New-York Historical Society

Early Vampire Celebrations

It appears that New Yorker’s love for vampires began before the rise of gothic rockers or even the publication of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula in 1897.

Portion of the program for the 1892 "Death Watch." (F128 HS2725.074 C65 1892)

Ribbon of one of the Vampires.

The N-YHS library  collection includes invitations and programs for dinner parties from 1892-1893 called a “Death Watch” sponsored by an organization entitled “Order of the Vampires” or sometimes simply called the “Vampires.”  There does not appear to have been any motive for this group other than an excuse for men to eat, drink, and sing songs with a theme. The men were not even allowed to enter the dining hall until they had drained a glass of whiskey and smoked a cigar.

A Death Watch dinner program from October 2, 1892 strangely pokes fun of Christopher Columbus and promises food inspired by vampires. The menu included dishes such as a stew with “Vampire blood on the side, on probation from Woodlawn Cemetery” and Vampire “chips” from the “Vampire Foundling Asylum.”  The evening included many songs about celebrating life bef0re one had to go to the grave.

"From the morgue to the Grave, is a mile and a half, and when you get there we will give you the laugh!" Program of the 1893 Death Watch. (F128 HS2725.074 C65 1892)

A New York Times article the day after the 1892 party reported on the party decorations of coffins, skeletons and vampires on wires and described the scene as “one hundred Vampires around the tables, including many actors, doctors, and professional men.” The fate of these Vampires is unclear as there is not much extant information on the organization.  Unlike their muse, the group likely did not exist for very long.

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This is a blog created by staff members in the library to draw attention to the richness and diversity of our collections.

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