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The United Nations Club at Dumbarton Oaks

Posted On May 30, 2018 | 13:21 pm | by jamesc | Permalink
James N. Carder (June 2018)


United Nations Club Members and their Families at the Dumbarton Oaks Swimming Pool, 1943. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc.373).

Before there was a United Nations or even the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conversations that led to the United Nations, there was a United Nations Club, which was inaugurated at Dumbarton Oaks in 1942. The Club was founded in Washington, D.C., by Meredith Howard (1909–1996) at the height of the Second World War to promote international good relations through social engagements. The Club’s membership, which represented the allied nations of the time, visited embassies and private homes, where receptions, seminars, dances, cocktail parties, and foreign movies were featured. On September 6, 1942, for example, the members visited Dumbarton Oaks for a garden party, and on June 14, 1943, they attended a terrace dance at the British Embassy. The membership initially was limited to 1,100, with quotas held in proportion to the population size of the applicant’s country.

A recent photograph acquisition by the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc.373) captures the July 8, 1943, visit of the Club members and their families to the Dumbarton Oaks swimming pool. Taken by Acme Newspictures of New York City, the back of the photograph has this somewhat erroneous caption:

50,000 Friends #1

Washington, D.C. – The United Nations are pulling together, but here’s a race to discover which representative of an Allied country can kick up the most water at the Dumbarton Oaks pool. In the past year, 50,000 people from 32 Allied nations have cemented the firmest ties of all – friendship and human interest. They belong to the United Nations Club, in Washington, founded a year ago this month and making its headquarters at Dumbarton Oaks, the former residence of Robert Woods Bliss, American diplomat.


Reverse side of photograph. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc.373).