The word "salmagundi" appears in the papers of Washington Irving—best known for his story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"—where it refers to a mixture of many ingredients. In 1871 a group of young artists borrowed the word to describe their nascent club, being, as it was, a loose alliance of artists with diverse viewpoints and goals. Today the club offers rotating visual art exhibitions as well as lectures, demonstrations and sketch classes by artist members. Exhibitions and public programs are generally free-of-charge while drop-in art classes have a fee.

Subjects of programs include estate planning and what to do with art collections (for artists and owners).

Past Salmagundians include Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Philip Sousa and Stanford White. The club is in a landmark building constructed in 1853.