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The social clubs in Elbląg

Various clubs and associations active in Elbląg enlivened the social and cultural life of the town. The association movement had been developing in Elbląg since the eighteenth century. This phenomenon was a characteristic feature of civic emancipation in the German-speaking countries. The atmosphere of the Enlightenment encouraged the establishment of reading clubs and educational societies, including the Societas Litteraria, founded by the rector of the Gymnasium of Elbląg, Georg Seyler, in the days when Elbląg was still the city of the Polish Commonwealth. The beginning of the nineteenth century is witness to the development of the singing movement: at that time many male singing societies were founded. Some of them, for example the Liedertafel and the Liederhain, survived until the Second World War. On the wave of liberal currents of the Vormärz and the Spring of Nations, several political associations were founded, first of all the Elbinger Buergerverein. There were also many philanthropic associations of various kinds, for example, already in the nineteenth century there were some devoted to bird and animal protection (Vogel- und Tierschutzverein). A particularly important role was played by the Fine Arts Society, founded in 1858. Its mission was to hold a major art exhibition in the city at least every two years, but in the intervening period members could enjoy art reproductions distributed by the society. In 1873, the Elbląg Antiquities Society was founded in order to collect the traces of the past, especially the archeological artifacts and products of local craftsmanship that were in danger of being destroyed, lost or sold to foreign collectors.
Illustrations (from left):
1. The cover of the songbook of the Elbląg Society of Doctors. Lieder des Elbinger arztlichen Vereins, Elbing 1898.
2. An illustration from the songbook published for the Elbląg rowing club Vorwärts. Liederbuch des Ruderers, Elbing 1908.
3. A title page of a commemorative print for the 50 years jubilee of the Elbląg Gymnastic Society (Festordnung für das 50-jähr. Stiftungsfest des Elbinger Turn-Vereins, Elbing 1909).