Cincinnati Art Club & Wessel Gallery, 1021 Parkside Place, Cincinnati, OH 45202 513‑241‑4591

History - Worldwide War and Depression eras

Continuous operation, business as "unusual"

Factional upheavals and discordant situations are not uncommon occurrences in organizations of long standing. And yet, the Art Club had been surprisingly fortunate in not having experienced these disconcerting instances to any extent in all of its fourscore years. True, there had been rather warmly debated issues at times, but apparently these were promptly and harmoniously resolved without too much ill feeling among the members.

Truly, the most unsettling circumstances with which the Club had to contend were invariably caused by conditions beyond its control: periods of nationwide financial stress, the wartime years and other extraneous factors. And with the year 1941, the Art Club entered the World War II period with the trustees' and the new president's, Norman H. Doane, main task of keeping the Club going during a time when other art organizations across the country were finding it necessary to suspend operation.

Doane joined the Art Club in l935 and proved to be an ardent worker in the organization's undertakings. In fact, as a young member, Doane’s willingness to tackle any Club assignment attracted the attention of the older group, and accordingly, he was delegated to the direction of more and more Club activities over his early and later years of membership.

The Club had ambitiously engaged the noted artist, Thomas Benton, for a public lecture of Club sponsorship at the Hotel Sinton on Sunday, December 7, 1941. It was a catastrophic date, the same Sunday the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Cincinnatians as well as American people everywhere remained at their radios all of that day and night. Only a small handful of people attended the lecture. It had, unfortunately, and unpredictably, left a substantial hole in the Club's treasury. Lumen Winter, who was largely instrumental in bringing Benton to Cincinnati, offered to personally reimburse the Club for the financial loss incurred but the members declined. Lumen Winter was an important painter of murals.

Coal, as has been observed, was no small item on the Board's agenda. When the treasury balance so permitted, the next winter’s supply of coal was purchased the preceding spring as dealers offered discounts on the fuel deliveries at that time of year. Thus, in April I942, the secretary was instructed to buy the coming winter's fuel supply.

Another problem during the World War II years was the governmental rationing of food. In the Depression days, lack of funds had been a problem in the provision of monthly meeting dinners. Now, Food Rationing Stamps saddled the Club with another difficult meal situation. Apparently, Food Stamps allotted to the Club fell far short of the need.

At an opportune time for the Club and during the last two years of the Food Stamp situation, members came to the rescue in rounding out food provisions for dinner meeting occasions. Members with farms or sufficiently large vegetable gardens contributed towards the replenishment of the Club pantry. And there was one Club fellow, Captain “Al” Wunder, a sportsman hunter, who now and then furnished game to whet the member’s palates/or palettes. All in all, it wasn’t too bad thanks to the Club agriculturalists and skillful hunters.

Group demonstration at East Third Street.

However, while eating fairly well on one side, the country’s war-affected economy was making inroads on the Club’s financial state to almost the same precarious degree as was experienced during the Depression years. Gasoline and tires were rationed and members were not inclined to use their allotments in this regard for the purpose of driving their cars to Club meetings. Thus, temporary resignations became a serious factor and one of President Doane’s major problems was inducing members to stay on. Truly, the financial strait had become so pressing that there was little, if any, money in the treasury to buy coal. In fact, had it not been for the financial assistance of certain members, the Club might have had to recess until conditions permitted the continuance of clubhouse operation.

But as is repeatedly manifested in its history, it takes more than a worldwide war or depression to halt the Cincinnati Art Club in its course. Club business went on even though on a business as unusual basis.