Celebrating Over Two Centuries of Service to the People of the City of New York

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York was founded in 1785 by the skilled craftsmen of the City. Today, this 238-year old organization continues to serve and improve the quality of life of the people of the City of New York through its educational, philanthropic and cultural programs including its tuition-free Mechanics Institute, The General Society Library, and its nearly two-century-old Lecture Series.

In 1820, The General Society opened one of the City’s first free schools, as well as the Apprentices Library. The school, which became the Mechanics Institute in 1858, continues to provide tuition-free evening instruction in building trades-related education. It provides a critical service for men and women in the NYC building industry by increasing their knowledge and depth of understanding in their respective fields. This improves job performance, job satisfaction and ultimately career advancement.  As a result, graduates can provide a better life for themselves, their families and their community. Without this tuition-free education, many of our students would be unable to get the technical education needed to advance in today’s environment. Each fall, 200 students enroll in the Mechanics Institute’s programs, including Electrical Technology, HVACR Systems, Plumbing & Heating Systems and Construction Project Management.

Founded in 1820, The General Society Library is the second oldest library in New York City. It serves the educational programs of The General Society. It also makes its extensive collections available to other institutions and the public. The book and periodical collections of the Library span two centuries. Its archives date back to 1785.  The General Society Library is an important resource for scholarly research and labor historians. Its holdings chronicle the history of the physical development of NYC. The General Society Library also serves as a center for the educational programming for countless nonprofit organizations who do not have their own program space.

The Society’s Labor, Literature and Landmarks Series continues a tradition of public lectures that started at the Society in 1837.  Since then, it has been an important source of education and cultural enlightenment for all New Yorkers. The Series brings people of diverse interests from the entire New York area into our Library space. Now in its 13th season, the  Artisan Lecture Series pays tribute to the art of craftsmanship by featuring master artisans who lecture about the intricacies of their specialized crafts. The Artisan Lecture Series promotes the work and art of skilled craftsmen to assist in ensuring their unique knowledge is understood and carried forth for future generations.

The Society also houses the unique John M. Mossman Lock Collection which has more than 370 locks, keys, and tools, dating from 2000 B.C. to the early 20th-century.

The Society’s building at 20 West 44th has been their home since 1899. The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the façade of the building is a New York City landmark.  The General Society has diligently worked to maintain and preserve its 1890 building so it can continue to serve generations to come and stand as a lasting testament to the work of the skilled craftsman who so expertly built it.