Our Society was formed in 1876, based on the proposition that the American Revolution was being forgotten. Comparable societies soon sprang up, including the Sons of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames of America, the National Society of Colonial Dames, and the Society of Colonial Wars, all with the mission of preserving history and promoting patriotism.
We have worked with these and many other patriotic and heritage associations through the decades, recently culminating in this year’s 101st Flag Day Parade & Celebration on June 14, when we were joined by eight schools and 23 heritage and veterans associations and the Downtown Alliance, as 958 persons marched from City Hall Park down Broadway to Fraunces Tavern,® where ceremonies took place, followed by a reception Shelby Cullom Davis Flag Gallery.
Special thanks to this year’s event chairman, Adam P. Hess, and to major sponsors, Bank of New York Mellon, Royal Bank of Canada, Robert N. McKay, and Peter C. Hein, for the best event in over a decade.
In addition to our own Society events, we participate in community events. On May 21the Color Guard participated in a ceremony and the cemetery of Shearith Israel, a Jewish congregation formed a block away from Fraunces Tavern in 1654, to place American flags on the graves of eighteen patriot soldiers, including the “Patriot Rabbi,” Gershom Mendes Seixas. The following weekend, there were Memorial Day ceremonies at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial on Riverside Drive.
In the meantime, on May 25 the Society awarded the Knox Trophy, West Point’s oldest award, in connection with the graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy. In June, our Gustavus Conyngham Award was given at the Merchant Marine Academy.
Our kindred organizations are happy to see us, and reciprocate when our events come around. If you like history and/or people, they are enjoyable to attend, and Society membership imparts special recognition. As President, I get many invitations, but the members generally are welcome at many of these events.
And speaking of events, our venerable flagship, Fraunces Tavern, besides having been George Washington’s favorite tavern in New York, has two additional advantages. It was a principal meeting place of the Sons of Liberty, men like McDougall, Sears, Lamb, Willett, Mulligan, and Hamilton, during the period, from 1765 to 1776, leading up to the war itself. Taverns of the day were major meeting places and places of public assembly, and the American Revolution was formed as much or more in the taverns as in formal meetings of the Continental Congress. It is not an accident that the stage set of the musical “Hamilton” is made to resemble an 18th century tavern.
Second, today’s Fraunces Tavern was endowed by the Tallmadge family, which not only provided the capital to acquire it in 1904, but also gave the Museum many personal effects of Benjamin Tallmadge, Washington’s spymaster. Nathan Hale, whose last letter is on display at the Museum, was Tallmadge’s classmate at Yale. Tallmadge’s original handwritten memoirs, describing Washington’s farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern, are on display in the McEntee Gallery.
To capitalize on these advantages, we are organizing a “Summer Tavern Night” on July 26, 2017, involving our kindred groups, to celebrate, in the spirit of our revolutionary ancestors, the role of taverns in the American Revolution, and the Sons of Liberty who met in them.
Then in September, in addition to the annual commemoration of Nathan Hale on September 22, our museum will be hosting week-long programming for “Spy Week” and opening a new exhibition on espionage during the American Revolution. We are planning to host an evening event,Spy Night, to celebrate Benjamin Tallmadge, the Culper Ring, and the other lesser known spies who helped bring about America’s victory in the Cause.
If you have not come to a recent Society event, such as Flag Day, Evacuation Day or the George Washington Ball, you owe it to yourself to select a suitable occasion from our calendar and show up and enjoy. In the language of the 18th Century, “I flatter myself” that our events are both educational and fun, and the chances are excellent that you will meet someone, or a few people, who will be more than fleeting acquaintances.
See you soon.