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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Chauncey Depew Club records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1913-2000
Creator: Chauncey Depew Club (Des Moines, Iowa)
Extent: 3.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0725
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Des Moines women's club formed in 1897 to promote efficiency in extemporaneous speaking.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The records (donor no. 1175) were donated by Lorna Truck on behalf of the club in 2008.

Preferred Citation: Chauncey Depew Club records, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason

On November 17, 1897, the Chauncey Depew Club held its inaugural meeting under the leadership of Mrs. Fletcher Howard in Des Moines, Iowa. Named after Chauncey M. Depew, the famed "Prince of After Dinner Speakers," a former U.S. Senator from New York, and attorney for the Harlem and New York railroad, the women who formed the Chauncey Depew Club aimed to "promote efficiency in extemporaneous speaking."

At each monthly meeting, one member was responsible for chairing the meeting and another member was responsible for hosting a luncheon. The chair selected topics and called upon members to respond. Members who could not speak were forced to stand for three minutes; this policy was later changed. Membership in the Club was initially limited to fifteen; this was later changed to thirty. Several members belonged to other women's clubs, including the Daughters of the American Revolution and the League of Women Voters.

In his autobiography, published in 1922, Depew wrote affectionately about the members of the Depew Club, with whom he corresponded regularly but never met personally. "Twenty-four years ago a company of public-spirited women in the city of Des Moines ...organized a club. For nearly a quarter of a century it has been an important factor in the civic life of Des Moines. It has with courage, intelligence, and independence done excellent work. At the time of its organization there were few if any such organizations in the country, and it may claim the position of pioneer in women's activity in public affairs." In 1923, the Club celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Chauncey Depew was unable to join club members for the celebration, but he hosted a dinner for the club women and their spouses, and insisted that the attendees receive "the very best that could be served in Des Moines."

During World War I, members of the Chauncey Depew Club volunteered with the American Red Cross. Each year, the club sponsored public celebrations of art and music. Beginning in the 1940s, the Club adopted the slogan "Progressive thinking and lasting friendships." The Club had annual speaking themes, which included world peace, women in a changing world, immigration, the League of Nations, "Hawaii calls," and "African safari.

The Scrapbook (1923-1962) includes correspondence, photographs and obituaries of club members, newspaper clippings, and annual programs.  The Club records (1923-2000) includes correspondence to and from Chauncey Depew, a biographical essay of Depew, a history of the Club, photographs of members, and newspaper clippings.

Browse by Series:

  • Box 1:
  • Scrapbook [including photographs] - 1913-1962
  • Club records [includes photographs] - 1923-2000
  • [i]My Memories of Eighty Years[/i] by Chauncey M. Depew [shelved in IWA printed works] - 1922

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Corporate Names:
Chauncey Depew Club (Des Moines, Iowa)

20th century

Public speaking
Women in public life

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Des Moines

Genre/Form of Materials:
Administrative records