Knickerbocker Club

Coordinates: 40°45′57.23″N 73°58′17.28″W / 40.7658972°N 73.9714667°W / 40.7658972; -73.9714667
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Knickerbocker Club
Formation1871 (1871)
TypePrivate social club

The Knickerbocker Club (known informally as The Knick) is a gentlemen's club in New York City that was founded in 1871. It is considered to be the most exclusive club in the United States and one of the most aristocratic gentlemen's clubs in the world.[1][2][3]

The term "Knickerbocker", partly due to writer Washington Irving's use of the pen name Diedrich Knickerbocker, was a byword for a New York patrician, comparable to a "Boston Brahmin".[4][5]


The 1882 clubhouse, located at Fifth Avenue and 32nd Street

The Knickerbocker Club was founded in 1871 by members of the Union Club of the City of New York who were concerned that the club's admission standards had fallen.[6] By the 1950s, urban social club membership was dwindling, in large part because of the movement of wealthy families to the suburbs. In 1959, the Knickerbocker Club considered rejoining the Union Club, merging its 550 members with the Union Club's 900 men, but the plan never came to fruition.[6]

The current clubhouse at 2 East 62nd Street, photographed in 2011

The Knick's current clubhouse, a neo-Georgian structure at 2 East 62nd Street, was commissioned in 1913 and completed in 1915,[7] on the site of the former mansion of Josephine Schmid, a wealthy widow.[8] It was designed by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich,[6] and it has been designated a city landmark.[7]


Members of the Knickerbocker Club are almost-exclusively descendants of British and Dutch aristocratic families that governed the early 1600s American Colonies or that left the Old Continent for political reasons (e.g. partisans of the Royalist coalition against Cromwell, such as the "distressed Cavaliers" of the aristocratic Virginia settlers), or current members of the international aristocracy. Towards the middle of the 20th century, however, the club opened its doors to a few descendants of the Gilded Age's prominent families, such as the Rockefellers and Stillmans.

E. Digby Baltzell explains in his book Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class:

The circulation of elites in America and the assimilation of new men of power and influence into the upper class takes place primarily through the medium of urban clubdom. Aristocracy of birth is replaced by an aristocracy of ballot. Frederick Lewis Allen showed how this process operated in the case of the nine Lords of Creation who were listed in the New York Social Register as of 1905: “The nine men who were listed [in the Social Register] were recorded as belonging to 9.4 clubs apiece,” wrote Allen. “Though only two of them, J. P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt III, belonged to the Knickerbocker Club, the citadel of Patrician families (indeed, both already belonged to old prominent families at the time), Stillman and Harriman joined these two in the membership of the almost equally fashionable Union Club; Baker joined these four in the membership of the Metropolitan Club of New York (magnificent, but easier of access to new wealth); John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, and Rogers, along with Morgan and Baker were listed as members of the Union League Club (the stronghold of Republican respectability); seven of the group belonged to the New York Yacht Club. Morgan belonged to nineteen clubs in all; Vanderbilt, to fifteen; Harriman, to fourteen.” Allen then goes on to show how the descendants of these financial giants were assimilated into the upper class: “By way of footnote, it may be added that although in that year [1905] only two of our ten financiers belonged to the Knickerbocker Club, in 1933 the grandsons of six of them did. The following progress is characteristic: John D. Rockefeller, Union League Club; John D. Rockefeller Jr., University Club; John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Knickerbocker Club. Thus is the American aristocracy recruited.”[2]

Christopher Doob wrote in his book Social Inequality and Social Stratification in U.S. Society:

Personal wealth has never been the sole basis for attaining membership in exclusive clubs. The individual and family must meet the admissions committee's standards for values and behavior. Old money prevails over new money as the Rockefeller family experience suggests. John D. Rockefeller, the family founder and the nation's first billionaire, joined the Union League Club, a fairly respectable but not top-level club; John D. Rockefeller Jr., belonged to the University Club, a step up from his father; and finally his son John D. Rockefeller, III, reached the pinnacle with his acceptance into the Knickerbocker Club (Baltzell 1989, 340).[1]

Selected notable members[edit]

Reciprocal clubs[edit]

The Knickerbocker Club has mutual arrangements with the following clubs:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Doob, Christopher (27 August 2015). Social Inequality and Social Stratification in U.S. Society. ISBN 9781317344216.
  2. ^ a b E. Digby Baltzell (27 August 2015). Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class. ISBN 9781412830751.
  3. ^ Macdonald-Buchanan, Rose (12 October 2015). "The best gentlemen's clubs in the world". Gentleman's Journal.
  4. ^ "Knickerbocker". Random House, retrieved 2008-1-3.
  5. ^ Frederic Cople Jaher, "Nineteenth-Century Elites in Boston and New York", Journal of Social History Vol. 6, No. 1 (Autumn 1972), pp. 32–77.
  6. ^ a b c Gray, Christopher. "Inside the Union Club, Jaws Drop", New York Times (Feb. 11, 2007).
  7. ^ a b Pollak, Michael. "Was Anyone Killed at the Knickerbocker Club?" New York Times (Feb. 21, 2014).
  8. ^ Miller, Tom (2011-04-11). "Daytonian in Manhattan: The Lost 1898 Del Drago Mansion – No. 807 Fifth Avenue". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  9. ^ "Carlo Amato Obituary".
  10. ^ "Art: Mr. Crowinshield Unloads". Time Magazine. November 1, 1943. Archived from the original on December 14, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  11. ^ "Robert Daniel Jr. And Sally Chase Wed in Richmond; An Alumnus of Virginia Marries Graduate of Smith, '57 Debutante". The New York Times. 3 May 1964.
  12. ^ a b Henry Reed Stiles, ed. (1886). The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. p. 85.
  13. ^ "John F. Dryden Dies Worth $50,000,000. Ex-Senator from New Jersey Succumbs to Pneumonia, Following an Operation". The New York Times. November 25, 1911. Retrieved 2010-10-20. Ex-United States Senator John F. Dryden, President of the Prudential Insurance Company of America, also known as the "Father of Industrial Insurance", died at 6 o'clock last night at his home, 1020 Broad Street, Newark, N.J. The ex-Senator was operated on a week ago to-day for the removal of gall stones.
  14. ^ "Obituary: Paul Mellon". The Independent. 3 February 1999. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  15. ^ "The Sherman Family'". The New York Times. February 19, 1865. p. 6.
  16. ^ A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War by André Corvisier, p.44 [1]
  17. ^ "Henry White". United States Department of State History – Office of the Historian. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  18. ^ "HENRY WHITE WEDS MRS. WM.D. SLOANE; Ex-Ambassador to France Is 70 and Daughter of Late Wm. H. Vanderbilt Is 68. RELATIVES ONLY AT NUPTIAL Ceremony in St. Bartholomew's Chapel Follows Issuing of License --Couple at Bride's City Home". The New York Times. 4 November 1920. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. ^ Henry Anstice. History of Saint George's Church in the City of New York, 1752-1811-1911. N,Y.: Harper, 1911, p. 450.
  20. ^ "Enquête sur les cercles et les lieux de pouvoir" [Investigation of circles and places of power]. Le Figaro (in French). 29 April 2010.
  21. ^ "Cercle Royal du Parc Reciprocities".

External links[edit]

40°45′57.23″N 73°58′17.28″W / 40.7658972°N 73.9714667°W / 40.7658972; -73.9714667