Throughout the 1840s, members of the commercial and professional classes of New York’s Capital Region cities established “Young Men’s Associations,” loosely based upon the Young Men’s Christian Association recently founded in England. In Schenectady, ten prominent men formed their own Young Men’s Association in an attempt to bring culture to their growing city of 10,000.
Although the Association required an annual fee of $2, members and ladies were allowed to attend the lectures for free. The entrance fee for men who were not members was 25 cents. “The association is the only place in our city, aside from the pulpits, where you are able to find any discoursing,” announced its founders in the Schenectady Reflector. “It is the only place where an amusement of a miscellaneous nature is to be found…It is the only place where the clerk, the mechanic, or lawyer, can spend an hour (profitably) out of his store, workshop, or office.” [Read more…] about Ralph Waldo Emerson in the Capital District in 1852