MCMSPhysicianSpring2017 - 16

mon t m e d s o c .c om

A Century-Old Medical Club
Still Offers Social Respite
for Physicians


he concept of the
Medical Club
of Philadelphia
originated when Dr. John
H.W. Chestnut was speaking
to a group of physicians
assembled in the Upper Hall
of the College of Physicians
in Philadelphia on May 2,
1892. He stated, "there is
no man who has clear need
for occasional relaxation,
for a keener knowledge of
the social enjoyments of life
than the active practitioner." He went on to state that "while
there are numerous societies in the profession for scientific
purpose, there was no large professional organization for
purely social purposes; and it is in my opinion that the time
is right for the formation of such as society."
Thus, the Medical Club of Philadelphia was formed.
Club Attracts Well-Known Speakers
Initially, a number of the meetings focused on
qualifications for membership (initially no homeopaths
or osteopaths) and a location to meet (never established
over the next 100+ years). Nonetheless, the membership
crew drew a total of 460 by 1902 while the Philadelphia
County Medical Society had 550 members. It continued
to grow to 644 by 1904. Regular meetings, generally three
to four per year, were held at places like the Bellevue
Hotel, Union League, Philadelphia College of Physicians
and the University Club. These were closed meetings, but
they developed a process of having honored guests for the
dinner which generally cost from $1.50 to $2.50. The guests
included President William Howard Taft in 1911, multiple
AMA presidents, surgeon generals, government officials
and physicians William Ostler and Weir Mitchell. By
1911, there were 1,010 members. Homeopaths were finally
admitted in 1918 and membership peaked at 1,393 by 1924,
but dropped to 767 during the war years in 1942.

The Medical Club began a tradition of an annual ladies'
night at the Union League in 1954 and finally took in
the first woman member in 1972 and the first osteopathic
physician in 1978.
Membership Declined Over the Years
The Medical Club celebrated its centennial in 1992 at
the Union League. Mary Schnabel presented a wonderful
history of medicine in Philadelphia. The collation dinner/
woman's night was discontinued in 1992 since some
members did not like the snapper stew. Progressively, the
membership dropped to 400 by 1992 and it has continued
to drop.
Although membership has declined, the club has
financial resources through its Permanent Fund, funds
that grew to about $300,000 and are used to subsidize
the wonderful social events which are generally held three
to four times per year. In 1984, the Club started visiting
nearby attractions like Longwood Gardens. The tradition of
honorary members ended in 1989.
In 2016, club members visited Fort Mifflin Park in
South Philadelphia and enjoyed a brunch at Mama Maria's
Restaurant, held a brunch at Gracie's 21st Century Café in
August, followed by a tour of Greg Leavitt Studios where
we saw wonderful steel fabrications, and finally a tour of
the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, followed by
lunch at Rats Restaurant in September.
The most recent social event was held Dec. 11, when a
group gathered at Winterthur Museum followed by brunch
at Buckley's Tavern and then a tour of Longwood Gardens.
Thankfully, the event was subsidized by the Permanent
Fund and only cost $40 per person.
In keeping with the times when physicians tend to join
fewer clubs and organizations, the membership of the
Medical Club of Philadelphia has dropped to about 100
Any physicians interested in joining this wonderful
social club, please contact the club's President, Michael
DellaVecchia MD, by e-mail at

M C M S P H Y S I C I A N 16 S P R I N G 2 0 1 7

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