was completed in April 2015. One oversized photograph showing the Amen Boys in Atlantic City in 1936 underwent preservation treatment in 2017.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Grand Street Boys' Association, 1921-2014 (bulk 1940-2000) I-312
Status
Completed
Author
Original accession of roughly 3.5 linear feet was processed by AJHS staff. Additional processing by Patricia Glowinski.
Date
© 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Edition statement
This version was derived from GrandStreetBoys.xml

Revision Statements

  • May 2005.: Finding aid was updated and reconverted in order to match other online finding aids by Dianne Ritchey Oummia.
  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.
  • March 2015.: Finding aid was revised by Patricia Glowinski in order to incorporate additional boxes of records and the revised finding aid was then encoded in EAD 2002.
  • March 2021: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States