During Theodore Roosevelt’s lifetime, automobiles were just beginning to gain prominence. They were quite popular in New York society; in fact, automobile clubs were formed during TR’s presidency. One such club, the Motor Car Touring Society, was incorporated on December 27, 1907. This elite organization, whose membership was limited to twenty-five, met for the purpose of encouraging the use of cars among its members. They would take day trips in the spring and autumn because many of the members spent the hot summer months in Europe.
Motor-Car Touring Society membership list, 1908. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.
Winter was the time for dinners and theatre parties. These parties afforded the opportunity for members of the society to invite guests, such as Eleanor Alexander, who later became Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Eleanor attended one such party on January 30, 1908, just over a month after the society was incorporated.
Motor-Car Touring Society invitation, January, 1908. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.
The party met at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. J. Laurens van Alen at eight o’clock on a Thursday evening, and from there proceeded to a play. After this, the company enjoyed dinner at Sherry’s, a celebrated restaurant on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Eleanor Alexander kept these items from her experience at the theatre party, including them all in a scrapbook. The newspaper report that she preserved lists all of the members of the society as well as the guests. The “Messrs.” (members) and “Misses” (guests) were chaperoned by Mrs. J. Laurens Van Alen and Mrs. Goelet Gallatin, illustrating the social customs of the time.
Touring Society's party, January 31, 1908. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.
I find it interesting that the fact the group “went to and from the theatre in automobiles” was worthy of mention. Obviously, motor-cars were not the prevailing mode of transportation around the city, since the Motor-Car Society’s use of automobiles was notable.
“The Motor Car Touring Society.” The New York Times 18 Feb. 1912.