Manufacturer: Scammell China
User: Lawyers Club – New York City
Date of platter: circa 1931-1954
Notes: From The Gotham Center for New York City History: "William Allen Butler, Jr., the founder of downtown Manhattan's Lawyers Club, would later explain that its creation was inspired by a disturbing encounter. One afternoon in the 1880s, he went out for lunch with his father and partner, William Allen Butler, Sr. – a respected corporate lawyer, son of a former U.S. Attorney General, and co-founder of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. The restaurant was crowded, but moments later an office boy from his law firm finished lunch and 'my respected father occupied that same stool to order a slice of roast beef.'
"Unable to find a seat for himself, the younger Butler ended up standing at the restaurant's 'oyster counter' and swallowing down a sandwich 'of the genus warranted to stand on one's chest for a couple of hours.' He found the blurring of class boundaries and the uncomfortable conditions troubling, wondering 'Was there not some better way for the noon-day hour luncheon?' His conclusion was that there was a need for 'a reputable and decent place' where men like himself and his father could enjoy a decent midday meal in private, dignified surroundings, away from their subordinates. He decided, in short, to establish a lunch club.
"Thus, when Butler decided to create a lunch club, he sought a place where the men who worked in and around the multiple financial institutions and law firms that clustered on, and near Wall Street could mix business with expensive dining. He soon found several other attorneys who supported the idea of establishing a gathering place for their profession, and reached agreement with the Equitable Life Assurance Society to house the club on the fifth floor of its headquarters at 120 Broadway. In 1887, the club formally opened with 346 members and quickly attracted not only lawyers but also stockbrokers like Edward Shearson, accountants like A.L. Dickinson of Price, Waterhouse & Co., and other professionals in the financial district's new skyscrapers. By 1901 it had more than 1,000 members. More than 500 people lunched there on a typical weekday."
By 1912, the Lawyers Club had moved to 115 Broadway atop the Realty Building.
From a Dec. 20, 1979, article in the New York Times: "the Lawyers' Club of New York has provided a hushed, leisurely lunchtime ambiance for its members and their guests atop the Realty Building in the Wall Street area, in a room that looks like nothing so much as a medieval refectory.
"Tomorrow, however, after Vincent Di Modugno, the club manager, and his crew waiters gather up the sterling silver and the Lenox china and fold the crisp Irish linen tablecloths around the crumbs of the corn bread at the club's last lunch, the Lawyers' Club will descend into limbo.
"Its 569 members are not even sure they will be allowed to keep the portraits of their past presidents – including that of Harold R. Medina, who was born in 1887, the same year the club was founded – or preserve the Gothic window that dominates the entire room and tells the history of the law in a dozen tinted‐glass panels.
"The window, 16 feet wide and 18 feet high, commands the entire eastern wall of the dining room, and is illumined by artificial lamps. It was designed by J. Gordon Guthrie in 1912 and, according to brochure, tells the story of the law 'from its source, the divine law, which is symbolized in the window by the tables of stone bearing the Ten Commandments at the top.'
"The club, which includes many bankers and Wall Street brokers on its rolls and has admitted women since 1971, had seven new applications last week. The initiation fee is $150 and annual dues are $525, which most members can write off as tax deductions.
"Despite such signs of health, C. Paul Stone, chairman of the house committee, pointed out that the club had had competition from other new luncheon clubs in lower Manhattan and that many companies had established their own private dining rooms. Mr. Stone, an account representative for Dun & Bradstreet Inc., added that many banks and law firms had moved uptown.
"He said that a quicker pace of life in the legal profession has militated against the leisurely lunch.
"Sid Bernstein, an assistant to the president at Matthew Bender & Company, publisher of legal books, said: 'Most lawyers today don't have the time for a two-hour lunch. They're in court in the morning. They come back to the office and gulp down a sandwich and a cup of coffee and they're off again.'
"He added that 'there was something Tara‐ish about the Lawyers' Club,' reference to the opulent plantation in 'Gone With the Wind.'
"'Sure it was nice,' he said. 'But when was the last time you were invited to Tara?'"
Ivory body platter with a Gothic looking border in dark greens and light gold. At the top of the platter is the club's logo which consists of the stylized block letters "L" and "C" separated by a battle axe encased in what appears to be wooden dowes wrapped in rope or leather binding.
The Gotham Center for New York City History – Nov. 2015 article by Atiba Pertilla
New York Times Dec. 20, 1979 – article on the Club's closing
Riddet.com – photo of the Gothic Window
New York Public Library – photo of the law library
Platter photos: Earl Martin
ID: Stephanie Michaels Carr
Author: Ed Phillips