DeHaven Develin, Historian
In 1891 the Lincoln Table became the second Club Table to be created and is today the oldest Club Table in the Union League. This fact is the product of research by archivist
James Mundy and is recorded in the Union League Banner of February 2000.
The Table History to date is the product of two historians, DeHaven Develin for the period 1935 -1980 with Roger Arnold from 1980 - 2006.
The accuracy of the early happenings of the Lincoln Table can neither be authenticated nor disputed. DeHaven Develin, is now deceased. He dated his Table affiliation to January 1944 - nine years after the current Lincoln Table's organization. No records were kept in the early years and the history of the period 1935 -1944 relies on the memory of DeHaven Develin and the recollections of those members who have been associated with the distinguished collection of gentlemen during portions of the Table's existence for the narrative which follows.
On February 12, 1935 - in the 73rd year following the organization of the Union League - a small group of members met for lunch on what was to be an historic occasion. These men - all close friends - determined to form a Club within The League where they could join together at luncheon, enjoy continuing fellowship and bring other members into the group. This was the genesis of the Lincoln Table.
The person who called the group together and who was chosen as its first President was William R. Mooney, who in the same year became a Main Line banker following his retirement from the brokerage business in Philadelphia. There were four others present at lunch on that day and one of these, Karl Collings, an insurance company executive, was elected Secretary/Treasurer. The other founding members were George Bridgman, Frank Eckfeldt, I.W. Hollingshead, Curtis Pollock, Edward Sabin and Aron Wainright. Other early members were Elwood Cadwallader, Frank Kalas, Conrad Lauer and Hudson Reed.
The Lincoln Table is one of twenty-three Club Tables within the Union League. They have played an important role in The League's history as their members are for the most part the more active Club members and as such have influenced greatly the progress of The Union League to its present dominant position.
Our Table has a unique distinction. Organized as it was on the birthday of the great Civil War President in 1935 by admirers of Abraham Lincoln, it seemed a very special and natural desire to name the group The Lincoln Table. Actually, it was named The Lincoln Club originally but in time became known by its present designation.
In keeping with our origin and name, we have met annually on or close to February 12th in each year commencing in 1936 to honor President Lincoln and have followed these meetings with luncheon in one of The Leagues second floor dining rooms. On these occasions, it has been the custom to invite a guest speaker or one of our own group to address the members on some phase of Mr. Lincoln's life or times. Among the speakers who have appeared before us a t these meetings have been the following:
Reverend Rex Clements, pastor of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church
Reverend Joseph Newton, Rector Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia
Maxwell Whiteman, Curator The Union League Library
Robert Garrett, Jr.
Russell Bush, President of the Lincoln Civil War Society
J. Channing Ellery, past President of the Table
David Simpson, a fellow Table member on four occasions
In the early days of our history, members' birthdays were considered important enough to celebrate within the fellowship of the Table. Accordingly, it became a ritual for each member to sponsor a luncheon at a time near his birthday for which he was rewarded by the presence of the Table members who came bearing gifts to their benefactor of the day. As this practice became more burdensome, two members of the Table whose birthdays were not too far apart, gave these lunches together.
This continued until the early 1950's when the group began to grow in size and the whole idea was abandoned. Another custom which was a holdover from the Prohibition Era was the frequent gatherings of Table members during the period between 1935 and 1950 for pre-lunch libations in Room 418 where President Mooney kept a well-stocked locker for the enjoyment of those who liked imbibing at this time of day in the privacy and companionship of their own group.
In place of the birthday celebrations it became the custom to hold a special luncheon in the spring and often another in the fall. These luncheons have often been held away from The League house. On two occasions the Table members were entertained by Hudson Reed at his home in Ambler. Joe Williamson has hosted the group at his home in Villanova and at his Madison House hostelry. In recent years, luncheons have been held at the llanerch Country Club, the Merion Cricket Club, the Overbrook Golf Club, The Plymouth Country Club, Tavistock Country Club and the Whitemarsh Country Club.
On July 25, 1963, William R. Mooney died. "Bill" as previously stated was the first President of the Table which post he held until 1950 - a period of 15 years. He also served on the Board of Directors of The League for five years. Mooney was a dynamic leader who spent his entire business life in investments and commercial banking. He had a fun-loving disposition and his impetuous nature led him into many embarrassing situations which are too numerous to recount here. The year after Bill Mooney died - on February 12, 1964 - we dedicated our annual meeting and luncheon not only to Abraham Lincoln but as a memorial to President Mooney. The Table at that time had 32 members and of the original 12, only Frank Kalas survived.
In recent years, the Table has established a policy of honoring a deceased member by making a contribution to The League Library Fund or some other League fund in which the members had a special interest.
Three members of our Table have served on the Board of The League for a total of 15 years between 1937 and 1958 - Bill Mooney for five years, Hudson Reed for four years and DeHaven Develin for six years. Since 1958, there have been Lincoln Table members nominated but not elected. No one of our members has ever served The League as vice president or president.
Prior to 1971, all officers of The Union League (with the exception of President) including directors were elected to one year terms, the president for a two year term. Much politicking, letter writing, telephone calls and vote swapping took place between nominations and elections. On some election days, there were as many as 27 nominees for 19 offices. The League House became a very busy place. The various table members were particularly active and our Table was always involved even though we were without a candidate. This had gotten somewhat out of hand and by many was considered in poor taste and undignified. Hence, the Code of Ethics Concerning Elections was adopted in 1971 together with the appointment of a Nominating Committee and the change from one to three year terms of office for the vice presidents and directors. The net result reduced interest of the membership with the annual vote dropping from up to 1200 to an average if 300 and a loss in food and beverage revenue to The League in the month of December
Mention must be made of the annual Christmas party. The Holiday Season is always a festive one in the League commencing about two weeks before December 25 and culminating with the New Year's Reception on January 1. The League House is beautifully decorated and the Club Tables have luncheons or dinner parties at this time, The Lincoln Table has in each year of its existence celebrated the Christmas season with a luncheon in one of the second floor dining rooms and in the past two years with a dinner party for members and their ladies in the Lincoln Library.
As the Lincoln Table approaches its 50th anniversary on February 12, 1985, its members can take pride in its origin and purpose in contributing to the memory of one of the truly great men of our Country, President Abraham Lincoln. Many fast friendships have been formed and will continue to be generated among the Table members. The common purposes and principles of The Union League and The Lincoln Table make such friendships inevitable. With a present membership of 50 and with the trend toward added social gatherings planned for the future, the Table should look forward to many more years of happy fellowship.