Fostering Friendships, Not Boundaries – The IU Chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club

IU students have always done their part in difficult times to stay close and foster friendships and understandings between people from all over the world. Just before and during World War I, a group of students at IU formed a chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club, receiving their charter from the national organization in 1918. The goal of the club was to bring American students and foreign students together to foster international fellowship and peace under the motto “Above all nations is humanity.”

An image from the 1922 Arbutus of the members of the Cosmopolitan Club, taken sometime in the fall of 1921. IU Archives Photograph Collection, P0054058.

The first attempt to create the club at IU, after a Cosmopolitan Club member at the University of Wisconsin in 1907 invited IU students to create one and attend their first convention, did not pan out. However, nine years later, 12 international students successfully began IU’s Cosmopolitan Club. The club included members from dozens of countries as well as students from the state and across the U.S. Interest and membership in the Club remained high through the early to mid 1960s, but participation in the club waned by 1969, the last year the club was pictured in the Arbutus.

List of foreign-born students, Indiana University, from Original items, 1941-1943 and undated, Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club’s most popular event, called the International Dinner, was a hit on campus. Originally started as an “International Revue” in 1922, guests paid a small fee to dine on international food and watch international students perform their nation’s folk dances, music and other entertainment. They also hosted an International Variety Show, which featured international student’s cultural dances.

Cover page of the program for the club’s annual International Dinner, October 1955. From Events, 1922-1970 undated, in the Cosmopolitan Club Records, 1916-1970.

The club was the foundation of many events of IU’s annual International Week organized by the International Affairs Commission that also celebrated the United Nations. The last record of an International Dinner in the collection dates to 1970, the last recorded active year of the club.

Article from the IDS titled, “The Cosmopolitan Club: It brings together many nationalities” from 1942. Located in Clippings, 1916-1958, undated in Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club files span much of their active years at IU, and focus mostly on various subject files by year and items and clippings from club scrapbooks. Notable files include the club’s constitution, publications related to their events, club correspondence, copies of the club’s newsletter the Cosmo Reporter, initiation files and local news clippings related to the club and its activities that span decades at IU that included significant political and societal change. Discover more digital items in the finding aid here!