The Houston Saengerbund Records contain five bound volumes covering the activities of the organization and related associations from 1874 to 1937. Three of the ledgers contain minutes of various Houston Saengerbund meetings, financial statements, and the occasional printed program. A fourth volume contains similar materials for the Houston German Day Association, and the final volume contains the records, programs, clippings and correspondence of the German Texas Saengerbunds.
The Houston Saengerbund (Singing Society) was founded on Oct. 6, 1883, as an organization through which German immigrants in Houston could join with their countrymen to sing songs in the German language. The Saengerbund was one of a number of all-male singing organizations that formed in the German communities of Texas during the last half of the 19th century. These local groups were united under Der Deutsch-Texanische Saengerbund (the German-Texan Singers' League, or DTSB), a regional organization that held biennial meetings and Saengerfeste (Singing Festivals) in various Texas cities.
The Houston Saengerbund swelled to over 1,000 members before World War One, and in 1913 Houston played host to a particularly elaborate DTSB Saengerfest which featured a full orchestra and world-class opera singers. But during the war years membership fell as Germans became reluctant to draw attention to their nationality.
After the war, membership increased and the group flourished. The Saengerbund bought their first in a series of clubhouses, and introduced new activities such as dancing, children's plays, and beach excursions. The club officially began admitting women as members in 1937 with the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Damenchor (Women's Chorus) a year later.
With the onset of World War II, the Saengerbund members changed the name of the group to "The Houston Singing Society,” stopped their primary activity of singing German songs, and began keeping minutes in English because of their concern about arousing anti-German sentiment. After the war, the club members restored both their German-language singing and their name, but membership declined, partly owing to a drop in German immigration.
The Houston Saengerbund is still in existence more than 100 years after its founding, and the Saengerbund and Damenchor continue to perform at the Saengerfeste of the DTSB, the International Festival, Lights in the Heights, and other public events.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Houston Saengerbund Records.
Source: The History of the Houston Saengerbund (1990), Theodore G. Gish