Founded in 1883 as the Hotel Brotherhood U.S.A., the Bainbridge Club, as it is now known is located in the Graduate Hospital area of Philadelphia. It’s President is Michael Jones. “The Hotel Brotherhood USA was founded to provide medical benefits for colored hotel workers,” Jones said. “It was started when five or six men got together [in a house] on the 200 block of South Juniper Street to raise funds to meet the medical needs of a stricken fellow hotel worker.”
The brotherhood is considered one of the earliest unions representing black workers in the United States, but it has historically functioned more along the lines of the fraternal mutual benefit societies – organizations like the Elks, Eagles, and Odd Fellows that were formed to provide medical and death benefits to their members and families. Over the years, membership in the Brotherhood was extended to include workers in other trades, and in the mid-1980s, the organization adopted the Bainbridge Club name to emphasize its social and support functions.
“Since our inception, we have been an organization that helps advance the station in life of people of color” much as other private clubs have helped their members advance, Jones said. Among the club’s distinguished members is former Federal Judge Robert N.C. Nix, who worked his way through college as a hotel waiter, and civil rights leader Julian Bond addressed the members on the club’s 100th anniversary in a speech at the now-demolished Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
“Now that we have affordable health care at last,” Jones said, “we will focus on educational opportunities for people intersted in the hotel industry as well as opportunities in other fields such as technology where we can attract and develop people’s talent.”
Charter membership in the club is limited by its bylaws, but social membership is open to anyone who applies and is accepted. Social membership includes access to a well-appointed and -equipped facility. The clubhouse, Jones said, dates to 1924 and just completed a top-to-bottom makeover.