100 YEARS OF THE SWISS-AMERICAN SOCIETY
Our organization is turning 100 years old in 2020. Due to all the commitment of our predecessors,
we are still on the road to success today.
The Swiss-American Society was founded in 1920 under the name “Swiss Friends of the United States of America” (SFUSA) in Zürich. The thirteen founding members were the original participants of the first “Swiss Mission of Economic Studies”, in 1919, which travelled to the USA for 68 days. The group consisted of 225 manufacturers and merchants, including prominent names such as Bally, Boveri, Raichle, Reinhard, Schmidheiny, Steinfels and Sulzer. Their aim was to get to know Frederick Taylor’s process oriented “Scientific Management” theory within the American company model such as Ford Motor Comp., General Electric etc.
The last of these “business tours” took place in 1972. These now took place with Swissair instead of the steamship. The excursion lasted only 16 days.
STRENGTHEN THE FRIENDSHIP
Even back then, the main purpose of SFUSA was to strengthen the friendship between Switzerland and the USA and among the members of the association. Similar to today, back then - luncheons with different economic and cultural topics were also held on a regular basis. In addition to the monthly meetings and weekly luncheons, other events were also held such as the Christmas party, the SFUSA Ball and the “Smoker’s Night”.
MIDWIFE FOR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
SFUSA was the first Swiss-American institution in Switzerland who helped found the Rotary Club of Zürich (1924), the American Women’s Club pf Zurich, formerly known as the American Ladies Club (1925), and the ETH Institute of Industrial Engineering and Management (BWI, 1929).
In 1927 the SFUSA arranged and supported the first student exchange between Switzerland and the USA. Each year, the association awarded a scholarship to an American student so they could complete a year of study in Switzerland. The first scholarship program was cancelled in 1969 due to financial reasons but reactivated in 1982.
After the second World War, the SFUSA organized holiday campaigns for US army officers. These activities as well as the regular exchange between the American Embassy in Bern and the Consulate General, which was already based in Zürich, have contributed immensely to the cultural and economic exchange between Switzerland and the sister Republic of the United States of America.
SURIVING THE CRISIS YEARS TOGETHER
During the Great Depression that followed “Black Friday” on the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, the US erected tariff and import barriers that hit the Swiss economy hard. This led to a slow and persistent decline in memberships. During the mid-1990s our friendship was put to the test yet again during the scandal involving dormant assets of the Jewish Holocaust victims.
A SAFE VALUE IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
Today; the economic and political environment has become more volatile, complex and uncertain. Despite- or perhaps precisely because of this- the Swiss-American Society Zürich continues to cultivate the friendship between the two countries. For the value and significance of a friendship manifests itself precisely in these moments of differing political and economic views. Now more then ever- informal contact are all the more important.
In the year 2000; due to the increasing demand and number of scholarships, the SFUSA decided to establish a tax-exempt scholarship fund in the form of an association.
In 2007 SFUSA changed its name to the “Swiss-American Society- Zürich”. The spirit and objective of the Society remains the same: to promote a friendship between the US and Switzerland.
OLDER, BUT STILL FIT
Today, the Swiss-American Society-Zürich has a diverse membership group ranging from long-time members to young professionals whom have just returned from a scholarship program in the US.
Even though we all have different backgrounds, age and experiences, we still share a common bond with the United States. We all value the family-like exchange, paired with exciting events, top-notch speakers and a scholarship fund to help and promote young talented students.
In 2020, the «Grand Old Lady» of the Swiss-American institution has turned 100 years old- and she’s still going strong.