History of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati

The history of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati is one woven intimately in with the very history of the United States of America.  Its membership includes not only those immediately involved in the establishment of the nation, both in the Revolutionary War and in the framing of the Constitution, but those who played a role in the ongoing life of our country throughout the succeeding two centuries. U.S. presidents, justices, generals, admirals, ambassadors and a vast number of other Americans have all been fellow New York Cincinnati.  It is a rich tale, going back to the very beginning of the society on the banks of the Hudson River in 1783.

Robert Livingston

            "The first meeting of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati consisted of those officers of the two New York Regiments of Infantry, who were members of the Cincinnati, and was held in June [9th], 1783 at the Cantonment, on the Hudson [River], near New Windsor [New York], when the following was adopted:

                       Resolved, That as the officers of the New York line are on the point of separating, and will not have an opportunity of meeting for the election of officers of the State Society of the Cincinnati, Lieutenant-Colonel  Benjamin Walker be directed to collect the ballots of the members present, and to request the officers of the artillery to send him their ballots as soon as possible, and that when the whole are collected, he do call in the assistance of any two officers who may be present to count the said ballots, and declare the election. 

                        In pursuance of this resolution, on the 5th of July, 1783,  Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Walker, Captain  Israel Smith, and  Captain  Caleb Brewster having met, counted the ballots for officers of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati, and declared and certified the Election to have fallen on

                        Major-General  McDougall, President,
His Excellency Governor  Clinton, Brigadier-General, Vice President                         Lieutenant-Colonel  Walker, Secretary,
Colonel  Cortlandt, Treasurer,
Major  Fish, Assistant Treasurer.

New York State Society of the Cincinnati
Meetings During the First Century

            On the 3rd February [1784], a Committee consisting of Colonel  Philip Van Cortlandt, Lieutenant-Colonels,  Edward Antill, William S. Smith, Benjamin Walker, Majors, Nicholas Fish, Richard Platt, Captain  Edward Dunscomb, Lieutenant   James Fairlie and Dr. John Cochran, were appointed to prepare a set of  By-Laws for the Society, which were submitted and adopted on the 9th of February following.” The XXIst Article of which contemplated the establishment of the New York Society into two districts,  northern  (upstate) and southern. It was never adopted.

             “On the 21st January [1786], at a meeting held at the New York Coffee House, Baron Steuben, Colonel Samuel B. Webb, and Davis Brooks, Assistant Clothier-General, were appointed a Committee to draw up a plan of the proper ceremonials to be observed in the delivery of the Diplomas to the members of the Society.” The plan was presented and adopted on the 21st of June following.

            On the 4th July 1788, Commodore Nicholson was invited to attend  the Society meeting as a member. In the minutes of that meeting it was expressed, that “officers of the Marine [Navy], of similar rank, are entitled to be members of the [New York] Society.”

            On the 1st February 1790 meeting, “it was determined...to celebrate in the future the Anniversary of the birth of [George Washington].”

            “At a meeting of the Society, held on the 23rd January [1792], at Corre’s Hotel, it was

Resolved, that the Standing Committee be directed to hold a meeting on the first Monday in every month, for transacting such business as  may appear to them proper, and that it be the duty of the Secretary to give notice thereof to the Members.”

            At a January 1801 meeting, a Committee consisting of Major James Fairlie and Secretary, Lieutenant John Stagg, Jr., were appointed  to present a design for  a suitable standard for the Society. At a later meeting presented the following report, which was approved and the standard ordered:
            “That a banner be adopted instead of a standard, of the form hereunto annexed, to be made of silk, and to measure about forty-one inches in length, and twenty-eight inches in breadth. That the stars be silver embroidered on a blue field. Thirteen stripes, light blue and white alternately. Fringe, silver, about two inches in length. On the top of the staff--which is to be painted white, and to be about ten feet in length--to be represented an eagle--the order the Society--to be made of brass, or cooper, and gilt--from its beak a gilt chain, suspending the banner.”

            On July 13th 1804, a special meeting of the Society was called to announce the death  of New York Society member and current President-General Alexander Hamilton. A Committee of the Common Council of the City of New York requested the New York Society “take order of the funeral procession, and appoint a Committee for that purpose. The Society subsequently erected a mural tablet in Trinity Church, New York City, honoring  Major General Alexander Hamilton.

            On 4th July 1806, the Society adopted a form of certificate of membership that was to be endorsed  on the back of the original member “diploma in cases where an hereditary member was admitted by right of representation of the original member.”

            On 8th April 1829, Major William B. Crosby , Secretary, was appointed a Committee to acquire a new eagle for the Standard of the Society.  Made by a Nel West, a mechanic of NYC, an “elegantly gilt upon copper” eagle was acquired. A new and lighter chain to suspend the Banner of the Society to the eagle was also authorized and acquired.

            On 4th July 1857, the Society adopted its rules and regulations in regard to the qualifications and admission of members into the New York Society known as the “Rule of 1854,” which was recommended by the General Society at its Anniversary Meeting  “Triennial” 17th May 1854 in Baltimore. Our New York State Society of the Cincinnati membership diploma was also introduced and adopted at this meeting.

            On 14th December 1883, at a meeting of the Society’s Standing Committee the historical reference of the Society known as “Schuyler I,” compiled by then Secretary John Schuyler, was commissioned and completed in 1886. Since that time, the New York Society commissioned a 2nd printing in 1998.

            From their inception, the various state societies of the Cincinnati have been autonomous, each maintaining its own rules of order, requirements for membership and, in most instances, designs of certificates of membership and well as insignia of the society, commonly known as “Eagles”.  At a general meeting of the Society in May 1784, Major Pierre L’Enfant presented, for approval, a copper plate for the Diploma of Membership.  It was approved and early engravings were produced in 1785.  At a meeting of the New York Society on March 1, 1790, it was resolved that “a sufficient number of Certificates” be printed in a form to indicate membership in that constituent society.  The present form alludes to those early certificates and may be seen on the title page of this web site.

          The Order or insigne of the Society was also designed by Major L’Enfant, himself the product of an artistic French family.  The concept of the “Eagle” being an indication of an Order, rather than a medal, was apparently European in origin.  In that context, a medal might be awarded to trades people and others, less than the rank of Gentlemen: “A gentleman already invested with any European Order would be unwilling to carry a medal”, stated L’Enfant.  The New York Eagle, as used now and pictured on the Books and Insignia page of this web site, was adapted in 1919.  Many early “Eagles” have been lost and families deprived of their use, but, an occasional one turns up on the market.

         Over the past 150 years, a population shift has, perforce, led to a general dispersal of New York families.  As a result of this, members of the Society have often found it difficult to be in attendance.  Financial costs, travel, aging, periodic waning of interest in hereditary organizations have all contributed to the necessity of rule changes.  Members of The New York State Society now meet, as noted on the Meetings page, at least three times a year.  In 1986, the usual Fall meeting (Evacuation Day) in New York was shifted to Anderson House in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to centralize, at least on the East Coast, and facilitate increased participation.

        As a result of flexibility in rule changes, the New York State Society has been able, even in the face of the above noted problems in the 19th and 20th centuries, to remain an active and vibrant constituent society since 1783.  The rules of order and requirements for membership are now essentially as they were since 1854.


New York State Society of the Cincinnati
List of  “Honorary Members” Since June 9, 1783

uly 4th, 1784                REV. STEPHEN GANO
            "                       LEWIS MORRIS,
Major-General, U.S. Army
"                       THOMAS MOFFATT, Major
            "                       PHILIP PELL,
Jr., Judge Advocate, U.S. Army
JOHN MORIN SCOTT, Brigadier-General
            "                       PIERRE VAN CORTLANDT, Lieutenant-Governor of New York
            "                       DANIEL WILLIAMS, Captain
            "                       ROBERT YATES, Chief Justice
July 4th, 1786                RICHARD MORRIS, Chief Justice
            "                       ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, Chancellor
            "                       JAMES DUANE, Mayor of N.Y City
            "                       WILLIAM DUER, Secretary of the Treasury
            "                       JOHN SLOSS HOBART, Justice
July 4th, 1787                HENRY LIVINGSTON
            "                       WILLIAM FLOYD, Colonel
April 19th, 1791             STEPHEN VAN RENSSELAER (the Patroon)
            "                       JOHN HATHORNE, Colonel
July 4th, 1796                JACOB MORTON
            "                       WILLIAM CONSTABLE
July 4th, 1800                JOHN BARKER CHURCH
            "                       REV. WILLIAM LINN, D.D.
            "                       THOMAS TRUXTON, Captain, U.S. Navy
July 4th, 1803                GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
July 4th, 1805                REV. JOHN MITCHELL MASON, D.D.
July 4th, 1813                STEPHEN DECATUR, Commodore, U.S. Navy
            "                       JACOB JONES, Captain, U.S. Navy
            "                       WILLIAM BAINBRIDGE, Commodore, U.S. Navy
            "                       OLIVER HAZZARD PERRY, Commodore, U.S. Navy
            "                       JAMES LAWRENCE, Captain, U.S. Navy
July 4th, 1815                THOMAS MACDONOUGH, Commodore, U.S. Navy
            "                       ISAAC HULL, Captain, U.S. Navy
            "                       JOHNSTON BLAKELEY, Captain, U.S. Navy
            "                       LEWIS WARRINGTON, Captain, U.S. Navy
July 4th, 1818                JACOB BROWN, Major-General, U.S. Army
February 24th, 1819       ANDREW JACKSON, 7th President of the U.S.
July 4th, 1822                RUFUS KING
July 4th, 1825                BARON D'AURIER, Commander of the French Army
July 4th, 1827                EDWARD LIVINGSTON, Chief Justice
July 4th, 1847                STEPHEN W. KEARNEY, Major-General, U.S. Army
            "                       MATTHEW C. PERRY, Commodore, U.S. Navy
            "                       ZACHARY TAYLOR, 12th President of the U.S.
            "                       WILLIAM J. WORTH, Major-General, U.S. Army
July 4th, 1849                WILLIAM G. BELKNAP, Major-General, U.S. Army
            "                       JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General, U.S. Army
July 4th, 1859                JAMES BUCHANAN, 15th President of the U.S.
            "                       JOHN ALSOP KING, Governor of New York
July 4th, 1862                ROBERT ANDERSON, Brigadier-General, U.S. Army
July 4th, 1866                ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT, 18th President of the U.S.
            "                       DAVID GLASGOW FARRAGUT, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
July 4th, 1879                WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN, General, U.S. Army
July 4th, 1881                WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, Major-General, U.S. Army
 prior to 1887                 GROVER CLEVELAND, 22nd and 24th President of the U.S.
 prior to 1893                 OLIVER OTIS HOWARD, Major-General, U.S. Army
    1896                         EDWARD NICOLL DICKERSON
    1897                         NELSON APPLETON MILES, Lieutenant-General, U.S. Army
    1899                         GEORGE DEWEY, Admiral of the U.S. Navy
    1905                         ADNA ROMANZA CHAFFEE, Lieutenant-General, U.S. Army
    1902                         THEODORE ROOSEVELT, 26th President of the U.S.
    1916                         HUGH LEONARD SCOTT, Major-General, U.S. Army
    1918                         ELIHU ROOT, U.S. Secretary of State
    1919                         HIS MAJESTY ALBERT I, King of the Belgians
    1921                         ROBERT GEORGES NIVELLE, Commander-in-Chief,French Armies
    1925                         EMILE DAESCHNER, French Ambassador to the U.S.
    1934                         FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, 32nd President of the U.S.
     "                              JOHN HUSTON FINLEY, American Academy of Arts and Letters
    1935                         CHARLES COOK PAULDING
     "                              FREDERIC RENE COUDERT, U.S. Special Asst Attorney General
     "                              GEORGE CREIGTON WEBB
    1937                         SIR RONALD CHARLES LINDSAY, Great Britain Ambassador to U.S.
     "                              NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER, President of Columbia University
     "                              COMTE CHARLES-HYPPOLITE-MARIE de FERRY de               
                                               FONTNOUVELLE, Consul General of France
    1938                         CORDELL HILL, U.S. Secretary of State
    1939                         FRANK PETER HOFFMAN
    1950                         DOUGLAS MacARTHUR, General of the Army
     "                              OMAR NELSON BRADLEY, General of the Army
     "                              ROBERT E. WOOD, Bridadier-General, U.S. Army
    1955                         JOHN EDGAR HOOVER, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
    1959                         AMORY HOUGHTON, U.S. Ambassador to France
    1964                         ARLEIGH ALBERT BURKE, Admiral, U.S. Navy
    1970                         JOHN HOWLAND GIBBS PELL, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
    1971                         GILBERT DARLINGTON, Lieutenant Commander, Chaplain Corps,
                                           U.S. New York Naval Militia
May 13th, 1971              BACHE BLEECKER, President Mount Gulian Society
    1973                         SPRUILLE BRADEN, U.S. Ambassador to Columbia, Cuba, Argentina
     "                              JOHN WHELCHEL FINGER, Governor General,
                                           NY Society of Colonial Wars        
 May 16th, 1975             THOMAS FLEMING, Author and Historian
    1981                         WILLARD LEE BRABY
     "                              FRANCOIS de LABOULAYE, French Ambassador to the U.S.
    1982                         SHELBY CULLOM DAVIS, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland
November 4th, 1984       WILLARD W. SCOTT, JR., Lieutenant- General; U.S. Army;
                                               Superintendent, U.S. Military Academy at West Point      1988                             EMMANUEL de MARGERIE, French Ambassador to the U.S.
 June 1st, 1989              DAVID RICHARD PALMER, Lieutenant-General, U.S. Army;    
                                               Superintendent, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
November 3rd, 1990       FRANCIS LEONARD KELLOGG, Ambassador and Special Assistant to
                                               Secretaries of State Rogers and Kissinger
June 1st, 1991               EDWARD NICHOLAS PENNINGTON GARDINER, Int'l Management
            "                       THEODORE S. WILKINSON, Lieutenant-Commander, U.S. Naval
                                               Reserve; President, American Foreign Affairs, Mexico and Brazil
June 6th, 1992               JACQUES ANDREANI, French Ambassador to the U.S.
    1994                         IMMO FRIEDRICH HELMUT STABREIT, Federal Republic of Germany
                                               Ambassador to the U.S.
November 18th, 2000     FRANCOIS BUJON de l'ESTANG, French Ambassador to the U.S.
November 17th, 2007    
PIERRE VIMONT   French Ambassador to the United States




General Society of the Cincinnati “Triennial” Celebrations
Hosted by the New York
State Society of the Cincinnati

            1851, May 7th-8th Irving House, New York City
            1863 May 13th New York Historical Society "Conversation Room," New York City
            1875, May 12th Delmonico's Restaurant & Union Club House, New York City
            1899, May 10th-12th New York City and on May 12th steamboat passage up the
                                      Hudson River to the Verplanck Mansion meeting and reception
            1935, May 9th-10th Plaza Hotel, New York City
            1944, May 10th-11th Metropolitan Club, New York City
            1983, May 5th-7th Tarrytown Hilton and on May 7th meeting and reception at
                                      United States Military Academy, West Point


New York State Society of the Cincinnati
Members Who Have Served as National Officers

Presidents General

                        1800-1805  MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER HAMILTON
                        1839-1844  MAJOR GENERAL MORGAN LEWIS
                        1844-1848  BREVET MAJOR WILLIAM POPHAM
                        1854-1896  HONORABLE HAMILTON FISH
                        1980-1983  JOHN SANDERSON du MONT

Vice Presidents General

                        1799-1800  MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER HAMILTON
                        1829-1839  MAJOR GENERAL MORGAN LEWIS
                        1848-1854  HONORABLE HAMILTON FISH
                        1929-1932  HONORABLE FRANCIS KEY PENDLETON

Secretaries General

                        1971-1977  STEPHEN CALDWELL MILLETT, JR.


Assistant Secretaries General 

                        1896-1905  HONORABLE NICHOLAS FISH
                        1968-1971  STEPHEN CALDWELL MILLETT, JR.
                        1977-1980  JOHN SANDERSON du MONT

Treasurers General

                        1783-1796  MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER McDOUGALL
                        1875-1881  ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JR.
                        1881-1896  JOHN SCHUYLER
                        1950-1956  WILLIAM WICKHAM HOFFMAN

Chaplains General

                          1881     REVEREND MANCUIS HOLMAS HUTTON


Resources/Bibliography for all the above information was from our Schuyler I book publication, the NY Society's 2005 Blue Roster Book, the General Society's Roster Book publications for the New York Society 1887 to date, and the General Scoiety's Roster Book "necrology" publications for the New York Society 1890 to date.   Prepared by Philip Robert Livingston, Jr. and Joseph vanBeuren Wittmann, Jr. of the Standing Committee of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati September 20th, 2006