Sons of the American Revolution

Coordinates: 38°15′28″N 85°45′49″W / 38.25778°N 85.76361°W / 38.25778; -85.76361
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

National Society
of the
Sons of the American Revolution
AbbreviationSAR, NSSAR
EstablishedApril 30, 1889; 134 years ago (1889-04-30)
TypePatriotic-Hereditary society
Legal statusFederally chartered corporation
PurposeFraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable, educational
Headquarters809 West Main Street,
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Region served
38,323 (2022)
Official language
AffiliationsDaughters of the American Revolution
Children of the American Revolution
Sons of the American Revolution's Philadelphia chapter at a ceremony commemorating the birth of victorious Continental Army general George Washington, the first United States president at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier in the Washington Square neighborhood of Philadelphia

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR, National SAR or NSSAR) is an American congressionally chartered organization, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. A non-profit corporation, it has described its purpose as maintaining and extending "the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, a respect for our national symbols, the value of American citizenship, [and] the unifying force of 'e pluribus unum' that has created, from the people of many nations, one nation and one people."[1]

The members of the society are male descendants of people who served in the American Revolutionary War or who contributed to establishing the independence of the United States. It is dedicated to perpetuating American ideals and traditions, and to protecting the Constitution of the United States; the official recognition of Constitution Day, Flag Day, and Bill of Rights Day were established through its efforts. It has members in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.[2]

The organization is distinct from the Sons of the Revolution, a separate descendants heritage organization founded on February 22, 1876, by businessman John Austin Stevens and members of The Society of the Cincinnati. SAR Founder William Osborn McDowell disagreed with the Sons of the Revolution requirement at that time that all state societies were to be subordinate to the New York society.


19th century[edit]

Theodore Roosevelt, a member of the organization, signed its Congressional Charter in 1906
Sons of the American Revolution grave marker at the Old Ship Burying Ground in Hingham, Massachusetts

The first organization of descendants of Revolutionary War patriots was established in San Francisco, in 1876. A group of men who were descendants of Revolutionary War-era veterans gathered to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States. They also wanted to honor the men and women who pledged their lives, fortunes, and livelihood to the striving for independence from Great Britain. This group formed an organization called the Sons of Revolutionary War Sires (SRWS). There is, however, no direct link between the SRWS and the SAR except that members of the SRWS were permitted to join the SAR after its founding in 1889.

The organization's founding can be traced to the Sons of the Revolution, a New York City society that was organized in 1876. Sons of the American Revolution was founded by John Austin Stevens, who envisioned an aristocratic social and hereditary organization along the lines of the Society of the Cincinnati.

In 1889, William Osborn McDowell, a New Jersey financier and businessman, organized the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the Revolution but was unwilling to accept the SR's requirement that other state societies be subordinate to the New York society. McDowell also wanted the society to become more of a mass movement of descendants of Revolutionary patriots rather than an exclusive social club.

McDowell organized the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) at Fraunces Tavern in New York City, on April 30, 1889, the same year as the centennial anniversary of the first inauguration of George Washington as the nation's first president in 1789. McDowell was the organization's first member. In addition to organizing the SAR, McDowell worked with six women to organize Daughters of the American Revolution, a national organization for women who descend from American Revolution-era figures.

20th century[edit]

On June 9, 1906, Sons of the American Revolution was formally granted a congressional charter by an Act of Congress under Title 36 of the United States Code. The act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a member.


Membership in the society is open to any male of "good repute"[3] who can prove lineal bloodline descent from an ancestor who actively supported the American Revolution.[4] Acceptable ancestors include:

No state society or chapter may discriminate against an applicant on the basis of race or creed. The SAR claims a membership of over 37,000 members in over 550 chapters representing all 50 states in the United States, as well as societies in Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Overall, about 200,000 descendants have been admitted since the founding of the S.A.R. in 1890.


Horace Porter, U.S. Ambassador to France, served as the organization's president-general from 1892 to 1897

The governance of the Sons of the American Revolution is made up of ten national officers, 15 vice presidents that preside over separate geographical regions, and one trustee, who is elected from each state and international society. The officers meet several times over the year to discuss business pertaining to the society. National Officers meet at least four times during their term of office, unless special meetings are called. Trustees meet twice annually at the society's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. These meetings, known as the Fall and Spring Leadership Meetings, are normally held in late September and early March. During leadership meetings, committee recommendations and the society's budget are approved. While only national officers, vice presidents, and trustees have the right to vote on the floor, all members are invited to attend and may request appointment to committees.

National officers and trustees also meet during the National Congress, which is held in late June or early July of each year. Unlike the leadership meetings, which always take place at the Society's national headquarters, the National Congress is held in different locations throughout the United States. Locations are often selected in order to honor a historical event in United States history or in the organization's history, and there is an effort to alternate the meetings between the East and West coasts of the United States. The National Congress is responsible for electing national officers and approving changes to the society's constitution, along with any other motions brought before it.

The organization also maintains over 60 standing and special committees that Sons of the American Revolution members are appointed to in order to oversee the society's welfare, including committees on facilities, insurance, genealogy, library, merchandise, medals, and awards. All members are welcome to participate on committees and are appointed by the society's president general for a one-year term. There are no term-limits and all committee members have the right to vote on the committee's decisions.

The current President General is John L. Dodd, Esq. (California SAR), who was sworn in as President General at the 133rd National Congress in Orlando, Florida. The organization's executive director is Todd Bale.

Genealogical library[edit]

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has held a collection of genealogical reference dating back to 1889. Materials were originally kept by the Secretary General or Registrar General up until 1926, when the materials were moved to the Registrar General's office in Washington, D.C., in 1927, this collection was moved to the recently purchased Sixteenth Street Headquarters Building, and the collection had grown to 914 books by 1933. From this point until the move of Headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Louisville, Kentucky, the book collection grew at a rapid pace, growing to approximately 25,000 items by 1988. At this point, the Library was on the Second floor of the Headquarters building on South Fourth Street, and possessed a 544-square-foot vault for books not out in the library due to space.

Because of continuing growth, the SAR Library was moved in 2010 to a renovated building on West Main Street in the heart of the Historic Museum District of downtown Louisville. By this point, the Library collection had grown to over 58,000 items, mostly covering the Revolutionary War period, but also containing other genealogical materials. The library collection includes family histories, state genealogy materials, federal censuses, Revolutionary War pension applications, and CD collections, and the library separates materials based on State. The library also provides access to online research databases, including,, and Heritage Quest Online.


The society operates a merchandise department that sells items intended for both SAR members and the general public. Among the products available to the general public are: clothing apparel for men and women, Revolutionary War replicas such as Liberty Bells and field cannons, jewelry for men and women such as lapel pins and cuff links, along with cups, mugs, key-chains, books, CDs, videos and knickknacks. Items intended for SAR members only include: clothing, decals, license plate holders and frames, certificates and medals corresponding to SAR activities, medals designed to reward active and retired military personnel, firefighters, EMS, JROTC and ROTC, individuals involved in education, Eagle Scouts and many others.

The merchandise department is located on the lower level of the SAR Genealogical Library, located at 809 West Main Street, just across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.


The color guard of Sons of the American Revolution's Indiana chapter appears with the recreated 19th U.S. Infantry at an outdoor Independence Day concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in Indianapolis

The society is involved in historical research, raising funds for local scholarships and educational awards, and preservation of sites and documents related to the American Revolution. The SAR petitioned Congress to store Revolutionary era documents in a fire-proof area and make them available to the public, leading to the creation of the National Archives.[5] It is also active in cataloging and marking Revolutionary War patriot graves and conducts an annual Eagle Scout scholarship program. The society is active in promoting "patriotism", and was instrumental in the establishment of Constitution Day.[6] Several SAR societies and chapters have active color guard groups that appear in various public and private venues as a means of community outreach.

The Sons of the American Revolution hosts two Leadership Meetings and one National Congress every year. The two leadership meetings are held in the Spring and Fall in Louisville, KY at the Brown Hotel. The National Congress is held at a different location every year during the Summer. The 2021 National Congress took place in Renton, Washington, while the 2022 Congress took place in Savannah, Georgia. The 2023 National Congress will take place in Orlando, Florida.

SAR national headquarters[edit]

SAR's national headquarters, located along Museum Row in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, contains the organization's administrative staff offices, SAR Genealogical Research Library, and the future site of an American Revolutionary War Education Center. The SAR is currently raising funds to finish the center's development. The building houses original and copied art that commemorates important people and events of the Revolutionary War, as well as historical uniforms, flags, documents, and other colonial era pieces.

Symbolism of the SAR insignia[edit]

The SAR insignia consists of a Maltese cross surrounded by a garland, with a relief of George Washington in a center circle.

The Maltese cross used in the SAR Badge draws its inspiration from the cross used by the Order of St. Louis of France. The wreath symbolizes the laurel wreaths presented to worthy individuals by the Roman Republic. Major West selected the Cross of St. Louis as his basis for the decoration because King Louis XVI of France, the Grand Master of the Order of St. Louis, provided badly needed aid to the fledgling Continentals. In choosing this cross, the National Society intended to recognize the French contribution to American independence.

History shows that the Maltese Cross was used by the Knights of St. John, a brotherhood of warrior Crusaders who represented all walks of life who banded together to fight for freedom and against oppression. The Knights of St. John, and other Crusaders, adopted the Maltese cross as their insignia because its eight points represented the eight Beatitudes prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount: blessed are (1) the poor in spirit, (2) the meek, (3) the pure, (4) the merciful, and (5) the peacemakers, (6) blessed are they that mourn, and (7) seek righteousness, and (8) blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Surrounding the relief of Washington in the center are the words "LIBERTAS ET PATRIA", a reminder of the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.[7]

The insignia is normally worn suspended by a ribbon of blue, white and gold (buff) on the wearer's left breast. National officers and former state and chapter presidents wear the insignia suspended from a neck ribbon of the Society's colors.

On other occasions a rosette in the Society's colors is worn on the wearers left lapel.

Notable SAR members[edit]

List of presidents-general[edit]

Edwin S. Greeley, pictured in military uniform with lineage society medals, director general of Sons of the American Revolution from 1904 to 1905

The following is an incomplete list of the presidents general of the Sons of the American Revolution since the organization's founding.[8] The first president general was Lucius Deming. There have been three honorary president generals named, and four president generals have died while in office.

President General Term in office State Society
Lucius Parmenias Deming 1889–1890 Connecticut
William Seward Webb 1890–1892 New York
Horace Porter 1892–1897 New York
Edward Shepard Barrett

(died in office)

1897–1898 Massachusetts
Franklin Murphy 1898–1900 New Jersey
Joseph Cabell Breckinridge 1900–1901 Kentucky
Walter S. Logan 1901–1902 New York
Edwin Warfield 1902–1903 Maryland
Edwin S. Greeley 1903–1905 Connecticut
James Denton Hancock 1904–1905 Pennsylvania
Francis Henry Appleton 1905–1906 Massachusetts
Cornelius Amory Pugsley 1906–1907 New York
Nelson Alvin McClary 1907–1908 Illinois
Henry W. Stockbridge Jr. 1908–1909 Maryland
Morris Beach Beardsley 1909–1910 Connecticut
William Allen Marble 1910–1911 New York
Moses Greeley Parker 1911–1912 Massachusetts
James McElroy Richardson 1912–1913 Ohio
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston 1913–1915 Kentucky
Newell Bertram Woodworth 1915–1916 New York
Elmer Marston Wentworth 1916–1918 Iowa
Louis Annin Ames 1918–1919 New York
Chancellor Livingston Jenks Jr. 1919–1920 Illinois
James H. Preston 1920–1921 Maryland
Wallace McCamant 1921–1922 Oregon
W. I. Lincoln Adams 1922–1923 New Jersey
Arthur Preston Sumner 1923–1924 Rhode Island
Marvin Harrison Lewis 1924–1925 Kentucky
Harvey Foote Remington 1925–1926 New York
Wilbert Hamilton Barrett 1926–1927 Michigan
Ernest E. Rogers 1927–1928 Connecticut
Ganson Depew 1928–1929 New York
Howard Rowley 1929–1930 California
Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel 1930–1931 Washington, D.C.
Benjamin Newhall Johnson
(died in office)
1931–1932 Massachusetts
Frederick William Millspaugh 1932–1933 Tennessee
Arthur Milton McGrillis 1933–1935 Rhode Island
Henry Fennimore Baker 1935–1936 Maryland
Messmore Kendall 1936–1940 New York
Smith Lewis Multer 1943–1946 New Jersey
Allen Laws Oliver 1946–1947 Missouri
A. Herbert Foreman 1947–1948 Virginia
Charles Bunn Shaler

(died in office)

1948 Pennsylvania
Benjamin Harrison Powell III 1948–1949 Texas
John Whelchel Finger 1949–1950 New York
Wallace Clare Hall 1950–1952 Michigan
Ray Omer Edwards 1952–1953 Florida
A. Alexander le Pelletier de la Houssaye 1953–1954 Louisiana
Milton Miles Lory 1954–1955 Iowa
Edgar Williamson Jr. 1955–1956 New Jersey
Eugene Pendleton Carver Jr. 1956–1957 Massachusetts
George Edward Tarbox Jr. 1957–1958 Colorado
Walter Allerton Wentworth 1958–1959 New York
Charles Aubrey Jones 1959–1960 Ohio
Herschel Stratton Murphy 1960–1961 New Jersey
Horace Yeargin Kitchell 1961–1962 Mississippi
Charles Arner Anderson 1962–1963 Ohio
Robert Leon Sonfield 1963–1964 Texas
Harry Thomas Burn 1964–1965 Tennessee
Howard Emerson Coe 1965–1966 Connecticut
Kenneth Godfrey Smith 1966–1967 Pennsylvania
Len Young Smith 1967–1968 Illinois
Walter Gage Sterling 1968–1969 Texas
James Bronson Gardiner II 1969–1970 New York
Walter Reville Martin 1970–1971 Rhode Island
Eugene Clifford McGuire 1971–1972 Ohio
Ryall Stapleton Morgan 1972–1973 Alabama
Marion Howard Crawmer 1973–1974 Michigan
M. Graham Clark 1974–1975 Missouri
Robert Duval Savage 1975–1976 Pennsylvania
Matthew Bacon Sellers III 1976–1977 Florida
Wilson King Barnes Sr. 1977–1978 Maryland
Calvin Ellsworth Chunn 1978–1980 California
Arthur Mansfield King 1980–1981 Kansas
Richard Henry Thompson Jr. 1981–1982 Florida
Howard Laverne Hamilton 1982–1983 Virginia
Warren Griffin Hayes Jr. 1983–1984 Pennsylvania
Carl Francis Bessent 1984–1985 Maryland
Benjamin Hume Morris 1985–1986 Kentucky
Clovis Hunter Brakebill 1986–1987 Texas
Nolan Wendell Carson 1987–1988 Ohio
Charles Francis Printz 1988–1989 West Virginia
James Roger Westlake 1989–1990 Georgia
James Robert Calhoun 1990–1991 New Mexico
George Henry Brandau 1991–1992 Texas
Paul Howard Walker 1992–1993 Massachusetts
Robert Bell Vance Sr. 1993–1994 Georgia
Stewart Boone McCarty Jr. 1994–1995 Washington, D.C.
William C. Gist Jr. 1995–1996 Kentucky
Reon Glessner Hillegass Jr. 1996–1997 Virginia
Carl K. Hoffman II 1997–1998 Florida
Russell Duff Page 1998–1999 Illinois
Howard F. Horne Jr. 1999–2000 Delaware
Bruce Baird Butler

(died in office)

2000–2001 Louisiana
Larry D. McClanahan 2001–2002 Tennessee
B. Rice Aston 2002–2003 Texas
Raymond G. Musgrave 2003–2004 West Virginia
Henry N. McCarl 2004–2005 Massachusetts
Roland G. Downing 2005–2006 Delaware
Nathan E. White Jr. 2006–2007 Texas
Bruce A. Wilcox 2007–2008 Virginia
David N. Appleby 2008–2009 Missouri
Edward F. Butler 2009–2010 Texas
J. David Sympson 2010–2011 Kentucky
Larry J. Magerkurth 2011–2012 California
Stephen Arthur Leishman 2012–2013 Delaware
Joseph W. Dooley 2013–2014 Virginia
Lindsay C. Brock 2014–2015 Florida
Thomas E. Lawrence 2015–2016 Texas
J. Michael Tomme Sr. 2016–2017 Georgia
Larry T. Guzy 2017–2018 Georgia
Warren M. Alter 2018–2019 Arizona
John T. Manning 2019–2021 New Hampshire
Davis L. Wright 2021–2022 Delaware
C. Bruce Pickette 2022–2023 Alabama
John L. Dodd, Esq. 2023–2024 California
Adolphus Skinner Hubbard Honorary California
Albert Maver Winn Honorary California
Harold Lee Putnam Honorary California

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "OKSSAR – Purpose". Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  2. ^ Sons of the American Revolution. World Book. 2013. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  3. ^ Media, Blackstone. "Sons Of The American Revolution". NSSAR – National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
  4. ^ The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Official Handbook. September 2012. p. 1. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Charles B. Schweizer. "SAR New Member Information" (PDF).[dead link]
  6. ^ Williams, Winston C., ed. (1991). Centennial History of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889–1989. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. p. 9. ISBN 9781563110283. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  7. ^ "Suggested Induction Ceremony for New Members No. Two". The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Official Handbook Volume II: History, Organization and Protocol. The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "Sons of the American Revolution | Presidents General of the SAR and Annual Congress Sites".

External links[edit]

38°15′28″N 85°45′49″W / 38.25778°N 85.76361°W / 38.25778; -85.76361