History of the Zamorano Club

The seeds of what was to become the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles were first planted at a dinner held on 19 October 1927, in the University Club, then located at 614 South Hope Street. 

The minutes of that pioneer gathering listed the following attendees: A. Gaylord Beaman (insurance), Garner A. Beckett (cement manufacturer), William W. Clary (attorney), Arthur M. Ellis (attorney), and W. Irving Way (bookman). The latter was the catalytic agent, a fact which has been well established.

The initial minutes noted that these men had “gathered for dinner and discussed generally the possibilities of forming a group to promote interest in artistic printing and beautiful books.” From this germinal idea the Zamorano Club was born. 

At this same meeting, the minutes record the first embryonic club action: “A joint letter of appreciation to Mr. Porter Garnett, of the Laboratory Press (Pittsburgh), was indited, expressing appreciation of the ideals of the Press and the recently issued ‘Book of the Press’.” 

A month later, November 16, the same group assembled once again at the University Club, joined by Robert O. Schad, Curator of Rare Books, Henry E. Huntington Library.

At this dinner the group discussed the possibility of establishing a club and the need for club quarters. The first program followed. Arthur M. Ellis exhibited books from Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Press and William W. Clary gave the first formal talk, speaking on “Benjamin Franklin’s place in the history of printing in the United States.”

The following month, on 14 December, the initial group gathered a third time at the University Club. Their number was augmented by Charles K. Adams, an official with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company; Gregg Anderson, then on the staff of the Huntington Library; Robert E. Cowan, Librarian of William Andrews Clark Library; A. Bruce McCallister, printer in the firm of Young & McCallister; and John C. Treanor, cement manufacturer. The program consisted of a display and discussion of various examples of printing. The possibility of a comparable exhibit at the Los Angeles Public Library was also suggested. 

However, the important business of this meeting was the appointment of a committee to “(1) compile [a] list of persons who might be interested in carrying out the general idea of this group; (2) determine limitations to be observed by it; (3) develop a practical plan of activity and to investigate … [the] possibility of holding an exhibition [on printing].” Arthur M. Ellis was appointed chairman; committee members included McCallister, Schad, Treanor, and Way.

This committee shaped what can rightly be called the founding meeting of the Zamorano Club, held at the University Club on the evening of 25 January 1928. Present on that occasion were Charles K. Adams, Garner A. Beckett, William W. Clary, Arthur M. Ellis, A. Bruce McCallister, Robert O. Schad, and John C. Treanor. What transpired that night, as recorded in the minutes, was as follows:

  • This was the meeting at which the __ Book Club was formed, and the proceedings will be set down in some detail.
  • The aims of the Club were agreed to be as follows:
  • Primarily to establish contact and encourage exchange of thought among its members, who shall be men interested in Fine Books.
  • To encourage the arts of the book.
  • To gather and maintain a collection of books and other objects relating to or illustrating the art of the book.
  • To produce occasionally such books or pamphlets as will promote the aims of the Club.
  • To establish and maintain suitable quarters for the Club.

The participants then moved on to the organization of the new Club, establishing “a Board of seven Governors, and that the term of each Governor would be seven years.” 

However, the initial Board of Governors drew lots for terms of different lengths in order to start a cycle. The reason for having seven Governors should be obvious: there were seven men in attendance at the January 25 meeting, so each of them became a Governor at the outset.

The next order of business was the question of membership. This was placed under the exclusive control of the Board of Governors, who also established initiation fees and annual dues. The initiation fee could vary and was to be held in strict confidence, while annual dues were set at $25.00 a year.

The newly installed Board of Governors then elected the Club officers, fixing the term of office at one year. Ellis was elected president, Clary vice president, and Beckett secretary-treasurer. The founding members then proceeded to confer honorary membership on W. Irving Way and Porter Garnett. Ellis, McCallister, and Beckett were appointed “to select and to furnish a Club room in some downtown office building,” while Clary and McCallister were appointed as a committee “to prepare a booklet on the organization and aims of the Club as adopted and defined at the organization meeting.” Lastly, Way “was elected curator of the library to be established and as custodian of the Club quarters, at a salary of twenty-five dollars per month.” Prior to adjournment, McCallister presented to the members a copy of “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury,” designed and printed by himself. 

Several Club traditions stem from this founding meeting: first, the governance of the Club; second, the conferring of honorary memberships; third, the presentation of keepsakes to the Club membership.

At the next scheduled meeting, 1 March, dinner was taken at the University Club, whereupon the members adjourned to the Bradbury Building, Room 446, the first Club room. On that occasion, members viewed an exhibit of the work of Porter Garnett at the Laboratory Press. At this same meeting another tradition was established: the invitation of guests. Among other actions taken that night by the membership, the most important was the appointment of Robert O. Schad and John C. Treanor to “select [a] name for the Club.”

At the March 29 meeting, Schad and Treanor “suggested that the Club be named for Agustín Vicente Zamorano, ‘the first known printer in California, operating a press in Monterey in 1834’.” The minutes further reveal that “the press and a small amount of type were brought to California by [Governor José Bautista] Figueroa in 1833. Mr. [Robert E.] Cowan gave the members further information regarding this press which was subsequently operated by Santiago Aguilar, by [Mariano Guadalupe] Vallejo at Sonoma, and by José de la Rosa. A number of broadsides and eleven small books were published by the press in the early years of its operation—five books by Zamorano, two books by Vallejo at Sonoma, and four books by José de la Rosa in 1843.”

Thus, within three months of its official founding, the nameless organization became the Zamorano Club. Its history has been continuous ever since. 

Alexandria Hotel on Fifth and Broadway. The suite was completely remodeled for Club purposes and was beautifully paneled in soft gray wood. But it was a short-lived occupancy because the Alexandria fell victim to the Depression. 

On 25 April 1934, new Club quarters were rented on the fourth floor of the University Club. This proved a boon, for dinner could also be taken on the same premises. Unfortunately, these Club quarters had to be relinquished after the February 1, 1967, meeting, and the University Club building was razed.

New accommodations were found at the Biltmore Hotel on Grand and Fifth Streets, where the Club had met for the first time on 1 March. The last meeting at the Biltmore was held on 7 April 1971, since the Club was offered quarters in the Treasure Room in the Doheny Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Southern California. Dinners were taken in the Faculty Club. Toward the end of the Club’s tenure at USC the Faculty Club was used for both dining and the meeting.

The Club’s subsequent meeting places have been as follows (no meetings take place from July through September) 

  • Peppermill Restaurant, Pasadena: 2 October 1991 through 1 May 1996
  • Altadena Town & Country Club: 5 June 1996 through 4 June 1997
  • University Club, Pasadena: 1 October 1997 through 3 June 1998
  • McCormick & Schmick’s Restaurant, Pasadena: 7 October 1998 through 4 April 2001
  • University Club, Pasadena: 2 May 2001 through 3 December 2008
  • Women’s City Club of Pasadena: 7 January 2009 through November 2019
  • University Club, Pasadena: December 2019 through February 2020
  • Online (due to pandemic restrictions): March 2020 through June 2021
  • Altadena Town & Country Club: October 2021 to Present

In May 1991, coincident with the move from USC, it was decided to put the Club’s book collection in storage at Occidental College Library. Subsequently the Board of Governors decided to dispose of the collection, and the books were accordingly sold at Pacific Book Auction Galleries (sale 180, 15 February 1999). The proceeds from the sale were placed in the Club’s endowment fund.

– history compiled by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr.

See a list of Zamorano Board Presidents

See a list of Past Meetings (since 2010)