The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago was founded in 1853 at a time when the city was experiencing tremendous growth and attracting many immigrants from Wales and the world. Welsh immigrants who were well established in their own trades and businesses saw a need to support those who came from Wales with insufficient funds and who fell into dire circumstances due to sickness, a death in the family or other misfortune. Funds were raised by membership fees, donations, ticket sales for concerts featuring Welsh artists, and large picnics which became a much anticipated time for playful competition, music, food and merriment in celebration of a shared and cherised attachment to Wales.
In 1939 it had 2,500 members or almost half the Welsh population in the city.” Ref: “The Welsh People in Chicago” by Jay Monaghan, Illinois State Historical Society Journal 32 (1939) pp. 498 -516.
In more recent years the society has responded to the need for a heightened awareness of Welsh cultural traditions for second and third generation Welsh Americans and for the Chicago area population in general, and has added a second purpose to its mission. Namely, “…the promotion of Welsh culture via newsletters, programs of music, dance or other activities recognized as part of Welsh culture.” (CBS Constitution and By-Laws).
Each year in early March the society holds a special St David’s Day Dinner in honor of our patron saint, St David. In the summer we have our annual picnic in the park for members and their families. In September we participate in Chicago’s Celtic Fest held at Grant Park and in November we decorate a Welsh Christmas tree for display at the Museum of Science and Industry. In May 2006 the Chicago Gymanfa Ganu Society officially merged with CBS and future Gymanfa Ganu events in Chicago will be held under the umbrella of our organization.
On October 14th, 2006 we celebrated Wales and all things Welsh at our second annual Welsh Heritage Fest.
In August 2008 we were proud to sponsor the North American Festival of Wales and the 77th Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu in our own backyard! It was held during 4 days from Aug 28-31, 2008 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Oak Brook, Illinois and featured informative seminars, Welsh dancing and language classes, local tours, and a Welsh Film Festival. There was a cafe where visitors might stop in for a cup of tea and Welsh cakes, a marketplace where unique Welsh and Celtic goods were on sale, nightly concerts with featured performers Fflur Dafydd, Aled Wyn Davies and the Cor Aelwyd mixed choir from Cardiff, and a special pub night. It was a wonderful, heart warming event attended by hundreds of Welsh friends and associates from all over the USA and Canada. This year’s event will be held in Pittsburgh. Visit the official website www.nafow.org for more information.
Come and celebrate the spirit of Wales with us!