The Traffic Club of Philadelphia is one of the oldest traffic clubs in the United States. It was founded in March of 1908 at a time when Philadelphia was known as the "Workshop of the World" and when the term "traffic" connoted transportation and economic activity.
The first President of the Club was Robert S. Perry of Harrison Bros. & Co., and initial meetings were held at the Bourse Building. The initial objective of the Club was "to cultivate closer relations between those directly interested in the handling of traffic, both as shippers and carriers, and to promote their best interests." Early meetings featured notable speakers such as President William Taft (following his presidency).
Member initiation fees were $5.00, with annual dues of $10.00. In 1911, the Club's annual budget was $300.00. In 1917, the Club's annual dinner was suspended because of World War I and, in its place, money was raised for war bonds.
The Club had three classes of membership: resident, non-resident (i.e., for persons living more than 100 miles from Philadelphia), and honorary. Resident membership was capped at 450 persons and new members were admitted in the order of the receipt of their membership applications and as vacancies occurred.
Among the events sponsored by the Club in the 1920s were boxing matches and musical performances by actual railroad bands. In 1927, the "Traffic Messenger" made its debut as the Traffic Club"s newsletter. Favorite events in the 1930s were Vaudeville Acts, Ladies' Night, and Shad Dinners.
Rosters have always been a staple of the Club. In 1930, the roster identified 43 Club members from the Pennsylvania Railroad, 41 members from the Reading Company, and 24 members from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
In 1930, after a long relationship with the Warwick Hotel, the Club moved its headquarters to the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, where the Club had its own chef and a daily lunch was served.
In 1940, the Club boasted 20 committees to guide its operations and functions. Among them were a "Card Committee" and a "Plant Inspection Committee." During World War II, war bonds were once again purchased in lieu of a formal annual dinner. The 1946-1947 Club roster highlighted 56 members who had or were serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 1958, the Club observed its 50th anniversary. That milestone year, 1,000 people attended the annual dinner. Each guest was pre-listed in the dinner booklet along with their table assignment. A giant birthday cake was provided and each member took home a piece as a souvenir.
In 1961, the Club sought to host the National Convention of Associated Traffic Clubs of America in Philadelphia. In their bid, Club representatives showed up at the national headquarters dressed as Amish people, and their efforts proved successful!
In 1971, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner. In 1973, Jim Fleming became the first ever recipient of the Club's annual scholarship. During this same decade, National Transportation Week grew in popularity and united all transportation clubs in the Delaware Valley in a common event. In 1977, the Club held its Annual Night at the Races at Liberty Bell Race Track.
In 1980, the Club moved to the Engineers' Club Building. Legal counsel to the Club, Robert Einhorn, became a fixture in educating Club members on a number of transportation related legal issues during this period of the deregulation of the transportation industry.
In 1997, Don Schneider spoke to a packed house at the annual dinner about the operation of a national truckload carrier. 1997 was historic for the Club for another reason: Mary Maseker was elected its first female President, making the Club one of the most progressive traffic clubs in the nation.
After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the Club was in the forefront of highlighting the need for heightened security measures and hosted Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher, a member of the Governor's Task Force on Terrorism, as keynote speaker at the 2002 annual dinner. William Shoaf became only the second person to serve two full terms as President of the Club (2003 and 2004).
From 2000-2007, the Club's education and communications programs made important gains. New General Daniel Bray and William Tucker academic scholarships were formed, and joined the already existing Einhorn, Langley and Yetman scholarships administered by the Club. To improve its visibility, the Club hopped on the information superhighway with its own website (www.tcphila.org) and re-introduced a Club newsletter called The Philadelphia Dispatch.
In 2007, Marylou Robinson of CSXI was named President of the Club. Recognizing the historical significance of the Clubï¿½s 100th year, she lead the Club through a landmark year that remained true to the origins of the Club, grew its mission and visibility, and welcomed many new members.
Looking back, the period 1908-2008 has been an exciting one for The Traffic Club of Philadelphia. While the transportation industry has undergone revolutionary changes over this time, the Club has remained a constant in fostering professional growth and fellowship. In its next 100 years, the Club surely has a bright and vibrant future and will continue its strong growth and success.
Submitted by Robert B. Kessler, Historian 2007-2008
View scans of historic images from our past (originally published in The Traffic Messenger, the Club's former newsletter) in our online photo album titled Historic Images.
A select group of highly distinguished individuals has served as President of The Traffic Club of Philadelphia and has guided the Club through times of prosperity, challenge, and opportunity. Presidents are drawn from the Club's Board of Governors following a demonstration of commitment and capability, and typically serve a term of one year (April 1 - March 31).