To increase interest in Switzerland, its rich culture and heritage, and achievements of Swiss immigrants in the United States.
The Swiss Society is primarily active in Manhattan and the New York Tri-State area. It is run by the efforts of a volunteer Board of Directors and Officers.
On October 17th, 1882, a number of Swiss got together and founded the “New York Swiss Club”. The founding fathers were Robert Stricker, who became the Club’s first president, René Geelhaar, August Schildknecht, Emile Rieber, Henri Kaempf, and Albert Schweizer among others. The members of the Club were a fun crowd who cherished sociability and patriotism and held weekly meetings in the basement of 34 East 4th Street. Under the presidency of Robert Stricker a songbook was published that ...
On October 17th, 1882, a number of Swiss got together and founded the “New York Swiss Club”. The founding fathers were Robert Stricker, who became the Club’s first president, René Geelhaar, August Schildknecht, Emile Rieber, Henri Kaempf, and Albert Schweizer among others. The members of the Club were a fun crowd who cherished sociability and patriotism and held weekly meetings in the basement of 34 East 4th Street. Under the presidency of Robert Stricker a songbook was published that was used at every meeting and the constitution and by-laws of the Club were written.
The membership of the New York Swiss Club grew rapidly and the Club moved many times to larger and larger quarters. The Club served also as a meeting place for its members during any time of the day and held interesting lectures and talks. In 1887, under the presidency of Dr. Ernest Tiegel, the Club had over 150 members and became the center of the Swiss colony of New York. The year 1888 was very important for the Swiss Club of New York. It was in this year that the Club held its first banquet. This event was a great success for the Club and subsequently became the Club’s most important annual function.
In the beginning, the annual banquet was only open to men. The Club also widened its scope of activities by organizing family entertainments, festivities of various nature, and excursions on land and sea.
Under the presidency of Rev. P. Kruesi the first annual report was printed in 1888. It listed the following organizational staff:
• Board of 8 Officers
• Governing Committee of 16
• House Committee of 5
• Auditing Committee of 3
with a total membership of 172, consisting of 1 Honorary Member, Col. Emil Frey of Basel, Swiss Minister in Washington, 159 residents and 14 non-resident members, among them Mr. Charles Abbegg
in Haiti and Mr. E. P. Munch in the Republic of Honduras. Pastor Kruesi, the only clergyman who presided over the Swiss Club, came from Gais in Canton Appenzell and was a highly intelligent and powerful speaker with a manly and honorable character. He died in 1893 and a tablet in his memory is in the Seventh Presbyterian Church in New York City. The annual report of the year 1888 called the Swiss Club for the first time a “Society” with the following purposes according to its constitution:
1. To unite the Swiss and Swiss-American of a liberal education in the City of New York and vicinity and to provide and maintain suitable accommodations for the purpose.
2. To make a collection of the best works of Swiss and American literature, and keep on file a selection of commercial, professional, political and illustrated papers.
3. To provide lectures and readings on scientific, technical and other subjects, and more especially on matters of interest to our countrymen. Also, to promote friendly intercourse by musical and social entertainments.
4. To offer a place of rendez-vous for Swiss and Swiss-American visiting this city, and a resort where newcomers can enter a congenial circle of their own countrymen and receive valuable and trustworthy information.
The initiation fee for all new candidates was Two Dollars, the annual dues for resident members were Six Dollars, and for non-resident Members Two Dollars, payable in advance. On December 7th, 1907, the Swiss Club of New York celebrated its silver anniversary with the annual Banquet held at the Hotel Astor. It asked its members to solicit friends of Swiss nationality, parentage, and sympathizers to attend the Banquet and resound the glory of the Club and honor the old country which they all loved. Not withstanding the special efforts being made to celebrate this special occasion, the Club decided to let the price of the ticket remain at Six Dollars.
During the next 25 years, the Swiss Club of New York was exposed to many influences, cross-currents, changes of times and customs, and transformation in the social life of the Swiss colony in New York. Innumerable are the occasions at meetings, in lectures, at banquets when the ever-present question was discussed how can we broaden and expand and develop our activities. American political, social, commercial, economic and educational experiences have quickened Swiss life in New York, and so have quite as frequently Swiss experiences quickened American developments. This reciprocal influence has continued through the ages for the betterment of both, the little republic we come from and her mighty sister, the big republic we live in.
In 1881, the year before the New York Swiss Club was founded, the Consulate General of Switzerland in Washington was changed into a legation, and Col. Emil Frey was appointed First Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Switzerland to the United States. When Col. Frey accepted the Swiss Club’s invitation to its first annual Banquet, a precedent was set that has been followed without interruption down to this time. The Banquet became the official welcome and reception of the Minister in the Swiss colony of New York. It became also a custom of the Swiss Club to render a farewell dinner to a departing Minister. Reception and farewell dinner remain a custom of the Swiss Club and, following the establishment of a New York Consulate General of Switzerland office in New York, are given to the Minister of this office.
In 1920, the President of the Swiss Club, Mr. Robert J. F. Schwarzenbach, submitted the daring proposal that ladies be henceforth invited to the annual Banquet. Although a heated discussion took place, the president Schwarzenbach’s suggestion was approved. From then on the first annual Banquet was called “Banquet and Ball” and much later simply “The Swiss Ball”. Besides the Swiss Society there existed a number of other Swiss clubs or organizations in New York. Notable is the Swiss Scientific Society of New York which evolved from the “Freie Vereinigung Ehemaliger Schüler der Schweizerischen Technika”, an organization that catered to men with technical or otherwise academic education. Later, they abandoned the technical and academic requirement for membership and opened the Club to both men and women. On March 20th, 1930, the Swiss Scientific Society of New York decided to amalgamate with the Swiss Club of New York to become the SWISS SOCIETY OF NEW YORK. The mediator for this amalgamation was Dr. Victor Nef, then acting Consul of Switzerland in New York.
In 1933 the Swiss Government elevated the New York Consulate to a Consulate General of Switzerland in New York. On April 3rd of that year, the Swiss Society of New York offered a luncheon in honor of the first Consul General, Dr. Victor Nef, at the Hotel McAlpin. Dr. Nef served the Swiss colony of New York for over twenty years. Frequently, he was instrumental in helping the Swiss Society organize numerous receptions, luncheons, and dinners, lectures and events, inviting and presenting innumerable world-renowned personalities.
On December 3rd, 1932, The Swiss Society of New York, under the Presidency of Mr. Roland A. Gsell, celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary, with a Golden Jubilee Banquet and Ball, at the Hotel Astoria. The event was magnificent. Today, the Swiss Ball is held under the patronage of the Ambassador of the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.
1951 saw the inauguration of the famous “Déjeuners Suisses” at the Vanderbilt Hotel. These monthly Luncheon Meetings were a brain child of the Vice-President Mr. John Born under the Presidency of his friend, Dr. Henry Ruegg. These monthly luncheons offered by the Swiss Society in the interest of the entire New York Swiss business community became an immediate and continued success. It introduced important personalities in the fields of government, art, sciences, industry and business at the luncheons.
At the 1953 Annual Meeting, the Constitution of the Swiss Society of New York was amended by supplementing the traditional Executive Board by a new Advisory Council consisting of past Presidents and other leading personalities among the Society’s members. This new body of officers provide the Swiss Society additional strength and prestige.
On January 6th, 1957, the Swiss Society of New York celebrated its 75th Anniversary at the Hotel Plaza under the President of Mr. John F. Born. In the second half of the 20 the century, the Swiss Society continued to thrive and offered a platform for meeting Swiss, Swiss-Americans, and friends of Switzerland in the New York Tri-State Area.
In 2006, under the leadership of Dr. Daniel A. Wuersch, the Swiss Society has qualified for the status of a501(C)(3) non-profit organization. With a clear mission, the Swiss Society re-established its cause as a charitable organization and is fully run by volunteers.
President Beat Reinhart implemented the Swiss Society Fellowship Prize & Program in 2008. The annual Swiss Society Fellowship Prize is a financial grant in honor of the theme of each year’s Swiss Ball or Guest of Honor. Through the Prize, the Swiss Society supports a deserving candidate or organizations in their pursuit of educational excellence, social awareness, and humanity’s general body of knowledge.
From 2012 through 2016, under the leadership of Jeannette Seifert-Wittmer, the Swiss Society of New York blossomed: Through her marketing and fundraising efforts she put the organization on solid financial footing. The Swiss Ball came to new heights, resulting in record attendances. This made it possible to move the 2016 Swiss Ball to a larger venue, the premier event space in Manhattan, Cipriani 42nd Street. In addition, Jeannette Seifert-Wittmer was leading the development of a new website, including various databases. The project was successfully completed in the spring of 2017.
The Swiss Society has grown to its present leading position thanks to all its sponsors and members who have made the achievement possible with their support of the Swiss Society and the unremitting work of the presidents, officers, and volunteers of the Swiss Society of New York.
With the help of our sponsors and members, we organize events celebrating Swiss culture and promote the friendship and exchange of ideas among Swiss citizens and friends of Switzerland.