Guide to the Research Collections




Approximately 20,000 volumes in the Research Libraries relate to this topic. Most of the general materials are assigned the subject heading "Societies" in the Public Catalog with numerous additional references to names of particular social and political clubs, fraternal orders, secret societies, and the like. The holdings are adequate; the library collects comprehensively only general works, histories, bibliographies, directories and materials on New York City clubs.

City, country, and other social clubs are represented in the holdings, together with religious auxiliaries which have secular purposes, and other types including such organizations as German-American clubs. Fraternal orders receive adequate coverage with particular attention paid to the Freemasons and Odd Fellows. The holdings of material on American collegiate Greek letter societies are discussed in chapter 42 of this

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 Guide. The American History Division has a collection of books and pamphlets on the Ku Klux Klan; there are also works on secret societies and cults in the Near East, India, and the Far East in the Oriental Division.


Of all the collections classed under societies, the most extensive group (some 5,000 titles) relates to Freemasons and Freemasonry. This is a nonacademic subject and therefore might not be collected by college or university libraries. For this reason, and because Freemasons have been important in the history of the United States, Great Britain, and Western Europe, the library once collected extensively in this subject field. With the development of libraries specializing in Masonic materials, however, the New York Public Library no longer undertakes to acquire items that might be duplicated in nearby libraries. The Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of New York, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan, permits the general public to use its facilities upon request.

In addition to general works, histories and bibliographies, the holdings of the Research Libraries are composed, for the most part, of the proceedings and transactions of the grand lodges of most of the states in the United States, some of the provinces of Canada and the states of Australia, and other countries of the world including Costa Rica, Cuba, Germany, and Great Britain. Files extend from the early nineteenth century, although in some cases they are far from complete. The publications of local lodges or chapters are not usually collected, with the exception of such materials as centennial histories. Among the book and pamphlet materials are a number of the earliest imprints of American cities and towns. The Rare Book Division houses a group of eighteenth-century addresses and discourses on Freemasonry with some anti-Masonic tracts. The Williamson Masonic collection on black Freemasons in the Schomburg Center includes about 270 titles, both monographs and serials, covering both the York and Scottish rites. Cards for this collection are filed in the Public Catalog.