History

Excerpted and revised from Book Club of Detroit, 1957-2007, compiled by Kay MacKay and published by the club in 2008 to commemorate our fiftieth anniversary.

Part I: 1957-1982

The Book Club of Detroit (BCD) had its origins in a Wayne State University course, “The History of the Book,” taught by local antiquarian book dealer, Charles S. Boesen, in late 1957. Boesen, with some of his students and friends, discussed the formation of an organization for people interested in book-related subjects.

There is confusion regarding the year BCD originated. This history shows that many sources, especially the early ones, list 1958 as the year of inception; and in the past few decades 1957 is considered the correct date. Research shows that the announcements and invitations to join were sent in December of 1957, and that first meeting was held in January of 1958. Thus, either date could presumably be deemed correct. One advantage over the uncertainty over dates is that it could result in a two-year celebration. The following announcement was sent to interested Detroiters, inviting them to a momentous meeting to be held on January 10, 1958:

“We believe that there are more than enough friends of the Book in Detroit to warrant the calling of an explanatory meeting with the view to establishing THE BOOK CLUB OF DETROIT.”

This invitation was signed by the club’s “Founding Fathers,” Frazer Clark, Fred Bott, Frank Laucomer, Donald Weeks, Thomas Schlientz, Leonard Bahr, and Charles Boesen. The immediate response was greater than anticipated. Among those attending was William Bostick, who arranged for meetings to be held at the centrally located Scarab Club; and the Book Club has enjoyed a long and happy relationship with this historic organization ever since.

Part II: 1983-present

Since its founding 57 years ago, the Book Club of Detroit has had much success and occasional problems. During the mid-1980s the club, due to member apathy, came close to extinction. For about 20 years the organization had operated without a board of directors. The president handled all finances and arranged programs and social activities; and some members were dissatisfied. However the club was revitalized when in 1985 the “Women’s Committee” was formed and took measures to correct and strengthen the organization.

The Women’s Committee for the Revival of the Book Club of Detroit

At this time of the year, an evening with old friends is especially appropriate. With your help new friends will share in our common interest of books, books and more books.

The Committee

Ada Booth, Annie Brewer, Joann Chalat, Jean Colburn, Wilma Hendrickson, Kay MacKay, Elizabeth Walker

Notices of the club’s resurgence were sent to members and all interested parties. Joann Chalat was appointed president in 1984, Frank Sladen in 1986, and Annie Brewer served from 1987 though 1993. It should be noted here that, even with the new management, the president made all the decisions.

Finally, in 1993 this all changed when Annie Brewer appointed Jim Beall to rewrite the constitution and install a board of directors. Beall was elected president in 1994 and the new board consisted of four officers and five members-at-large, selected from the general membership. A member directory was sent to every family starting in 1998.

This reconstruction immediately resulted in increased membership, more relevant programming and improved advertising to publicize the club’s activities.

All BCD members automatically belong to prestigious Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS) and receive a copy of its informative newsletter.

Besides donating funds to the maintenance of the Scarab Club, in 2002 the club purchased a memorial brick to be implanted in the city’s mew waterfront park in celebration of Detroit’s tricentennial. It is engraved simply “The Book Club of Detroit 1957.” In the past few years membership has steadily increased; more librarians and booksellers have joined; and the club is now directly involved with numerous state libraries. The “show and tell” format – where members get to show off their own collections is still among the most popular programs. We look forward to many more years of book-talk, learning about book related subjects and warm fellowship.

Past Presidents

  • 1958: Franklin G. Laucomer
  • 1959: Benjamin R. Donaldson
  • 1960: William A. Bostick
  • 1961: C. E. Frazer Clark, Jr.
  • 1962: Donald Weeks
  • 1963 & 1983: James Babcock
  • 1964: Roger Lindland
  • 1965: Alfred H. Whittaker
  • 1966: Seymour Kent
  • 1967: Gloria Francis
  • 1968: Robert Orr
  • 1969: Richard Walker
  • 1970: Evan Thompson
  • 1971: John Neufeld
  • 1972-80: Robert Thomas
  • 1981: Paula Jarvis
  • 1982: Jean Coburn
  • 1984-85: Joann Chalat
  • 1986: Frank Sladen
  • 1987-93: Annie Brewer
  • 1994: James Beall
  • 1995: Alice Nigoghosian
  • 1996: Roy Pilot
  • 1997: Sam Gatteno
  • 1998: Harriet Larson
  • 1999: Barry Neavill
  • 2000: Shahida Nurullah
  • 2001: James Deak
  • 2002 & 2007: Joan Knoertzer
  • 2003: Joseph Ajlouny
  • 2004: Jay Platt
  • 2005: Janet Whitson
  • 2006: Marguerite Humes Schwedler
  • 2008-10: C. Hedger Breed
  • 2011-13: Robert K. Jones