The aim and purpose of the Netherlands American Society (NAS) is to provide a social environment for persons of Dutch descent or persons who have an active interest in the Netherlands, in order to communicate with one another on a regular basis about their common heritage and or interest.
In the spring of 1939, during a working visit to the West Coast by the official representative of the Netherlands in the U.S., the suggestion was made that the quickly expanding City of Los Angeles with its growing Dutch community, a Dutch trade commissioner and an Honorary Consul, was in dire need of a social organization for Dutch immigrants. On November 14, 1939, the first meeting to establish the "Netherlands American Society of Southern California" was held.
On January 31, 1940, 84 members met at the Pig 'n Whistle Restaurant in Hollywood to celebrate the birthday of Crown Princess Beatrix. The tradition to celebrate the Queen's birthday as one of the highlights of the NAS calendar was thus established.
The Netherlands American Society of Southern California, was officially incorporated, as a non-profit organization, on February 7, 1940.
As World War II started Holland was occupied by the Germans, so the NAS took on the role of a donation center supporting various Dutch causes. $25,000 was raised to support the operation of the Holland Relief Center in New York City. Money was contributed to the Dutch Seamen's House, also in New York. The NAS even contributed $3000 to the U.S. Government toward financing warplanes.
Despite the war, the NAS kept growing and in 1942 published the first issue of the NAS News. After the war was over, resumption of contracts with the Netherlands made slow progress. As soon as the Board of Directors would receive word that a prominent Dutch visitor, being an artist, a business leader, a scientist or educator, was about to arrive in L.A., efforts were made to snare the visitor to give a lecture, a concert, or any kind of get-together with the Dutch community.
NAS enjoyed its biggest increase in membership between 1954 and 1962, when large numbers of Dutch immigrants arrived here in Southern California under the Refugee Relief Act. Additionally, there was a considerable influx of Dutch immigrants arriving here after first immigrating to Canada.
In 1961, because of the growth of the Dutch community, the Honorary Consul General, after 36 years of service, said goodbye and was replaced with a career diplomat. Of course, this change did not alter the close relationship that always existed and still exists between the Consul General's office and the NAS.
Even though it is said that the Dutch are not the kind of people to belong to clubs and service organizations, the NAS continued to prosper, and other Dutch clubs started to organize in the greater Los Angeles area. 1982 was an important year for the NAS as we celebrated 200 years of unbroken diplomatic and trade relations between the U.S. and the Netherlands. To commemorate the occasion, Queen Beatrix and her husband Claus paid a visit to Los Angeles. Many NAS members received invitations to a reception with the royal couple.
One of the most important goals of the Society is to foster and facilitate interaction between the members, a task not all that easy to accomplish considering that the membership is spread all over Southern California. Thus, meetings of the board, committee meetings and club events require the sacrifice of long distance travel to reach the meeting place. Early on, monthly events took place in restaurants and were dress up affairs, but during the last 25 years the emphasis has changed and the events now usually take place in the home of a member who volunteers his or her residence for the festivity.
Today, even though the prosperity and high standard of living in Holland and current U.S. immigration policies have reduced the motivation for Dutch to come to the U.S., the NAS still is maintaining a considerable membership and remains the oldest continually active Dutch social organization West of the Mississippi.
In February 2010, the NAS celebrated its 70th anniversary with a luncheon and dancing aboard The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.
The Hans Hienkens Fund. The fund was created by NAS in memory of Hans Hienkens, a past president of NAS, and is supported with generous contributions from the membership and others. Each year, from this fund, a donation is made to the Netherlands Social Service Organization (NESSO) and/or other charitable organization(s) at the discretion of the NAS Board of Directors.
Elected at the General Meeting, March 16, 2013