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THE INSTITUTION OF THE
SOCIETY OF THE CINCINNATI

The Society of the Cincinnati's founding document—called the Institution—which bears the signatures of George Washington and thirty-five other Continental Army officers, was displayed to the public for the first time in 2008 as part of the Society's 225th anniversary exhibition, The Secret History of the Society of the Cincinnati. In preparation for its display, the large parchment document was painstakingly cleaned and mended by Christine A. Smith, a leading specialist in animal-skin documents. Because of the Institution's priceless value, Ms. Smith conducted the work at Anderson House so the document did not leave the Society's custody. The conservation treatment of the Institution and the construction of a special archival box for its housing were generously funded by Capers Walter McDonald. In addition, a custom exhibition case was designed and constructed for secure display of the Institution.

On May 13, 1783, a group of Continental officers gathered at Mount Gulian—Gen. Friedrich Wilhelm Steuben's headquarters near Newburgh, New York—adopted the Institution, which laid out the principles and organizational structure of the newly established Society of the Cincinnati. Within a week of their meeting, a copy of the text of the Institution was engrossed on a large sheet of parchment and a committee of three officers—Generals William Heath, Steuben, and Henry Knox—was appointed to deliver the Institution to their commander in chief, George Washington, and "request him to honor the Society by placing his name at the head of it." Washington signed the Institution first, and his signature is followed by those of the several officers in and around Newburgh who were involved in the Society's founding. At least one signature was added later—that of Nathanael Greene, who was still in command in the South at the time of the Society's founding, appears in the left margin. Read More<

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George Washington's letter to the
delegates assembled in Philadelphia for the Society's Triennial Meeting, May 1790: "... you have erected monuments more expressive of your merits than even the universal applause of your Country, in the establishment of its Independence and Sovereignty."

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