- The first known theatrical club in the United States is believed to be the Actors' Order of Friendship, which was established in 1849 in Philadelphia. In 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks provided charitable efforts on behalf of performers, but its work was taken over by a New York lodge, set up in 1888, devoted to charitable efforts for members of the profession. This lodge, in turn, was supplanted by the Actors' Fund of America, which quickly became the main source of assistance to indigent theatrical workers. The Lambs, a purely social club for theatricals, was started in 1874, but was rivaled by the Players, the most prestigious of the era, established in 1888 by Edwin Booth and others. Along with theatre professionals, membership included celebrated literary and political figures such as Mark Twain and Civil War hero, General William T. Sherman. Because of its all-male membership (until 1992), actresses founded the Twelfth Night Club in 1891 and the Professional Womens' League in 1892. In 1907, the Charlotte Cushman Club was founded in Philadelphia to provide housing for actresses and to preserve Cushman's papers. Nonprofessionals founded theatrical clubs in support of the little theatre movement in the early 20th century. College and university students organized themselves into clubs to raise funds to produce plays on their campuses.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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