Our organization was founded on October 23rd, 1887 in Chicago as the “Luxembourg Bruderbund”. There were 25 men present at that first meeting. The first social gatherings were a dance in January of 1888 followed by a picnic in the spring. On December 8, 1888, the Luxembourger Bruderbund was incorporated by the State of Illinois as a benevolent, charitable and sociable organization, which offered death benefits to its members. At many of these early meetings Luxembourgish was the official language.
Early Growth and Incorporation
In early, 1897, the Constitution was amended to allow branches, called “Sections” fostering the expansion of the Brotherhood. The Grand Lodge was formed to govern the Sections, and its first meeting was held on February 14, 1897. From 1897 through 1902, Sections 2 through 9 were added from various areas in the Chicago area, swelling the membership total to 500 plus.
On May 21st, 1902, an insurance charter was issued from the State of Illinois, indicating the name “Luxembourger Brotherhood of America”. This enabled payment of $100 death benefit to members. Annual conventions were held to accept the new Sections in to the Brotherhood, and Sections 10 through 12 were added in 1903 & 1904.Sections 14 through 19 were added In 1905, with Sections 20 through 25 joining from 1906 through 1911. Section 25 was the last section to be admitted. Geographically, Sections were located as far away as New York City and Portland, Oregon.
The 25th Anniversary Jubilee was celebrated on November 27th, 1913 at the Lincoln Turner Hall on Sheffield Parkway in Chicago. Speeches and music were presented and a souvenir book listing the Sections and Grand Lodge was published. All meetings of the Brotherhood were conducted in Letzeburgesch, and it wasn’t until May 2, 1915, when the annual convention was held in Random Lake, WI, that English was adopted as the official language for future meetings. At its height, on May 5,1929 the LBA membership numbered, 1,835 and the balance sheet showed assets totaling $137,105.64.
1930 – 2000
The organization suffered with the Great Depression as others did, and saw its membership fall in just 2 years to 1,469, with a devastating loss due to now worthless investments in the market. Assets in May 1931, were a mere $14,009.35.
Following that convention, the Luxembourg Youth Organization (LYO) was created to entice the younger generation to be part of the Brotherhood. Many baseball games and bowling tournaments furthered interest in the LYO. On November 17th, 1938 the L.B. A. celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a solemn high mass followed by a formal dinner that evening.
Many Luxembourg brothers served in various branches of the US military during WW II and many received medals of valor for their service. In February, 1941, Grand Duchess Charlotte attended a reception in Chicago, at which time she made an appeal for world peace. An American Committee for Luxembourg Relief was started to provide food, shelter and clothing for the Luxembourg refugees in Europe.
Harry Trausch became the 12th Grand President in 1945, and was the last Luxembourg immigrant to hold that post. In January, 1954, the Grand Lodge of the L.B.A. purchased Deckert’s Hall in Morton Grove and renamed it Luxembourg Gardens. The Sections held their monthly meetings here as well as the Schobermesse each fall on the picnic grounds behind the restaurant.
In April, 1963, H.R.H. Grand Duchess Charlotte made a State visit to the US at the invitation of President John F. Kennedy, and she included Chicago in her itinerary. A reception on May 3, 1963 was held for the Grand Duchess with some 600 people in attendance. May, 1963, also saw the first organized LBA trip back to Luxembourg for the millennium celebration of the country of Luxembourg. 217 people of Luxembourg ancestry participated in this once in a lifetime event. Grand Duchess Charlotte & Prince Jean, welcomed the travelers with a reception at the palace.
Membership continued to decline during the remainder of the 1960’s and many Sections merged with others or dissolved completely. We are now several generations removed from the original immigrants from Luxembourg. On July 20th, 1976, their Royal Highnesses, Grand Duke Jean & Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte arrived in Chicago and attended a luncheon at the Palmer House downtown. On July 25th, an evening champagne reception was hosted by the LBA. This event was attended by 500 people. Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, proclaimed July 25th & July 26th as “Luxembourg Days in Chicago”.
Since 1676, the citizenry of Luxembourg chose the Blessed Virgin Mary as their patroness under the title of “Consoler of the Afflicted”. In 1978, Bishop of Luxembourg, Jean Hengen, donated to the Luxembourg people of Chicago a statue of “Our Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted”. The statue was dedicated and enshrined at the Carmelite Monastery in Des Plaines, IL, on October 29th, 1978. Once each year, the LBA holds a high mass at the Carmelite Monastery to honor Our Lady.
In 1980, Section 21, located in Wilmette, IL, dedicated a memorial garden at the intersection of Glenview Rd. and Wilmette Ave. Grand Duke Jean & Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte visited Chicago on another State trip in November of 1984 which was at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan. A High Mass was celebrated at Holy Name Cathedral in which Joseph Cardinal Bernadin was the principle celebrant, assisted by 17 priests of Luxembourg ancestry. A reception and dinner followed at the Drake Hotel to honor their Royal Highnesses. This grand event was attended by some 425 people of Luxembourg ancestry. While on this visit, the Grand Duke & Grand Duchess opened an exhibit entitled “Luxembourg Immigration to the United States” at the Museum of Science & Industry.
Then, in 1987 the 100th anniversary was celebrated with a dinner dance on Saturday, October 24th at the North Shore Hilton in Skokie. This was followed by a Centennial Mass on Sunday, October 25th, at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston. Consul General Dick Witry researched and wrote a book on the 100 year history of the Luxembourg Brotherhood. Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria Teresa attended and dedicated a plaque from Luxembourg. A reception was held following the dedication.
During the 1990’s various Sections continued to hold their quarterly meetings and fund-raising events. In 199?, the LBA transitioned from an insurance organization to a social organization and in 1996, the by-laws were amended to admit women to the Luxembourg Brotherhood. We have President Don Hansen and the Grand Lodge to thank for allowing us to be an inclusive organization. Two gentlemen, Donald Hansen and George Meyers, together led the Brotherhood for 20 years serving as President from 1990 – 2010.
The 21st Century
This century has seen us, once again, become a growing organization. After disbanding in the early 1990’s, Section 7 of Aurora was re-instated in the Brotherhood on April, 2014, with 16 members. Other active Sections numbers 3, 8, 15 and 21 have added members as well. We now number 133 members!
On October 13, 2014 the LBA celebrated its 125th Anniversary. Over 100 people attended a Catholic Mass and dinner-dance at the Chevy Chase Country Club in Wheeling, IL. Attendees included Ambassodor Jean-Louis Wolzfeld of Luxembourg, Consul General of New York Jean-Claude Knebeler and four Honorary Consul Generals located in the US – Don Hansen, Ethan Hastert, Michael Ansay and former Counsul General Richard Witry. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Raymond Goedert and Rev. John Clemens. Grand Historian Dick Witry once again researched and wrote a commemorative book on the last 25 years of the Brotherhood. The evening ended with dancing to the Reunion Jazz Band.