Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

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Tuna Club buttons, Santa Catalina Island
Tuna Club burgees, Santa Catalina Island
1967 Tuna Club burgees, Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club pier under construction,
Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club pier under construction,
Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club nearing completion,
Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island
[original in SCIF archives]
The Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island

Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island was officially founded on June 15, 1898 by biologist, author and sportsman, Charles Frederick Holder and friends. Its founding was prompted by Holder’s June 1, 1898 historic catch by rod and reel of a 183-pound bluefin tuna. The club’s articles of incorporation were finalized on July 20, 1898, and three membership classifications were outlined: Honorary, Associate and Active. The club would be open to any gentlemen willing to follow strict rules of fish engagement and who promoted fish conservation.

The first Honorary members included David Starr Jordan, first president of Stanford University; Gifford Pinchot, head of the Forestry Department of the U.S.; and Presidents McKinley, Cleveland and Roosevelt. A desk in the Hotel Metropole served as the first club headquarters from 1898-1908. The Tuna Club was favorably endorsed by the Bannings because it promoted island tourism, and the club’s first clubhouse was a gift from the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1908, in appreciation of the club’s promotion of anglers.

In 1898, Club leadership began with presidency going to the member who caught the largest tuna (Charles Frederick Holder), and vice-presidency to he who caught the most tuna (E. L. Doran).

Early Tuna Club Presidents

The Tuna Club is located at 100 St. Catherine Way in Avalon. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It is also listed as California Historical Landmark No. 997.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfELrazv2bs Dr. Charles F. Holder

Dr. Charles Frederick Holder (second in from the right) and his friends who helped him found the Tuna Club in 1898.
Charlie Chaplin (left) caught a 100-pound tuna which made him eligible for membership in the Tuna Club.
Black Bass.jpg
The Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island
The Tuna Club, 1928 Santa Catalina Island
Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island, 1938
Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island, 2015
Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island, 2015

Gamefish species around Santa Catalina Island include:

Tuna Club Members profiled in Islapedia

  • [ Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island ] 1911. Holder, Charles Frederick Tuna Club Tuna Club Secretary’s File 1907-1911 8 pages brad-bound in black boards at top. Holder’s annual report for the year 1910. Laid in is a letter from the late manager of the Tuna Club, George Branzell ca. 1980.

[original in SCIF archives; ex-lib. M. D. Daily]

  • [ Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island ] [n.p.], 1916. White stapled wrappers. 6" x 3-1/2". Annual Tournaments. The Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island, California 1898-1916. Eighteenth annul summer sea angling tournament. May 1 to September 30 inclusive, 1916.
[original in SCIF archives; ex-lib M. D. Daily]

  • [ Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island ] Macrate, Arthur, Jr. History of the Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California Tuna Club, 1948. First edition. Burgundy leather binding. 197 pages, 17 chapters. Rare book.
[original in SCIF archives; ex-lib M. D. Daily]

  • [ Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island ] Macrate, Arthur, Jr. History of the Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California Tuna Club, 1978. Second edition. Burgundy leather binding. 197 pages, 17 chapters.
[original in SCIF archives; ex-lib M. D. Daily]

[original in SCIF archives]

In the News~

August 13, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “First meeting of the Tuna Club. The first annual meeting of the Tuna Club was held last night and it was agreed that the club should take active interest in the preservation of the remarkable game fishes of the island… The Banning Company also presented the club with a handsome record book, which will be one of the most remarkable records of fishing ever seen…”

June 28, 1900 [LAH]: “Avalon, Catalina Island, June 27. Tuna Club meets. Ladies will not be admitted to membership. A special meeting of the Tuna Club was held last evening, at which the moot question, whether ladies are entitled to membership in the club, was definitely settled. The original constitution of the club reads that its members shall be composed of "ladies and gentlemen", but on June 19, 1898, an amendment to the constitution was passed limiting the membership to gentlemen only. Several ladies have this year captured tunas, and the question whether they were entitled to membership has been pressed and argued pro and con. It is now decided that ladies are not entitled to a button, nor to membership in the club, but special prizes will be arranged for their benefit. A committee for this purpose was appointed, consisting of Colonel R. A. Eddy and F. E. Rider. So large has the membership of the club become and such importance has the tuna fishing assumed that a club house as a rendezvous is now almost a necessity. The project has long been talked of and at last is assuming definite shape. The Banning Company, it is understood, is willing to cooperate with the anglers in erecting a suitable structure, and a committee, comprising Coloney Eddy, Prof. C. F. Holder and General A. W. Barrett was appointed to meet with the Bannings and make the preliminary arrangements...”

May 23, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The editor of The Anglers’ News and Sea Fishers’ Journal, of London, England, has sent the Santa Catalina Island Tuna Club a copy of his journal of date of March 26, containing a list of the record fishes caught last year all over the world. As might be expected, Catalina heads the list with Edward Llewellyn’s 425-pound black sea bass, and the next twenty would also belong here were they all recorded…”

October 1, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The annual tournament of Santa Catalina Island Tuna Club for the season of 1904 closed today. This season, like that of last year, was a poor one, for the great game fish from which the club takes its name only seven were taken during the year...”

July 7, 1907 [LAT]: “At a special meeting of the Tuna Club held at the Metropole last evening, it was decided to issue a red tuna button for those who have taken a tuna of not less than fifty pounds net weight on a nine ounce rod and standard nine thread line. Buttons will only be given to active and associate members of the club, and when won by associate members carry active membership. Under this provision the following gentlemen receive buttons: Thomas McDermott Potter, Gilmour Sharp and L. P. Streeter.”

September 30, 1908 [LAT]: “The first annual tournament of the Catalina Three-Six Club, under the auspices of the Tuna Club, closes today, and it has been a remarkable success when the doubts cast upon its feasibility at the beginning of the season are taken into consideration. Commodore Thomas McD. Potter, the founder of the club, spent a great deal of time and money upon it, but the results have been distinctly worth while, and the club’s motto: ‘More Sport, Less Fish,’ has been fully justified. Mr. Potter founded the club last spring. He believed that large fish could be taken upon even lighter than nine-ounce tackle, and that if anglers could be converted to the idea the standard of the sport would be elevated and the slaughter of game fish greatly lessened. The same idea prevailed when the nine-ounce light tackle was first agitated; but so expert have the anglers become, and so generally has nine-ounce tackle come into use, that it has become heavy tackle by comparison, while the old ‘two-by-fours’ are seldom used in Catalina waters. The Three-Six Club is for yellowtail only, the specifications being a six-foot, six-ounce rod and a six-thread line…”

September 1, 1909 [SBI]: “The blue button of the Catalina Tuna Club is adorning the coat of a new member, Ben Williams… Since the first large leaping tuna taken at Catalina Island in five years was brought to land August 19, by Steve Brodie of Los Angeles, 21 more of these world-famous fighting fish have been caught, every one weighing more than 100 pounds…”

December 9, 1911 [LAT/LB]: “Would limit abalone catch. C. B. Linton who controls the abalone and pearl concessions of San Miguel and San Clemente islands, is much interested in the application of the Catalina Tuna Club to have the Board of Supervisors limit the daily catch of abalones to fifty pounds each day for each fisherman. Mr. Linton believes the catch should be limited so far as red and green abalones are concerned, but will protest against its application to the black abalones, which he says, are in no danger of extinction since 20 percent of them live within the lines of the surf and are not within the reach of divers or ebb workers. He says that the green and red abalones are easy pickings for the Japanese divers, most of whom are no respecters of the Fish and Game laws, but denude the localities in which they work. The Linton concessions have shipped sixty tons of shells to eastern manufacturers this year. They also have a plant, or bed, of 3000 abalones which are engaged just now in making abalone pearls. The plant is soon to be moved nearer the mainland. The process is new, pearls being developed in the course of one or two years around a composition nucleus that is planted inside the abalone shell. Some of these have been removed from abalones after being planted eight months, and show the scheme is a success. The pearls can be produced in any color of the Oriental pearl, and will be very valuable.”

April 14, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “A reward of $25 is being offered by the Tuna Club for the arrest and conviction of any one violating the fish and game laws of Catalina Island. It is claimed by some that anglers are not taking out the necessary fishing licenses, although they are fishing with rod and reel within the three-mile limit. It is understood the reward offered by the Tuna Club covers the rod and reel part of the law as well as seining.”

May 5, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “May 1st opened the sixteenth annual summer tournament of the Catalina Tuna Club for anglers and sportsmen who are ‘rod and reel enthusiasts.’ Several new cups, medallions and other prizes have been added…”

November 30, 1915 [LAT]: “Smoldering ruins and ashes where beautiful Avalon stood. Over half of island city is destroyed by flames. Estimated loss of half a million dollars, wrought by possible incendiary blaze. Dramatic scene as victims flee in night. Two hundred persons are homeless as a result of a fire, supposedly of incendiary origin, which reduced more than half of Avalon to ashes early yesterday morning, causing property losses, which are estimated by officials of the Santa Catalina Island Company at $500,000. More than half of the property was uninsured. Between the waterfront and the wireless station and Metropole Avenue, the famed Pilgrim’s Club, and the equally famed Tuna Club are all in ashes, while only the chimneys are left of the homes in the exclusive Grand View tract…”

February 8, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Plans have been completed for the two story Tuna Club and it is expected that the work of erection will commence as soon as the material can be received from the mainland. The new building will have a library, tackle room, and other rooms located on the ground floor. A twelve foot hallway from the street entrance to the club pier and floats has been arranged for in the specifications.”

February 29, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Interior and ocean view plans of the new Catalina Tuna Club building.

May 23, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “That the Tuna Club opened to its membership Saturday is the most elegantly furnished building in this city, is the consensus of opinion of all who were permitted to look over the building on the opening day… Organized in 1898 by the late Dr. Charles F. Holder, the Catalina Tuna Club has since enjoyed a reputation of being the most popular of all angling centers… On the second floor of the new building are 14 elegantly furnished sleeping rooms, each room having an outside window overlooking the waterfront, and on the ground floor are the social rooms with their walls covered with the mounted specimens of game fish…”

March 19, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “A series of blasts on Friday afternoon, on the mountain side beyond the Tuna Club, furnished an abundance of rock and earth for widening the boulevard to Sugar Loaf and Descanso Canyon. Incidentally, the Moorish cottage on the crest of the ridge is now perilously near the edge of the bank.”

April 10, 1918 [LAT]: “The annual election of the Tuna Club of Santa Catalina Island was held at Avalon Sunday…”

July 20, 1989 LAT]: “Avalon Takes Tuna Club's Word on Discrimination. Avalon city officials, after months of inquiry, have accepted assurances by the all-male Tuna Club that the club does not discriminate against women. At an Avalon City Council meeting attended by Tuna Club President Jim Martin and other club members, City Atty. Michael Jenkins told the council that letters to the city from the Tuna Club had resolved the issue. In an interview, Jenkins said the city had requested assurances that the club "will not discriminate in their membership policies, business practices and the operation of their facilities. We asked them to affirm that that would be their policy, and they have done that, and we are satisfied." Jenkins said the club "has taken a position consistent with the position that we asked them to take." Discrimination Statement. In a letter to the city March 14, Martin had said the club did not discriminate "on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin in its membership policies and practices." But city officials insisted that the club's nondiscrimination policy must also extend to the operation of the facilities. City Manager Chuck Prince said the June 9 letter "basically says uncle. It says we assure you that we don't discriminate in our practices and in our membership. The council and city officials felt that the letter was satisfactory." In the letter, Martin said that although the club's board of directors considered the use of club facilities a private matter, the board had nonetheless directed him to assure the city that the club "does not and will not discriminate in the operation and utilization of the club facilities (except for restrooms, shower rooms and changing rooms) on the basis of sex, race, religion and national origin." Martin was unavailable for comment. The 91-year-old private sportfishing club, on Santa Catalina Island ocean-front property, leases its facilities from the city for $4,800 a year under a 10-year lease that expires in December. The city's inquiry into the club's operation began last October, when City Councilwoman Irene Strobel asked that the city investigate whether the club restricted its membership to men and, if so, whether leasing publicly owned land to such a group would violate state and federal laws. In a series of letters sent to the city, club officials said the club does not prohibit women from becoming members. To join the club, prospective members must be nominated for associate membership by a current member, club officials said. To advance to active membership, an associate member must catch a fish exceeding a certain weight, depending on the kind of fish. The club has fewer than 200 members, most of whom live on the mainland, club officials said. Some members maintain vacation homes on the island, officials said. Strobel said the city and the club had come a long way toward resolving the issue but that she was concerned about how the city would monitor whether the club restricted women. "I guess I'm going to have to keep trucking forward on this," said Strobel, the only female council member. "They have agreed not to discriminate, and that's an important step forward. I'm hoping there will be a mechanism to allow the city to monitor and enforce this nondiscrimination requirement." Prince said the city would investigate any reports of sexual discrimination at the club. Club officials have notified the city of their intent to renew the lease for another 10 years, Prince said. Prince, Mayor Hugh T. (Bud) Smith and Councilman Hal Host plan to meet with club officials within the next few months to discuss the terms of the lease, Prince said. "We want to talk to them a little about the price, who maintains the club in case it's damaged by a storm, and access, being open on a from time-to-time basis for community groups and citizens to use," Prince said. The white, New England-style building was heavily damaged in a storm in January, 1988. Club members are paying for those repairs, a member said. Strobel said the opening of club facilities for some city-sanctioned functions would be a good-will gesture that would serve the community and the club. "I think I'll be satisfied when all the mechanisms are in place to make it a smooth-running operation for both the city and for them," Strobel said.”