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University of Colorado Boulder Cosmopolitan Club records

Identifier: COU:4044

Scope and Contents

The group’s records are not divided up functionally, due to the inconsistent organization of the clubs materials. Rather, the collection is divided into three basic chronological periods. I. Original Cosmopolitan Club 1923-1969, II. Foreign Student Council, 1970-1977, III. Current Cosmo Club 1981 - . I. Original Cosmopolitan Club 1923-1969 contains scrapbook material such as programs, member lists, and announcements. This section also includes minutes, receipts and financial records. II. Foreign Student Council, 1970-1977 is not arranged in a chronological fashion. Instead, announcements, receipts and financial records, ballots, field trips, social events, lists of members and friends, newsletters, minutes, film information, and the Foreign Student Councils own FSC Archives are organized between years. III. Current Cosmo Club 1981 - , contains a listing of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc., as well as publicity, social/party information, special events, membership lists, activities in the spring, meetings, office logs, questionnaires, and faculty correspondence from 1981 and onward. IV. Photographs, include pictures from many different events over the tenure of the Cosmo Club dating from 1947 – 1976. Negatives accompany many of the photos and though a few photographs in the collection have no date, they offer a glimpse of the activities organized by the Cosmo Club over past years.


  • Creation: 1923 - 1988

Historical Note

The motto of the Cosmopolitan Club is “Above all nations is humanity,” a motto that was evident in their activism against prejudice and racism. Within the backdrop of post-World War I anti-immigration sentiments and the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado (1920-1926), Fred E. Aden and Mrs. Aden organized the Cosmopolitan Club in the fall of 1922 with a few students of foreign birth, several faculty members and community leaders. The Cosmopolitan Club was organized to promote social interaction between people of different national and cultural backgrounds. . The club maintained a considerable faculty sponsorship prior to World War II. President and Mrs. George Norlin were founding members, adding to the club’s campus clout. In addition, American CU students clamored to be members. So popular was the Club among Americans that the club had to restrict American membership to fewer than 40 %. The meetings were open to any student willing to take an active interest in the clubs activities. American blacks, Japanese Americans, and liberal white students made up a substantial portion of the membership during the 1920s and 1930s. Traditionally, the President of the Cosmopolitan Club was a foreign student, although in later years, Americans were elected into the position. The club was briefly discontinued in 1925, but was reorganized in 1927. In 1928, the C.U. club joined the national organization and grew in numbers and influence. It enjoyed outstanding leadership among campus groups. Some of the group’s influence stemmed from the excellent relations it enjoyed with President Norlin. Norlin annually invited the Cosmopolitan Club to the Christmas Party at the President's House. Thanks to this annual party, resulting in excellent relations with the President, members and officers of the club were able to have a voice and an informal advisory position on matters of ethnicity, race, international students, and culture.

The Cosmopolitan Club began as a social club and offered a place of welcome, social activities, and inter-cultural and international understanding. In the latter role, the Cosmo Club featured or sponsored speakers on international issues, ethnic and racial problems. They conducted presentations, plays, and held parties on cultural and international themes. Their activities and announcements received constant attention in the Silver & Gold, the student newspaper from 1890-1953. By the 1930s, the club had become the leading student voice on international affairs. On the domestic front, the club evolved into the lone multi-ethnic student group contending against discrimination. From 1939 to 1945, they sponsored numerous forums, speakers, meetings, and activities on race issues, investigated problems, and explored and proposed solutions to the problem of segregated housing and discrimination in Hill restaurants and barbershops, as well as restricted seating in Boulder theatres. The Cosmo Club continued its close relationship with President Robert Stearns, as President Stearns had been a member of the Faculty Senate Committee on Ethnic Minorities, as well as Norlin’s mentored successor.

World War II caused a sea change in campus interests. Between 1946 and 1965, other campus organizations competed for, or took over, roles which the Cosmo Club had filled before the War. Rapid growth of the University allowed the specialization of social interests as well as academic disciplines. In matters of ethic and racial discrimination, education on international and intercultural education, and in the role of ethnic and racial welcome, other clubs or groups began to compete. Particular ethnic clubs, academic departments, and the new Conference on World Affairs took over much of the Cosmo Clubs function of teaching internationalism. While the custom of the annual dinner with the President continued, the club lost much of its influence and activism and almost disappeared from Silver & Gold coverage. The University had grown so much in size, that one club could no longer exclusively contain all the functions or interests that the Cosmo Club had held prior to 1945.

As the number of international students on campus exploded, nationalities and ethnicities began to form their own student groups. In the politically charged climate after 1965, student groups of all types took increasingly militant stances on political issues: the Vietnam War, the Draft, racism, nationalism, and perceived US imperialism. As in loco parentis came increasingly came under student fire, student groups altered their approach to the administration from cooperation to opposition. Rival groups bickered and postured, groups spoke out against American military operations and campus biases. The Cosmo Club transformed itself into the "Foreign Student Union." It saw itself as a unifying organization for the splintered ethnic and international organizations and posed itself as a way for these groups to better act against the University administration. They attempted to ameliorate squabbles between angry nationalist organizations, and to again unite in pursuit of common goals and interests among nationalities. While the Cosmo Club continued to hold functions and attract members, where they had once been the main organization, they were now only one group among many involved in international, intercultural, and antidiscrimination activities.

In the early 1980s, the Cosmo Club dropped its political name and all attempts to control the other ethnic student groups. Abdicating their political agenda, members felt that the club needed to return to its core goal of international fellowship and cultural appreciation. In this way they were representative of the student body at large, which retreated from political protest after 1982. The primarily relaxed social environment has attracted students driven away by other groups’ political attitudes.

The Cosmopolitan Club has one of the longer tenures of clubs on the C.U. campus. Despite the presence of an array of ethnic student clubs, international student office, the Conference on World Affairs, and International Studies, Cosmo Club still strives to promote social interaction between people of different national and cultural backgrounds. There is no formal membership, and all that is required to be a member is to sign up on the Cosmo Club mailing list and attend one of the club’s social events. Many of the old traditions are still in place, such as house parties with members of the club and international potluck dinners. Apart from these, Cosmo hosts many activities like hiking, skiing, camping, ice-skating, soccer, touch-football, and ballroom dancing. Although the Club is now one of many, it still carries the torch in promoting the destruction of racial barriers and discrimination.


6 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Cosmopolitan Club is one of the oldest student clubs still in operation. Organized in 1922, the Club was intended to be a social welcoming organization for international students in the face of a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. By the late 1930s the Cosmo Club had developed into the only international and consciously multi-ethnic organization on campus, heavily influencing the early CU civil rights efforts (1938-1945). After WWII a proliferation of academic and student international and ethnic clubs severely quieted the Cosmo Club’s influence. 1960s and 1970s activism was reflected in the Cosmo Clubs name change to the Foreign Student Alliance. The Club has since returned to its less political roots since 1981. The collection consists of Club records, minutes, correspondence, and activity files.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States