The archives of the Society chronicle the organization from its founding in 1783 to the present. The early documents, generally covering the period from 1783 through the early 1930s, provide a wealth of information on the history of the Society and related topics in American history, such as compensation for Revolutionary War veterans and widows, public views of military officers and hereditary organizations, early Franco-American relations, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century remembrances of the Revolutionary War era. Highlights of the historical archives include the signed Institution of the Society, early minute books, and manuscript correspondence of prominent original members such as Henry Knox, Pierre L'Enfant, and George Washington. The historical archives also include L'Enfant's original sketches for both the Society's Eagle insignia and membership diploma and the original copper plate used for printing the diplomas. More modern materials in the archives include records from the late nineteenth century through the present regarding the Society's activities, including minutes, correspondence, rosters, programs, menus, and photographs of Society events.
The Society's archives survive due to the forward thinking of the original members in preserving their records for posterity. The archives had been the responsibility of the Society's secretary general and were moved from house to house until 1911, when they were entrusted to the Lincoln Safe Deposit and Storage Company in New York City. In 1930, the Society placed its archives on deposit in the Library of Congress's Division of Manuscripts, where they were made available to researchers and portions were microfilmed. After the establishment of a library in the Society's headquarters at Anderson House, the archives were returned to the Society's care in 1973.
To download a searchable PDF of the finding aid for the Society Archives, click here. Search tips: When searching the finding aid for personal names, it is best to search by last name only. If a name includes an apostrophe, search with only the portion of the name after the apostrophe—e.g. use Enfant when searching for Pierre L'Enfant. When searching for specific dates, be aware that dates in the finding aid are expressed Year Month Day—i.e. 1783 May 10.