Turns out Saratoga is all about health, history, horses…and associations. The American Bankers Association, founded here in 1875, provides critical support to US banks as they perform their vital role in energizing the economy and helping communities thrive. And the American Bar Association, established in the Spa City three years later, has become the largest voluntary association for lawyers in the world, serving as the legal profession’s national mouthpiece.
By no means did 19th-century Saratoga have an overly concentrated population of lawyers and bankers. Instead, the associations’ founders chose our resort town to host their inaugural meetings because of Saratoga’s sprawling convention centers, which were constructed during the post–Civil War era; grand hotels, which could accommodate massive numbers of convention-goers; proximity to and ease of travel from metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston and Philadelphia; and, of course, the city’s mineral springs, racetrack and social scene. “There is something to come here for besides the American Bar Association,” said Henry Wilbur Palmer, Pennsylvania’s attorney general from 1879-83, “and the meeting of the Association affords a very convenient excuse to come to Saratoga.”
Sure, both associations were able to coax myriad professionals from all corners of the country to join, thanks to the prize that is the Spa City. But sorry, Mr. Palmer, you got one thing wrong: You most certainly don’t need an excuse to come to Saratoga.