Dania Society of Chicago reached a remarkable milestone as more than 100 members and guests celebrated the organization's 150th anniversary in red-and-white elegance at Monty's Banquets in Bensenville, Illinois on Saturday, October 20, 2012.
Dania Society Secretary Harvey Hoyer began the evening by introducing the Toastmaster for the festivities Jerry Andersen. Jerry, a 39-year member of Dania, said he was very honored to be selected as the "150 year old" master of ceremonies. Jerry then presented Tina Winther, who led in singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Der er et Yndigt Land".
After the singing, Dania's President Paul E. Roge was introduced, and Pastor Karen E. Knutson gave the invocation.
During the evening, Jerry presented the current officers of Dania Society:
The current officers of the Dania Ladies Society are:
Past presidents were introduced or mentioned:
Presidents of various clubs and organizations were recognized, and letters from The Danish Home and the Consulate General of Denmark in Chicago were read.
Jerry Andersen was a terrific toastmaster and made the evening's program proceed smoothly with his humorous comments between the courses and the introductions.
On behalf of Dania Ladies Society, President Karen Frink presented a framed certificate to Dania President Paul Roge of a new 150th Anniversary Dania Society brick paver which will be placed at The Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, Iowa with compliments from Dania Ladies.
Paul thanked Karen Frink for the gift to Dania to commemorate the milestone of 150 years. He also thanked Jerry Andersen for his masterful job as toastmaster. Paul had his speech divided in 3 parts:
Paul Roge stated, Dania Society of Chicago is an Illinois Corporation organized to promote and support social, cultural and traditional activities among persons of Danish heritage, and to promote, support and honor the relationship between Denmark and the United States. Additionally Dania is organized for pleasure, recreation and sociability.
Paul also spoke of a conversation with a long-time member, Walter Egebergh, whose grandfather, Rasmus Egebergh became a member in 1891. Rasmus Egebergh was secretary in 1912 and helped influence the club to buy the Kedzie property and build the building many will remember today. At that time the club had slot machines that helped cover costs.Walter said that until just before WWII meetings were conducted in Danish and then went to English.
Paul mentioned that many in his own family had worked at Dania at one time or another.
Dania is moving into the 21st century with a website, which they expect to use as another way to grow membership and strengthen the feeling of allegiance towards Dania.
Dania has come through its first 150 years with flying colors, and inspired by its past and mindful of its rich heritage and culture, Dania can and will meet the challenge of the next 150 years.
Dania Society Secretary Harvey Hoyer concluded the evening with a speech about Dania's History (see related story) and then members and guests enjoyed music & dancing to the Lakes Area Swing Band.
1862 - As chair of the 150th anniversary, I appointed myself to tell all of you a little about Dana. Yes Dana!. Dana that's what it was called before it became Dania later on.
At the time Dania was being organized, Abraham Lincoln was our President and we were involved in the great “War between the States.” Also known in the north as the Civil War. The vice president was Hannibal Hamlin.
The first ironclad war ship was launched. Julia Ward Howe's “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” was published.
Ulysses S Grant wins the first battle of the war at Fort Henry.
The Lakota Indians rose up against the Union troops in Minnesota. They were overwhelmed by the Union forces.
As you can see by these events it was a very trying time to be an immigrant in a new country, but in November of that very same year of 1862 the Danes in Chicago organized the first Danish organization in Chicago! They decided to call it Dana which it was called for a while but then some of the members thought it was too feminine sounding and would not draw more men to it, so they changed it to DANIA!!
One of the members found a vacant apartment for $10.00 a month at LaSalle & Kinzie and then we had our first club house. This area is now called River North just a few blocks from the Merchandise Mart.
The first couple of years went fairly well lots of “SKAALING”, there was not too much time for anything else just good fellowship, camaraderie and more conversations.
There was also another organization that came from this era, it was called Harmonien. It had its roots in the newly formed Danish Society. Later on another new Club was formed called the Danske Arbejderers Singing Society. I will tell you a little more on that later.
1864 - Otto Von Bismarck (Germany now, Prussia then) was at war with Denmark they won and took the Schlesvig Area, which is now Northern Germany. At that time the Danes were in terrible conditions - no food, or shelter etc. They were war torn. Over the next 50 years over 300,000 Danes immigrated to the New America. The flood of new young Danes went primarily to the Midwest.
Today in the Northern part of Germany known as the “Schlesvig Holstien Area” the citizens there are considered cousins and the Germans think the same about the Danes in southern Jutland.
Many Danes also immigrated to Texas into the south eastern part about 60 mile west of Houston now called Dannevang the Danish capital of Texas, designated by the Governor of Texas.
1865 - Dania, like today, always had banquets, parties and get togethers that were served by a new group called “The Dania Ladies Society”. They brought loveliness, beauty and peace to the lives of their men and they do the same today!
1871 - The great Chicago Fire. Mrs. O’Leary's cow did the damage, so the story goes. Well our Club House went with the rest of Chicago into a pile into Lake Michigan. We did save some things like to photo of King Frederik the 7th and the minutes which have since been lost.
You can read all of this in the Green books we have at the table. This book would make a fine Christmas gift to someone in your family that you don’t know what to get them for $25.00 each.
After the fire Dania reorganized at Chicago Ave. & Franklin St. Still in Chicago, because most Danes lived in that area at the time around LaSalle, Randolph & Kinzie St.
Later they started to move up north along Milwaukee Ave towards Humboldt Park, which many of us remember from our younger days.
There were many Scandinavians who also moved to this area - Norwegians, Swedes and the Danes. Once upon a time the Norwegians called California Ave. Karl Johan Blvd. You could go up and down this street and shop in all the little stores and never speak any English it was all Scandinavian.
In this era, these new immigrants contributed much to Chicago in many ways like:
Jens Jensen Landscape Designer, the originator of the Prairie School of Design which many befitted from, like Frank Lloyd Wright. Jens Jensen designed many of the beautiful parks, boulevards and state parks.
Christian Fenger, a surgeon, you have all heard of Fenger HS?
Max Henius, a chemist founded the American Academy of Brewing which made Chicago the international center of the brewing industry. We had 17 breweries in Chicago at one time some owned by AL CAPONE!
1872 - In the 1870s there were hard times again for our area: unemployment, poverty, riots, bomb happy anarchists, but we at Dania weathered the storm again. Dania continued to send funds to the Danish Vets from the war.
1891 - Dania’s building committee decided we would buy a building at 249 to 251 W. Chicago Ave. For $23,000.00 it was paid off in 4 years.
Then again there was a depression in America. The last seven years of the 1800 were nothing to write home about, they were tough for everyone. But again Dania survived into the 1900s.
1900 - Jacob Riis a member of Dania formed the Jacob Riis League,which represented about 25,000 Danes, to try to influence the President of the US Woodrow Wilson to favor the Danish cause of Slesvig.
1929 - In 1929 Dania contributed $100.00 for a monument to be erected in a Chicago Park for Jacob Riis. It is now known as RIIS Park.
Our beloved building was built on Kedzie Ave. just north of North Ave. We all had a lot of fun at this place we all called our home.
1980 - Harold Tracy and Knud Eriksen in 1980, negotiated with Skjold, Normennenes Singing Society, and the D.A.A.C. to purchase our new home in Arlington Heights, Ill. known as SCANDINAVIAN AMERICAN CULTURAI SOCIETY. In 1981 we moved into our new home. This began a new era for Dania.
The Scandinavian Club was eventually sold and Dania Society and Dania Ladies Society now meet regularly at the Elks Club in Des Plaines, IL.