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July 28, 2015

The Shakespeare Club

The Shakespeare Club

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

club 1Noblesville’s Shakespeare in the Park is in the midst of doing its 22nd production and it’s interesting to look at Noblesville’s long history of appreciation of the Bard.  One of the best examples is the Shakespeare Club.

The Shakespeare Club was formed February 5, 1890 and, in the beginning, met two or three times a month.  They had a picnic once a year in June, often held at Ben Hur Park near the Eller bridge – today 116th St. bridge.  At that time, this was all part of Delaware Township.  The club members main activity was to present papers at the meetings, not necessarily on Shakespearean themes.  An 1891 program stated “Each member is requested to treat the topic assigned for three or four minutes, either by impromptu talk or manuscript”.

The April 10, 1891, Ledger newspaper reported that the talks for one meeting were:

All Fool’s Day … Harry Alexander

Our Club … Cora Clark

Professional Men of the Club … Miss Harris

Music … Meade Vestal

All’s Well That Ends Well … Lizzie Gerwig

The effect that the electric light will have on the Club … Miss Boyd

The Ladies of the Club … Mr. Haines

The club later became more focused on Shakespeare.  For example, the program for the October 3,1894 meeting was:

“Much Ado About Nothing”

Benedict and Claudio … Mrs. W. E. Longley

Leonato … Mr. T. P. Davis

Hero and Beatrice … Mrs. Meade Vestal

Don Pedro … Mr. J. F. Haines

Sicily … Mr. W. E. Longley

Current events … Mr. H. J. Alexander

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Other programs that season included plays such as Julius Caesar, and other topics such as The Age of Shakespeare, James Whitcomb Riley, The Shakespearean Dramatists, and an open meeting.  The club was involved in other community activities as well.  In 1911, they added their voices in support of the construction of a Carnegie Library building which was the beginnings of the Hamilton East Public Library and later became City Hall.

They printed an attractive program each year, listing their scheduled meetings and topics. The 1917-1918 program was a patriotic design and well made.  However, after the US entered WWI, the 1918-1919 program was hand typed on cheap paper.  The group kept meeting through the war, just as they would meet through WWII.  The programs then were also hand typed on cheap paper.

The last available program is for the 1946-1947 schedule.  It doesn’t give any topics, but it shows that they were meeting once or twice a month October through June.  The Club finally ended sometime in the 1960’s.  The programs have been preserved at the Noblesville Library.