Bohemian Grove: Where the Elite Meet to Eat (and Conspire)


BOB ADELMANN

New American
July 15, 2011

Debra Saunders complained that, because she is a woman, she wasn’t invited to the upcoming Bohemian Club meeting which begins this Thursday at the Bohemian Grove retreat center an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Even if she were a man, she most likely still wouldn’t be invited as she is not a member of the “elite.”

Founded just after the Civil War by Henry “Harry” Edwards as a private camp where bohemians — artists and writers — could go to relax and recuperate from the rigors of the work-a-day world, over time the club’s membership evolved to include the rich and powerful, which now numbers over 2,400. The secrecy imposed about the annual meetings has led many to speculate as to the purposes and impact such a conclave might have on the nation’s affairs, especially when membership lists included every Republican President since 1923 (and some Democrats), many cabinet officials, and CEOs of large corporations including the major financial institutions. Military contractors, oil companies, banks (including the Federal Reserve) and national media all have high-ranking officials as either members or guests.

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Despite the club’s motto: “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” (see club emblem, above left) plenty of business, both economic and political, has been done there. As noted in Peter Phillips’ dissertation for his doctorate in philosophy at the University of California, Davis, “The Bohemian Grove has long been a political networking point for Republicans … along with significant numbers of cabinet members and White House officials. [Dwight] Eisenhower gave a premier political address at the Grove in 1950, setting himself on the path to the presidency.” In addition, he noted,

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Presidential hopeful Nelson Rockefeller flew into the Grove [to give a] Lakeside Chat in 1963 and [Richard] Nixon and [Ronald] Reagan sat down informally at the Grove in 1967 to work a political deal wherein Reagan was to run [for President] only if Nixon “faltered.”

The Grove became famous when word leaked out about a Manhattan Project meeting that took place there in September of 1942, which led subsequently to the development of the atom bomb. Attending that meeting were a number of high-ranking military officers, the president of Harvard University, and representatives of Standard Oil and General Electric.

In his memoirs, Richard Nixon amplified the importance of his membership in the Bohemian Club:

If I were to choose the speech that gave me the most pleasure and satisfaction in my political career, it would be my Lakeside Speech at the Bohemian Grove in July, 1967. Because this speech traditionally was off the record, it received no publicity at the time. But in many important ways it marked the first milestone on my road to the presidency. [Emphasis added.]

It was an emotional assignment for me and also an unparalleled opportunity to reach some of the most important and influential men…

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