From a membership drive leaflet, 1915:
"Der Schwaben Verein ist ein Wohltätigkeits- und Geselligkeitsverein und wurde von Württembergem im Jahre 1878 gegründet". - Chicago, Dezember 1915
"The Schwaben Verein is a charitable and social club and was founded by people from Württemberg in 1878". - Chicago, December 1915
1881 and before: Little was known about the circumstances of the founding of the Verein (club or society). The first Annual Report (Jahresbericht) available in the archives is actually the 4th Annual Report (Vierter Jahresbericht). It lists a membership of 157 and an astounding $1,636.92 in liquid assets (a lot of money in those days), indicating the club flourished quickly and did financially very well. This Fourth Annual Report, dated 15 December 1891, names the following members of the board:
Franz Demmler, Sekretär
Ed. Maucher, Finanz-Sekretär
P. Almendinger, Schatzmeister;
Fr. Horn, Finanz-Komitee
W. Elser, Finanz-Komitee
H. Klare, Finanz-Komitee
J. Schlenker, Kollektor
A. Metzger, Inventar-Verwalter
E. Hummel, C. Klett, C. F. Heiß, Jul. Wolf,
Felix Kimmich, E. Raff, C. Frick. It seems safe to assume that these board members were also instrumental in the founding of the Verein.
In 1928, the Schwaben Verein obviously would have celebrated its 50th anniversary, and there is a festival brochure, talking, among other things, about "The year of the founding."
We quote, translated from German: "When, on the following pages we attempt on the basis of previous Annual Reports, to paint a picture of the development of the Schwaben Verein Chicago, it appears obvious to give a voice to the man who was part of it from the very beginning. Afterwards, as a kind of correction, we will report what a later reporter had to say about the same period.
The first secretary, Franz Demmler, said the following: Just as the exact date of birth of Schiller is not determined beyond all doubts, different dates can be claimed for the founding of the Schwaben-Verein. It is, however, a fact that the Schwaben Verein was founded on May 7, 1878 in Klare's Halle, then 70 North Clark Street, after various meetings that have been held towards the foundation of the club and after even temporary officers had been chosen for the club. The following officers were elected for one year, President: Ernst Hummel, Vice President: Gottlieb Federer, Secretary: Franz Demmler, Treasurer; Louis Glunz, Financial Secretary: Adolph Hartmann.
To this report by Franz Demmler, we would like, also verbatim, to add the report of historian Karl Harting, which reads as follows:
The cradle of the club stood in the North Eastern comer of State and Adams Street, where it was founded in the pub of Karl Taxis from Esslingen on March 31, 1887. An invitation was published in the Illinois State Newspaper (Illinois Staatszeitung), and 23 people appeared, and approached the matter with much joy and enthusiasm.
The assembly restricted itself to establishing a preliminary organization by electing Gottlieb Federer from Großhepach, District (Oberamt) of Waiblingen, president; and Jakob Gastel from Frommern, District of Balingen, provisional treasurer, while Joseph Schlenker from Schwenningen, District of Rottweil, assumed the duties of secretary until further notice. To cover necessary expenses, each member paid a preliminary fee of 50 cents. A committee of six members, two for each part of the city, was charged with recruiting members among the countrymen (Landsleute). Two more meetings were held, before the club, by adopting statutes, secured itself a firm structure. The first one took place on Sunday, April 7, 1878 in the pub of preliminary president Federer at 144 W. Randolph Street, the second one took place on the following Sunday, in the pub of member Gustav Hettich from Ludwigsburg, at 159 N. Wells Street. The fourth assembly took place on April 23 at Klare's Halle, 70 N. Clark Street, then in the center of the German club life, which would become the permanent club address, and accepted the statutes that had been developed by a committee which had previously been established for this purpose. On May 7, when membership had already grown to 164, the Schwaben-Verein conducted its first regular election of officers.
From the early days, the organization of the "Cannstatter Volksfest" in Chicago, attempted replicating Germany's now second largest Harvest and Beer Fest in Stuttgart. It was a central mission for the club, as well as a major source of income. The Volksfest, later also called "Schwaben-Picnic", was described with great satisfaction by the board, even though complaints were made that Chicago, calling itself the "City of Gardens", was unable to provide a facility large and adequate enough for such a big event within its city limits.
This early report also indicates that the Verein was involved in Fastnacht (Swabian version of Mardi Gras) activities, as well as offering social functions like Kaffee-Kränzchen (Coffee Socials) or Christmas Parties. The report indicates that the club's home in those early days remained at "70 Nord-Clark-Straße", i.e. 70 N. Clark in Chicago.
Let's jump ahead to the 32nd Annual Re-port of 1910. The club now claims about 1100 members and assets in the amount of $16,820.22. The "Schiller-Feier" has been introduced, a commemorative celebration of the Swabian Poet Prince Friedrich von Schiller at the Schiller Memorial in Lincoln Park, which was to become an annual staple of the Verein's activities in November for years to come. The "Schiller-Feier" is still celebrated today at the Schwaben Center.
The years of World War II were difficult years for German-Americans, and naturally, a look at the Annual Report of 1944 (the 66th) should reveal how the Swabians were doing then. Well, the Verein report remains positive, 28 members died, 46 new members joined, and " . . . we come to the conclusion, that considering the times, we are doing relatively well. . ." The club now talks about an "honorable list of sons and daughters of members in the United States Army", a far cry from the times of World War I, when the club raised funds to send Christmas presents to Swabian soldiers in the German Army. Naturally, the sons and daughters of members in the US Army in World War II received Christmas presents from the Verein. The Verein claims 1074 members and financial assets of $2,979.69. All traditional events, even amazingly the Cannstatter Volksfest, have been successfully held, and the Verein has spent $2,535.00 on charitable donation including, as always, the Uhlich Orphan Home and needy members. Long time member Emil Bahnmaier was president at the time and Secretary George J. Iberle has been running the day-to-day business of the Verein for years, and did so for many years to come.
German and Swabian immigration to the U.S. stopped almost completely in the 1960's. . . the members of the Verein are growing older, so what would all this mean for the future of the Schwaben-Verein? Let's look at 1984, the 106th Annual Report: Gerhard Jung is President; Frank Wimmer, Vice President; Walter Sanders, Secretary; Frank Zettl, 2nd Vice President; Ludwig Regensburger, Schatzmeister; Jürgen Kaufmann, Archivar; Erich Alex, Kollektor; Joseph Somogyi, Finanzsekretär; Jürgen Trodler, Finanzkomittee; Anton Schwob, Finanzkomittee, Gerhard Liepelt, Finanzkomitee; and Gerhard Weiler, Frank Winter, Werner Rapp, Anton Wimmer, Eugene Erbach, Peter Steffek, and Bert Regensburger are board members. Honorary President Richard Scheerle and Honorary Secretary George J. Iberle died the past year, but the events of the Verein are reported to have been great successes. The Verein has moved to a wonderful new location, the Club House in the Schwaben Center at 301 N. Weiland Road in Buffalo Grove, surrounded by many acres of lush, green land. Soccer and the Schwaben A.C. are becoming an important part of the immediate Schwaben environment. All traditional events we reported to having been successful. Membership is around 700, the account shows $1,018.58.
Up until 1991, only men could become members of the Schwaben-Verein. Their wives and daughters were welcome to help during events. In 1991, the board decided that women are eligible to become members.
The official language of all board and membership meetings is now English. The change had been decided after it became obvious that important functions could not be covered by officers who speak German only.
And now, 2003 and onwards….? Our slate of officers is as follows: George Boehm has been president since 1994; Frank Wimmer, Helga and Frank Zettl, Delores "Del" Hackl, Siegfried Endlichhofer, Erich Christ, Horst Langer, John Marienthal, Joseph Arnold, Horst Stabenow, Karl Ritz, Otto Weber, Ignaz Wohszab and Uli Senz serve on board in their various functions. Our membership is somewhat under 400, and our active account is in the amount of approximately $2,500.00; that is, however, after we have made our usual and customary charitable donations, as well as special donations to the St. Alphonsus Church Rebuilding Project and to the Schwaben AC Soccer Club, which has assumed an increasingly important role in conducting the Volksfest.
The Schwaben Verein Chicago, a story of charity, friendship, camaraderie, mutual support, and pride of heritage, through thick and thin, for the past 125 years, for now, and for tomorrow!