The Economy Club of Cambridge was a social, debating, and diner club founded in 1872. Its membership was long restricted to men who lived in Cambridge and its original purpose as a “non-sectarian and non-political” group was the study and discussion of economic, social, political, and historical questions.
On November 6, 1872, Clarence H. Blake, William Pearson, Clair Whittemore, and George Whittemore formed a secret society called the Four Socials for the purpose of “social intercourse and also to improve in Literature.” Four Socials was limited to the four originating members who met in each other’s homes. The following year, two additional members were invited to join and the name of the secret society was changed to the Mutual League of Friendship. The fortnight dinner meetings were dedicated to reciting literature, singing, and listening to music. In the fall of 1876, the club held its first “Ladies’ Night”, and in 1878, the club adopted the motto, “Commune Bonum,” meaning the common good.
The club remained a secret society until 1879, when the Mutual League of Friendship became a debating society and meetings took place in halls like the Prospect House or the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall rather than in member’s homes.
In 1885, the society adopted a new name, the Economy Club of Cambridge. The 75th Anniversary Program of the Economy Club of Cambridge (1947) defines the meaning of the club’s new name as: “the word ’economy’ being understood as it is used today in schools which teach Economics.”
Debating became the foundation for the meetings and topics ranged from the local (such as the abolition of Cambridge’s Common Council) to the international (such as the Panama Canal). The club held joint debates with similar, local societies such as the Cambridge Prohibition Club, the Young Men’s Republican Club of Somerville, and the Harvard Democratic Club. Guest speakers delivered lectures and scientists gave demonstrations. In 1911, the Economy Club of Cambridge openly supported the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) move from Boston to Cambridge.
Membership has included state and city officials, judges, academics, business people, and professionals. By 2009, the once large membership (over 100) membership had dwindled dramatically to 15 active members. The club continued to meet six times each year at the MIT Faculty Club for drinks, dinner, and the presentation of a guest speaker.