It is always enjoyable to poke about amongst the historical records of any location and New Hartford is no exception. Alongside the familiar, immediately recognized events and organizations are the little remembered ones, that nonetheless were important to someone at some time. One of the more superficially opaque folders is labelled: ‘500 Club’. What exactly this organization was, however, can be answered quite quickly, thanks to a combination of the folder’s contents and the internet. Between 1910 and 1930, the 500 club flourished. Composed entirely of women from New Hartford and the surrounding area, this was a social group whose ostensible occupation was the playing of the card game, 500. This game, not dissimilar to Bridge, was very popular during this period. It had been developed in the United States shortly before 1900, predating both main styles of Bridge by almost two decades. Card games were incredibly popular in the early twentieth century; games such as Euchre, Bridge, and 500 also involved a team or partner element, making them ideally suited for social gathering as well as competitive play. Though various versions of Bridge have surpassed 500 in the United States, it remains popular in Australia, New Zealand, and Quebec.
A multi-page verse compilation, on the 20th anniversary of the club in 1930, demonstrates, however, that the club’s activities went far beyond simply playing cards. The group routinely went on trips throughout southern New England (including a very early automobile trip), was an important social activity for many of the women, and was a potentially major source of fundraising: during World War I, they were able to raise well over one hundred dollars for the Home Guard, an amount that is quite impressive, considering that the average yearly salary in the U.S. was around eight hundred dollars. For more on the Home Guard see: https://newhartfordcthistory.org/2012/08/22/april-13-1917/
The group was never very large, perhaps two dozen at its greatest extent. The Historical Society’s record of it ends with its 1930 publication, but it may well have quietly continued on for quite some time. (we would, naturally, love to learn more, so if you know of anything contact us!) It is an excellent example of one of the many social organizations that have flourished in the town, with their combination of socializing, recreation, and civic involvement.