The Club /


Cosmos Club is a private Washington, D.C. social club for individuals distinguished in science, literature, the arts, learned professions, or public service. The club has provided a prestigious environment for intellectual fellowship since 1878.

A Culture of Distinction

The tradition of Cosmos Club is rooted in dignity, elegance, and camaraderie. Since the club’s inception, we’ve maintained a welcoming atmosphere where members can socialize, relax, dine, and learn.  

To become a member of Cosmos Club, an individual must demonstrate distinction in their prospective artistic, scientific, literary, public service, or professional career. 

Our members have included three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, 14 Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 55 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom–and this list continues to grow.

The club’s cultural and intellectual programming are at the heart of our prestigious history. Members enjoy lectures on a variety of disciplines, as well as musical concerts and enriching literary conversations. Our community also comes together for holiday events, champagne brunches, wine tastings, and dinner dances.

Beyond the many social events at the club are the opportunities for study and contemplation. Our elegant library is home to over ten thousand volumes, most of which are available for loan to our members. This beautifully preserved space remains a haven for quiet reading and intellectual discussions.

Explore Cosmos Club

Start from a bird’s eyes view and swoop in through the front door.

We welcome you to explore Cosmos Club right here, and right now.

Cosmos History


Cosmos Club Overview


History of the Cosmos Club

Every room of the Cosmos Club is a tribute to the distinguished members of the past, as well as a celebration of the present and future.  

The history of the Club starts with a question: “Why have you not in Washington a club like the Century?” When Clarence Dutton, soldier and geologist, heard a friend pose this question, he and his circle gathered at the home of John Wesley Powell.  

Powell was a soldier, explorer, ethnologist, and Director of the Geological Survey.

He was also a skilled organizer, fostering a community where intellectuals could gather, talk, and learn together.  

As more individuals arrived in Washington D.C. for research, cultural, or government purposes, Powell’s community grew rapidly during the 1870’s. 

It became clear that this social club stood out from the others, centering on fellowship, science, the arts, learning, and the sharing of ideas.  

It was called Cosmos Club.

John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell

A Centennial History of The Cosmos Club of Washington

The Cosmos Club of Washington: A Centennial History of the Cosmos Club 1868-1978 and the Beginning of the Second Century 1979-1994 by Wilcomb E. Washburn. The Club has made arrangements for members to order a print-on-demand copy of the book by contacting Jonathan Woollen at Politics and Prose bookstore [email protected] or 202-349-1182.

You can save an electronic copy of the book to your computer by right-clicking on the link below and choosing “Save Link As” or “Save Target As.”

Download Book: The Cosmos Club of Washington: A Centennial History of the Cosmos Club 1878-1978 and the Beginning of the Second Century 1979-1994 by Wilcomb E. Washburn (PDF: 73 MB)

Download Addendum Only: The Cosmos Club of Washington: Beginning of the Second Century 1979-1994 by Wilcomb E. Washburn (PDF: 5.2 MB)

For more information about the book or selected bibliography of articles and books about the Club’s history, please contact the Librarian at [email protected].

Related Links
Historical List of Club Presidents, Secretaries, and Treasurers (PDF)

Desegregating the Cosmos Club: A Talk by John Hope Franklin (May 25, 2007)
With an Introduction by the History Committee (PDF)

Published by the Cosmos Club September 1, 2010

Cosmos Club Legacies: The Land and Townsend Decorative Arts by Laurence J. Aurbach (January 31, 2013) (PDF 6 MB)
Published by the Cosmos Club January 31, 2013

Learn More About Cosmos Club

The Clubhouse

Learn more about the sprawling history of the Cosmos Club clubhouse, the floorplans, and the elegant décor that adorns the interior.

Schedule a Tour

Walking tours and luncheons are available for members and guests upon request, as well as public tours of the Townsend House.

Reading & Resources

Those interested in furthering their knowledge of Cosmos Club are encouraged to read our collection of resources.