Chicago Tribune: Remembering the Standard Club, which lived large, then passed quietly

“While Chicago was on COVID-19 lockdown, the Standard Club folded without the sendoff due a bastion of high society. There was neither a black-tie banquet nor a final masked ball at the exclusive 151-year-old club. A band didn’t play ‘Auld Lang Syne’ on May 1, 2020.

“Yet chapters in Chicago history were written in its 10-story quarters at 320 S. Plymouth Court. It hosted a 54th birthday party for Albert Einstein and kept the University of Chicago from being stillborn.

“At the age of 80, Jack Arvey explained the evolution of the Standard Club’s mores to another Tribune reporter. Arvey was the co-founder of the fabled Chicago machine, and the two were seated in the dining room of a club once off-limits to Polish Jews, like himself. ‘It used to be that if you weren’t a German Jew — if you were an Eastern European Jew — you couldn’t get into the Standard Club,” he said. ‘Even if you had $10 million, you couldn’t.’
“Chicago had two Jewish communities whose origins differed as day does from night. Polish Jews were sweatshop workers. Standard Club members were captains of industry, like Julius Rosenwald of Sears Roebuck & Co. and Joseph Schaffner of Hart, Schaffner and Marx, the clothing manufacturers.

“…the University of Chicago. Its founder, John D. Rockefeller, insisted that supplementary funds be raised locally. The deadline was about to expire when an urgent meeting was called at the Standard Club.
“‘When hope was almost abandoned, Jews of Chicago made possible the success of the project,’ President William Rainey Harper told the university’s senior class in 1904. ‘Members of the Standard Club, composed of prominent Jews, came to our aid with a contribution of $50,000.’

“One episode in the club’s long run shouldn’t be forgotten.

“On Dec. 7, 1921, Jacob Loeb, its president, sponsored a fundraiser for the destitute Jews of European villages pillaged during World War I. As guests arrived, they found elegant place settings awaiting them. After a fine dinner, there’d be a call for pledges of financial support. Instead, waiters moved through the ballroom, collecting the plates and silverware. Loeb explained what was going on.

“‘For so many to dine in this place would be an expenditure of thirty-five hundred dollars, which would be an unwanted extravagance, and in the face of starving Europe, a wasteful crime,’ Loeb said. ‘So that this money might be saved for them, you are brought here for this foodless banquet.’

In honor of those who went home hungry that others might eat, indulge me in saying a prayer that my grandparents said upon hearing of a death: ‘May the Standard Club’s memory be for a blessing.'” (Grossman, Chicago Tribune, 10/14/21)
Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune

Remembering the Standard Club, which lived large, then passed quietly, Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune, 10/14/21


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