Chapter History

Baltimore Chapter History


The earliest mention of a Chapter was made at the 1901 State Convention when a Resolution was passed for the State Deputy to form a Chapter of the Councils in the Baltimore area. Nothing came of this and several attempts were made in succeeding years, all unsuccessful.pgk

The real impetus was given by State Deputy, Philip C. Mueller, Past Grand Knight of Baltimore Council No. 205, when he stated the following in his address to the 1909 State Convention: “I recommend to the Grand Knights of the Councils in Baltimore, the organization of a Chapter. Often prompt action is required in matters concerning the Councils in Baltimore only. Degrees ought to be arranged on such dates as will be most convenient to all of the Councils and best adapted to the prompt admission of new members after their approval and election. Other advantages to the Order in the city would follow the institution of such a Chapter — for instance, the greater success of joint Council entertainments, the quicker helping of visiting Brothers in distress applying to us f or aid, and the relieving of State Officers of much detailed work in their duties of extension and supervision of the Order in the entire State.”

The Grand Knights of the six city Councils and their immediate predecessors in office were entertained by State Deputy, Philip C. Mueller, at dinner at his home, 1931 East Baltimore Street, on Tuesday, January 18, 1910. A very enjoyable time was realized. During the dinner selections were played on the graphaphone from the operas featuring such voices as Caruso and Madame Schumann-Heinck. At this informal meeting, the Grand Knights took steps to meet on the Saturday following, and form themselves into a Chapter for the better conduct of affairs in the city. On Saturday, January 22, 1910, in the Knights of Columbus home at 109 West Mulberry Street, the Grand Knights of the six Councils in the Baltimore area met and organized the Chapter of Grand Knights of Baltimore. Grand Knight, James J. Lindsay of Baltimore Council No. 205 was elected President and Grand Knight, Dr. Frank J. Powers, of Maryland Council No. 370 was elected Secretary. The member Councils were: Baltimore No. 205, Calvert No. 352, Maryland No. 370, Marquette No. 380, American No. 493 and Carroll No. 1451, the newest Council in the State, having been instituted on December 5, 1909.

There were no rules or regulations concerning Chapters in the Supreme Charter, Constitution and Laws of the Order in those days. In fact, a set of Supreme Charter, Constitution and Laws dated 1911 that is in the author’s possession, does not even mention Chapters.

A Constitution and By—Laws were adopted and the regular meetings were held on the first Saturday of each month at the Knights of Columbus home.

The object of the Chapter was, and still is, to further the interests of all of the Councils in the city and suburbs, and to work for the common good of the Order.

The By-laws provided that the Chapter should be composed of the Grand Knights of the member Councils. Since a Treasurer was also provided for, Grand Knight, J. Leo Mueller of Carroll Council No. 1451 was elected to the post.

The other three Grand Knights of the Councils which met to form the Chapter were: Joseph A. Sutton of Calvert No. 352, David C. McGraw of Marquette No. 380 and D. Frank McNenaniin of American No. 493.

The Chapter flourished and became a permanent part of the Columbian scene in Baltimore. The Chapter took over the activities previously sponsored by local Councils acting together, and the first among these was the Annual Vesper Service. It was held on February 6th at St. James Church. The extremely cold weather did not deter five hundred Knights from participating in this beautiful and impressive ceremony. Auxiliary Bishop, the Most Reverend Owen B. Corrigan, D.D., State Chaplain, presided at the service in mitre and cope and gave the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Fourth Degree turned out in full regalia. Columbus Day was celebrated in that first year of the founding of the Chapter by a Solemn High Mass at St. Vincent’s Church in October and a banquet at the Hotel Rennert on October 12th.

The Chapter took over the operation of the Orphan’s Santa Claus Party that had been functioning since 1905. Grand Knight, Joseph N. Smith of Maryland Council No. 370 proposed a Christmas treat for the children of the members of his Council. He later amended his plan to treat the orphans of some Catholic home rather than the children of the members. The idea found immediate favor with all, and the other Councils were invited to participate. Out of these joint Council meetings came the plan to treat all of the children of every Catholic orphanage. To defray the expenses, the members contributed individually and it is a matter of pride with the membership that Knights alone are solicited.

The first party was held on December 24, 1905, at Ford’s Theatre on Fayette Street. Philip C. Mueller of Baltimore Council No. 205 was the first Chairman. He was also Santa Claus. Dr. Frank J. Powers and Edgar N. Ganster, both of Maryland Council No. 370, were Assistant Chairman and Secretary respectively. The total amount donated was $490.00 of which the members of Maryland Council No. 370 contributed $168.00, the largest amount. Six hundred orphans attended and heard a Christmas message from His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons and received his blessing. They were entertained by a movie and vaudeville. Each orphan received a pair of stockings, a handkerchief, an apple and an orange, a pound of hard candy and a box of assorted nuts. In addition, each girl was given a doll and each boy a mechanical toy. The Honorable Charles J. Bonaparte, Secretary of the Navy, and the Honorable E. Clay Timanus, Mayor of Baltimore City, also addressed the children.

The Committee transported all of the children in trolley cars and buses to and from the homes. There were always some children who could not attend, the sick or crippled and those too young. The Committee did not overlook their pleasure however; as their gifts were sent to the institutions before the other children returned in order that they could all enjoy them together.

Every Catholic orphan in the Baltimore area was invited. To some of the orphans, the greatest part of the treat was the opportunity to meet brother or sister after possibly a whole year’s separation. It was the custom to arrange for the meeting of brothers and sisters who are in different orphanages, to allow them to enjoy each other’s company during the entertainment.

When the music, motion pictures and speeches were over, the curtain rose and there was disclosed to the orphans’ eyes a most beautiful sight. In the dim light could be seen a magnificent tree, gorgeously decorated, half hid by the darkness and it’s beauty only partially disclosed by the lights on the tree itself and around the tree was a lavish profusion of gifts for the children. Tumultuous applause greeted the sight, but it was stilled as quickly as it was heard, for there in front of the tree surveying with satisfaction the work of his hands, stood Santa Claus. He asked the orphans to sing for him and they cheerfully responded with “Adeste Fidelis” and “Holy Night”. Then, after a few more words, some of encouragement, some of warning, some of praise, he invited them all, each and everyone of the children to come up to him on the stage and receive the gifts that had been provided for them by the Knights of Columbus.

Each one was greeted by the jovial old man with a merry twinkle in his eye, and each one in his own way thanked him for the gift – “Thank you Santa”, “Merry Christmas Santa”, and by the deaf children with a smile, a brightening of the eye and a touch of the forehead.

St. Mary’s Industrial School Band furnished the music for several years and the orchestra of Brothers Joseph and John Dowling of Maryland Council No. 370 served for several decades.

Supreme Knight, James A. Flaherty, attended the Santa Claus Parties in 1913, 1914, 1915 and 1919. To the various Councils in the Order that he afterwards visited, he spoke of the Baltimore Orphan’s Santa Claus Party. A number of Knights of Columbus groups in various cities adopted the idea for the orphans of their own hometowns.

Today, the parties are held at St. Vincent’s Center, The Gallagher Center and Villa Maria, both at Christmas and in the spring. Past State Deputy Edgar N. Ganster served as Chairman for fifty years until his death in 1959.

The Charity Ball for the Tuberculosis Fund was first held on February 19, 1914 at the Fifth Regiment Armory. Past Grand Knight, Dr. Frank J. Powers, of Maryland Council No. 370 and a distinguished physician was the first Chairman. Almost seven thousand tickets (each admitting a man and a lady) were sold at $2.00 each. The beautiful decorations, the flowers, the full dress of the men, the gorgeous gowns of the ladies, the arrivals in the hansom carriages, all added to the splendor of the evening. The Ball opened with addresses by His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons, Supreme Knight Flaherty and Mayor Preston. This was undoubtedly the grandest, and most spectacular event ever attempted by the Chapter. The original idea was to raise enough money to build a Tuberculosis Sanitarium in the Maryland mountains. The Charity Ball continued on for many years. The Sanitarium was never built, but a building was dedicated at the Eudowood Sanitarium in Towson. The State Council reinstated the Charity Ball in 1962.

From 1938 until 1965, a banquet to the Catholic High School Football Champions was an annual event. The winning team was awarded custody of the trophy emblematic of football supremacy for the year. The trophy was retired and became the possession of the first Catholic High School to win it three times.

At this Annual Football Award Banquet various sportswriters of the city selected the “Catholic All Star Team”. Each young man chosen for the team was presented with a miniature gold football.

For the parochial school children, the Chapter sponsored an Annual Track and Field Meet. Team trophies and individual medals were awarded to the winners.

In 1944, a motion picture was made for His Excellency Archbishop Michael J. Curley, D.D., which showed the work of the Catholic orphanages. The movie was called “Thoughtful Care”, and was in Technicolor. The premier showing was on April 30th at Ford’s Theatre amid a concert setting with soprano Jessica Dragonette of radio and stage fame as guest soloist. It was subsequently shown in all of the parishes in and around Baltimore.

The Baltimore Chapter entered into an agreement with the Shrine of the Masonic Order and the B’nai B’rith to sponsor a huge night at the Baltimore Stadium on July 9, 1946, to witness a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Jersey City Little Giants. Thus started the famous “Interfaith Night” which was proof that Catholics, Protestants and Jews cannot only work together and fight together, but can play together. The Chapter realized over $50,000.00 from these games and all was spent on charity. The last night was held in 1960.

In 1959, five thousand dollars was removed from the surplus in the Orphan’s Santa Claus Party Fund and was given to Archbishop Keough for use in building the Children’s Village.

The Baltimore Chapter’s 50th Anniversary Dinner-Dance was held on February 11, 1960 at Notre Dame Council No. 2901. The history of the Chapter was also distributed at this event. This was the first of a long line of Anniversary Dinner-Dances and the first of our histories to be written.

In 1961, the title of Chairman was changed to President, the title of Vice-Chairman was changed to Vice-President and the Office of Marshal was added.

The Chapter President’s jewel of office with a similar jewel for Past Presidents was adopted this year. The State Deputy has presented the Past President’s jewel each year since.

In August 1963, the Summer First Degree was exemplified for the first time on the evening of the regular Chapter Meeting. A team of exceptional exemplifiers conducted the Degree at the Alcazar.

State Deputy Charles H. Zeunges installed the Chapter Officers at the September 1970 meeting at Our Lady of Lourdes Council. This was the first installation ceremony ever held. Past State Deputy, Francis G. McFarland, wrote it. A concelebrated Mass followed the ceremony.

The Chapter started the practice of honoring all Council Knighthood Degree honorees at their May meeting in 1976. Certificates were presented to each honoree. This has become an annual event.

The Chapter meeting in December of 1980 was a Christmas Party for the members and their wives at Holy Trinity Council. Each person brought a man or lady’s gift to exchange and some canned goods for baskets for the needy. There was dance music, singing of Christmas Carols and Santa Claus. This has become an annual Christmas Party.

On August 13, 1981, the new First Degree was exemplified for the first time in Maryland at the Chapter’s Summer First Degree Meeting at Our Lady of Lourdes Council. The team from Bishop Sebastian Council did the honors for 41 candidates. These were the first candidates in Maryland for the 100th Anniversary Year of the Order. Father Richard P. Wojciechowski became Chapter Chaplain for the first time this year. The Summer First Degree was in his honor. Father Richard had served as Chaplain on the Council and District levels, as Friar on the Assembly level and as Associate Chaplain on the State level. Besides, he was Chaplain for the Fire and Police Departments.

The annual Christmas parties in December 1981 were held at Villa Maria, St. Vincent’s Center, The Gallagher Center, School No. 304, Little Sisters of the Poor, Villa Louise and the House of Ruth. Dancers from the Polish National Alliance, children from St. Rose of Lima School and the Irish Dancers performed. Visits were also made to Fort Howard Veterans’ Hospital, the House of the Pines and the F. B. Church Nursery School. Charity donations, materials bought and materials donated amounted to $27,574.20.

On Thursday, March 25, 1982, a special dinner for the Chapter Officers, Chairmen, Former Chapter Chaplains, Past Presidents, State Officers and their wives was held at Bishop Sebastian Council. It was in cooperation with the Order’s Centennial Celebration. A skit was performed depicting the first meeting of the seven men who founded the Knights of Columbus in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven in 1882.

At the Installation of Chapter Officers on September 12, 1982, each Officer was presented with a new officer’s jewel designed by Past State Deputy Francis G. McFarland, who also provided for their manufacture. The jewel consists of a black anodized disc inserted in a gold ring, two inches in diameter. The emblem of the Chapter is in the center with the Officer’s title engraved above it. The ring is suspended from a Third Degree emblem in full color and attached to a black and gold ribbon.

In observance of the Chapter’s 75th Anniversary in 1985, a series of articles on the history of the Chapter and the coming 75th Anniversary were prepared by the General Chairman, Past State Deputy, Francis G. McFarland, and began to appear monthly in the State Bulletin and in Council bulletins.

On Saturday, January 26, 1985, the Officers and Past Presidents placed a memorial wreath at the gravesite of our first President, James J. Lindsay, at Mount Maria Cemetery adjoining the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson.

On Sunday, January 27th, was held the Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen with His Excellency, Bishop John H. Ricard, S.S.J., Ph.D., concelebrating the Mass and preaching the homily. The combined Color Corps of all Assemblies in the First Maryland District participated. The Chapter Officers and the Past Presidents, along with the State Officers and the Officers of the Bishop McNamara Chapter of Grand Knights were seated in the sanctuary with their ladies. A large floral seventy-five graced the sanctuary, along with the official Chapter Banner. The Singing Knights of Notre Dame Council No. 2901 performed as the choir. Mrs. William F. Cornelius, Jr. was the organist. A buffet followed at the home of Maryland Council No. 370. After the buffet, anniversary cake was cut, using the gold Master’s sword of the second Chapter President, Edgar N. Ganster. The anniversary cake was especially decorated with the emblems of the Order and the Baltimore Chapter. Bishop Ricard was the guest speaker.

On Tuesday, January 29th, all of the Past Presidents of the Chapter were honored at a Mass and Dinner at the Church of Christ the King in Dundalk. Each received a black and gold Past President’s cup.

The regular monthly meeting was held on Thursday, January 31st at Baltimore Council No. 205, the oldest Council in Maryland. The ladies were invited and several Past Chapter Presidents performed a special skit, written by the General Chairman of the 75th Anniversary. The skit portrayed the first meeting of the Baltimore Chapter.

On Saturday, February 2nd, the 75th Anniversary of the Baltimore Chapter was concluded with a gala Dinner-Dance at the magnificent La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie. Each couple received a souvenir Program Book, a Chapter history and a specially designed trivet. Black and gold cups were made available for sale. State Deputy, Richard C. Bumstead, was the guest speaker.

Today, the Chapter consists of sixty Councils in Baltimore City, and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, and Harford.   The Baltimore Chapter is proud of the fact that nine Past Presidents have gone on to be State Deputy.  They are: Edgar N. Ganster, Isaac S. George, George R. Callis, Jr.,  Joseph G. Loeffler, John J. Schwarz, Charles I. Reese, Andrew C. Bauer,  Stephen M. Cohen, and Vince Grauso.  Two Past State Deputies later became Chapter Presidents.  They are: Frank A. Shallenberger and Francis G. McFarland.  Three men also served in the three remaining Chief Executive Officer positions of Grand Knight, Faithful Navigator and Master; the only three to do so in the history of Maryland.  They are Edgar N. Ganster, Francis G. McFarland and Andrew C. Bauer.

For several decades, the Baltimore Chapter sponsored both the State Council’s Memorial Mass and the Founder’s Day Mass. The Officers arranged for all of the details and the speakers. Originally, the Memorial Mass took the form of a Vesper Service. That later became a Holy Hour, then a Renewal Service and finally, a Mass. Today, the Chapter does not make the arrangements. That is up to the State Chaplain and the State Church Activities Director. The Officers of both Chapters today serve as usher, readers, acolytes and servers.

The Baltimore Chapter has perfectly exemplified the First Principle of our Order, Charity, ever since the first day of existence. Besides the tremendous work that it does for the children in the Archdiocesan Centers, it financially supports several seminarians each year, the Canteen Center at Fort Howard Veterans’ Hospital, St. Martin Home for the Aged (run by the Little Sisters of the Poor), the Lawrence Cardinal Sheehan Scholarship Fund, the Father Stephen F. Blazucki Memorial Scholarship Fund for Calvert Hall High School, School No. 304 for the retarded, all of the Maryland State Council’s fund—raising activities, and many small charity programs.

The total good that they have accomplished could never be recorded in the limited space that condenses their glorious history. This narrative has only given you the highlights with the greater story being indelibly marked on the minds and hearts of those thousands of unknowns who have been the beneficiaries of their charity.