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First Posted: July 13, 2012
Jan 31, 2015

The Society of the Cincinnati/The Anderson House

Image: CopyrightDupontCircleReflections.us
Anderson House-Photo Taken July 25, 2012

The Society of the Cincinnati is a historical lineage organization with branches in the United States and France, founded in 1783 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of the American Revolutionary War officers. Now in its third century, the Society is a nonprofit historical, diplomatic, and educational organization that promotes public interest in the American Revolution through its library and museum collections, exhibitions, programs, publications, and other activities.

The concept of the Society of the Cincinnati was started by Major General Henry Knox. The first meeting of the Society was held in May 1783 at a dinner at Mount Gulian (Verplanck House) in Fishkill, New York, before the British evacuation from New York City. The meeting was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, and the participants agreed to stay in contact with each other after the war. Membership was generally limited to officers who had served at least three years in the Continental Army or Navy; it included officers of the French Army and Navy above certain ranks.

Later in a system of primogeniture, membership was passed down to the eldest son after the death of the original member. Present-day hereditary members generally must be descended from an officer who served in the Continental Army or Navy for at least three years, from an officer who died or was killed in service, or from an officer serving at the close of the Revolution. Each officer may be represented by only one descendant at any given time, following the rules of primogeniture. (The rules of eligibility and admission are controlled by each of the 14 Constituent Societies to which members are admitted. They differ slightly in each society, and some allow more than one descendant of an eligible officer.)(The requirement for primogeniture made the society controversial in its early years, as the new states quickly did away with laws supporting primogeniture and others associated with the English feudal system.)

The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm to accept a term as Roman Consul and served as Magister Populi (with temporary powers similar to that of a modern-era dictator). He assumed lawful dictatorial control of Rome to meet a war emergency. When the battle was won, he returned power to the Senate and went back to plowing his fields. The Society's motto reflects that ethic of selfless service: Omnia reliquit servare rempublicam ("He relinquished everything to save the Republic"). The Society has had three goals: "To preserve the rights so dearly won; to promote the continuing union of the states; and to assist members in need, their widows, and their orphans."

Within 12 months of the founding, a constituent Society had been organized in each of the 13 states and in France. Of about 5,500 men originally eligible for membership, 2,150 had joined within a year. King Louis XVI ordained the French Society of the Cincinnati, which was organized on July 4, 1784 (Independence Day). Up to that time, the King of France had not allowed his officers to wear any foreign decorations, but he made an exception in favor of the badge of the Cincinnati.

George Washington was elected the first President General of the Society. He served from December 1783 until his death in 1799. The second President General was Alexander Hamilton. Upon Hamilton's death due to his duel with Aaron Burr, the third President General of the Society was Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. In 1808, he ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States against James Madison.

Its members have included notable military and political leaders, including 23 signers of the United States Constitution. The Cincinnati is the oldest military society in continuous existence in North America. ...

Anderson House, National Headquarters

The Society makes Anderson House and its ballroom available for private events. Anderson House, also known as Larz Anderson House, located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., houses the Society's national headquarters, historic house museum, and research library. It is located on the Embassy Row section, near international embassies.

Anderson House was built between 1902 and 1905 as the winter residence of Larz Anderson, an American diplomat, and his wife, Isabel Weld Perkins, an author and American Red Cross volunteer. The architects Arthur Little and Herbert Browne of Boston designed Anderson House in the Beaux-Arts style. Anderson House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was further designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Today, Anderson House serves its members and the public as a headquarters, museum, and library. The Society's museum collections include portraits, armaments, and personal artifacts of Revolutionary War soldiers; commemorative objects; objects associated with the history of the Society and its members, including Society of the Cincinnati china and insignia; portraits and personal artifacts of members of the Anderson family; and artifacts related to the history of the house, including the U.S. Navy's occupation of it during World War II.

Library

The library of the Society of the Cincinnati collects, preserves, and makes available for research printed and manuscript materials relating to the military and naval history of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, with a particular concentration on the people and events of the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The collection includes a variety of modern and rare materials including official military documents, contemporary accounts and discourses, manuscripts, maps, graphic arts, literature, and many works on naval art and science. In addition, the library is the home to the archives of the Society of the Cincinnati as well as a collection of material relating to Larz and Isabel Anderson. The library is open to researchers by appointment.

For More Information:

The Society of the Cincinnati/The Anderson House
House of the Cincinnati/Anderson House

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