Clubs & Organizations
Like most communities, Naperville has a very active culture of clubs and organizations. Some groups were formed for social purposes, while others were established as charities to aid citizens. The Naperville Lyceum, a men-only debating club, met as early as 1836 - just five years after Naperville was settled by Joseph Naper. As the young village grew into a thriving, cosmopolitan community, so did the number and size of its clubs and organizations. Clubs met and organized to discuss topics like religion, food / dining, social work, gardening and literature. While most clubs were social gatherings, some helped raise money and services for the community. Clubs and organizations play a vital role in the heart of a community like Naperville.
Knife and Fork Club
In a letter-to-the-editor published in the Naperville Clarion, July 30, 1925, August Schwein wrote, "When we speak of going to Naperville, we speak of going Home and I dare say many former citizens of Naperville feel the same way." Mr. Schwein was reacting to an article he'd read in the Clarion a few weeks previous. The article was titled, "Shall We Continue As Naperville?" According to the news item, the Knife and Fork Club of Naperville had a discussion at their July 14 meeting regarding changing the name of Naperville. Why change a town name and what was the Knife and Fork Club?
At the invitation of the president of the Naperville Association of Commerce, the Knife and Fork Club of Naperville was founded at 1 p.m. on May 13, 1925, in Wilson's Café. The Association, composed primarily of businessmen, were desirous of an organization that would not only promote civic improvements, but would also have a social component, such as the Lions, Rotary or Kiwanis clubs. The first meeting took place May 20 and a constitution was adopted. The stated purpose of the Knife & Fork Club, "shall be for the promotion of good fellowship among its members; for the discussion of subjects of interest to its members, and for the promotion of worthy projects that are of importance to the welfare of Naperville and community."
In its first two months, the Club discussed and made recommendations to various town officials and organizations including: better train service, DuPage River improvements, problems relating to the City Council, the organization of a park district, the purchase of an electric plant, a new bridge across the DuPage river, the sewer system, retail and customer service tips (including window displays!), school bond issues, development of a forest preserve and much more.
The discussion to change the name of Naperville was presented at the July 14, 1925, meeting. The minutes read, "Mr. T.F. Boecker was given the opportunity of changing the name of the city of Naperville." Although the "reasons" were not recorded, a three-person committee was selected to draft a resolution favoring a name change to "Napier," the original Scottish spelling. After the discussion took "such a serious route," Boecker withdrew the suggestion and tabled it for another meeting.
The editor of the Naperville Clarion reported "arguments for and against" the name change. He stated that some believed the "ville" attached to Naper was an "insufficient name for a growing thriving city." The paper also said that Naperville is probably "the most advertised city of our size in the country," listing Kroehler Manufacturing Co., JL Nichols Publishing Co., National Bag, Naperville Nurseries and other nationally known companies whose names and connections to Naperville reached into millions of homes. The article concluded, "Can the name Naperville be discarded lightly? We think not." There is no indication that the topic ever resurfaced at the Knife & Fork Club of Naperville.
When the Naperville chapter of the Rotary Club was founded in 1931, many members of the Knife and Fork Club attended both meetings, Knife and Fork on Tuesdays and Rotary on Thursdays. During the Second World War the club struggled with membership. Post-war Naperville offered a variety of social organizations to choose from and many of the young men choose to join the new suburban clubs. The Knife and Fork Club, though instrumental in shaping business culture and civic good in Naperville, was disbanded in the mid-1950s by a vote of the membership.
What would a summer in Naperville be without the boom of drums, the oompa-pa-pa of tubas, and the crisp trill of horns drifting through Central Park? For 150 summers, musicians have met, marched and made musical magic in the streets, parks, schools and churches of Napervilleestablishing quite a legacy.
The ability to make music is one of the hallmarks of civilization. Some of the most enduring cultural traditions are passed from generation to generation through music - usually in the form of singing or instrumental composition. Music traditions and instruments were brought from the Old World centuries ago and over the course of time, New World or American traditions were formed. When Joseph Naper and 12 other families left Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1831, they most likely brought with them an instrument or two and their own musical heritage.
Most music in early Naperville was confined to the home, schoolhouse or church. One of the questions debated by the members of the Naperville Lyceum after a special lecture by Mr. Chapman on December 23, 1839, was "Ought the science of Music to be taught in our common schools?" The answer was decided in the negative! Perhaps it was the wave of German immigrants to Naperville in the mid to late 1840s that brought music outdoors and into the streets.
Drums and horn were first used in the battlefield to direct troop movements, and after victorious battles, to march through the streets in jubilation. The tradition of marching bands used in patriotic parades was thus born. The earliest record of a band used for outdoor entertainment in Naperville occurred July 4, 1859. The Naperville Brass Band, led by James Jassoy, had blue uniforms trimmed in white and performed not only in Naperville but also Wheaton and as far as west as Sycamore, Ill. During the Civil War, many members of the band enlisted and served in regimental bands.
After the Civil War, the Naperville Brass Band re-organized as the Naperville Light Guard Band, under the baton of Joseph Bapst and James G. Vallette. Although this band experienced a series of setbacks regarding performance schedules and venues between 1877 and 1897, it provided Naperville with lively performances and beautiful summer music. Its members later merged with the Naperville Lounge Company band, which was composed mostly of employees of the furniture factory. Between 1916 and the state charter that organized the Naperville Municipal Band in 1928, Naperville had at least two different bands and several band leaders simultaneously.
In 1929, Elmer Koerner, a high school mathematics and band instructor, was selected to lead the Municipal Band. Under Koerner's baton (1929 to 1965), Naperville's public band would be forever molded and secured in parades and concerts at Central Park. His successor, and the present-day director, Ron Keller, continues Naperville's grand and glorious tradition of providing summer evening memories and music with his own compositions and band favorites.
In ancient Greece, gymnasiums were centers for not only the strengthening the body, but also the mind. Men and boys would discuss politics, science, religion and philosophy between athletic activities. Aristotle, one of the most famous philosophers of ancient Greece, discussed philosophy and rhetoric at one of Athens' most famous gymnasiums, the Apollo Lyceus. It is from the latter of the two names that debate or rhetoric societies of the mid-19th Century took their name, lyceum.
As the ideals of the new democracy were taking shape in the young American republic, groups of men gathered to discuss and debate the problems of the day in order to form a better society for their families, their community, and their country. Popularized by the Yale-educated Josiah Holbrook around 1832, the lyceum movement spread with town builders moving west across America.
In 1836, just five short years after Joseph Naper and nearly 60 hardy New Englanders set about building a town on the banks of the DuPage River, 15 men organized a debating society for the "mutual improvement in science, learning and public speaking." This organization met once a week, year-round for seven years excluding the summer months. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, schoolteachers and businessmen met in homes (most often the home of the treasurer), schoolhouses, and even the DuPage County Courthouse, which at the time was located in Naperville's present-day Central Park.
The types of questions and topics debated varied. Science, religion and government were often subjects. One question debated was whether the Sandhill Crane was as worthy a culinary treat as the wild turkey. Slavery, women's place in society and education also were debated vigorously. Women and students were asked to Page from the Proceedings of the Naperville Lyceum record book write essays that would be read during the debates, but women and children were not allowed to participate – despite a rule that expected the hostess to have the candles lit and the fires warm when the meeting was scheduled to commence.
Strict rules were kept and dues were collected with fines paid for failure to abide by the rules. The president would select debate teams and the secretary would record the questions, topics and outcome of the debate. The treasurer was responsible for collecting dues and fines and would purchase writing supplies, candles and ink. The officers were elected every four weeks.
No reason was given as to why the society disbanded. An article in an issue of the DuPage County Recorder in 1849 made mention of the revival of the lyceum in Naperville, but in subsequent issues nothing was mentioned as to whether the lyceum resumed activity. Twenty years later in 1870, North- Western College (now North Central College) announced the creation of the "Second English Lyceum," which did include female students. This lyceum met every Friday at 3 p.m. on the fourth floor of Old Main.
When Joseph Naper bought his family, friends and fellow settlers to the DuPage River to build a town he not only carried tools and equipment, but also social and cultural building blocks. Education, government and faith are the glue which binds families and communities. Although we do not know which faith Joseph Naper belonged to, we do know that his brother John was in some way associated with the Baptist faith. A large leather-bound Bible owned by John and Betsey Naper was given to Matie Egermann for display in her museum at the Nichols Library. This Bible was used by the Baptist Church and contains a printed statement of faith and family information.
In the 1830s, while clearing the land and building their homes, barns and public structures, the settlers met wherever they could, even in a grove of trees. Whether Protestant or Catholic, ministers of congregations traveled from town to town administering sermons and sacraments. It is known that Joseph Naper boarded ministers as well as donated lots or funds for various faiths. As settlement and congregations increased, the need for a church house or building was necessary.
During the 1840s, a number of congregations were building and almost in the same spot. It was said in Gospels of the New Testament of the Christian Bible, "A city on a hill cannot be hidden." It is common, then, to find houses of worship located on the highest point of a town. In Naperville, that place is north of Central Park – nicknamed, "Piety Hill" in the newspapers as early as 1873.
For miles around one can see the steeple to SS. Peter & Paul Catholic church, the only steeple to remain visible above the trees on Piety Hill. The steeple of SS Peter & Paul is the second such steeple. The first one, built in 1864 was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1922. This lone steeple is in contrast to the three steeples seen in the photo with this article. The churches are, "Naperville Clarion," January 1, 1873 left to right: Methodist, Zion Evangelical (German speaking), and SS. Peter & Paul. The steeple one cannot see in this image is that of the Congregational Church, which is also located on Piety Hill.
As the population of Naperville grew so did the number of congregations. There were at one time seven churches in a four- or fiveblock area cluster on Piety Hill including two German-speaking churches. As these congregations grew—so did their buildings. The old style of Greek revival architecture was abandoned for the more substantial Collegiate or Neo-Gothic revival style. These heavy brick and masonry buildings with heavy arches, tracery and castle-like walls were the standard for church and collegiate architecture. The Protestant churches followed a floor plan called the Akron Plan after an architect from Akron, Ohio, popularized the style. This plan utilized curved seating that focused all eyes on the pulpit. The entrance to a building of the Akron Plan is through a corner bell tower.