White Elephant Sale History

Here is a brief, bulleted history of the White Elephant Sale:

  • In the earliest years of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme – in the mid- to late 1600s – the women of the church cooked food and sewed clothing to raise money to help support the church’s charitable projects.
  • In 1888, the women of the church officially formed the Neck Road Society and, over the years, the Society held concerts, socials and other events to raise money for local causes.
  • By 1917, the Society was holding suppers for the men in the Connecticut National Guard.
  • In 1920, the Society held its first-ever rummage sale – a small event confined to a single room of the church – which raised $200 for charity, a surprising amount of money at the time.
  • The name, “White Elephant Sale,” was given to the event in 1936 and it thereafter became an annual tradition.
  • In the 1950s, the sale briefly expanded to include a country fair, horse show and square dance; then in subsequent decades, evolved into the popular, two-day local tradition we enjoy today.
  • During and after World War II, the Society used the proceeds of the sale to support a variety of international charitable causes – including helping an orphan from Czechoslovakia, a church in England and children in China. (Today it benefits more than 25 nonprofit organizations across our region and around the world.)
  • Sometime during mid- to late 1900s, the name of the group was changed to the Ladies Benevolent Society. Since that time, as the Society has expanded to include men as well as women, and people of varying faiths and backgrounds, the Society has increasingly gone by just its initials, “LBS.”

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