History of the Social Register Association
A DELIGHT TO KNOW
Specific to the United States, the Social Register is a directory of names and addresses of the powerful and wealthy individuals who form the social elite, though until recently not necessarily the political or corporate elite; inclusion in the Social Register was formerly a guide to the members of ‘polite society’ — those with ‘old money’.
Social Register cities include San Francisco, New York, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.
The origins of the Association are to be found in 19th-century visiting lists.
These were the names and addresses of the preferred social contacts of prominent families, alphabetically arranged. In 1886, Louis Keller, described in his obituary as “known to more persons here and abroad than any other one resident of New York,” had the idea of consolidating the most important of these lists. His compilation was composed primarily of descendants of the early Dutch and English settlers of his city as well as others intrinsic to the Association’s definition of Society.
Mr. Keller’s formula met with great success and by 1918 there were 18 annual volumes representing 26 cities.
Individual books were published annually until 1976, when they were consolidated into a single definitive book listing the nation’s foremost families.
Today, almost 25,000 entries are included in the winter edition of the Social Register, published by the Association every November.
These listings, which are primarily domestic but include international references as well, record the following:
Family names and addresses of the Association’s members
Membership in clubs and societies
Notices of the births, marriages and deaths of those listed as they occur
The summer edition of the Social Register is published in May and contains seasonal information as well as “Dilatory Domiciles” and a list of yachts and their owners.
In May 1994 the Social Register Association introduced the Social Register Observer.
This periodical offers coverage of material, such as obituaries, debuts and engagements, which may no longer be readily available from other sources.
It is published twice a year, concurrently with the winter and summer editions of the Social Register.
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