The SR Membership Medal

What's The Difference Between the
Sons of the Revolution
and Sons of the American Revolution?

by Richard A. Coe
General Vice President
General Society of Sons of the Revolution

Versions of the Genesis of the Sons of the Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution are as varied and colorful as the stories of Creation. They differ considerably in details, depending on whose account you are reading. How does it happen that there are two similar organizations with almost identical names? Although this all came about over three quarters of a century ago, it is a question often posed. It is surprising, or perhaps it really isn't, that some of our own Sons of the Revolution members aren't fully aware of the difference.

Poring over publications of the two Societies appearing over the years, one finds fingers pointing in both directions, and some rather heated arguments. But we're friendly now, and we do not fight each other. Each Society, however, is jealous of its own identity, and no longer is an attempt made for amalgamation. Occasionally someone will remark casually, "Wouldn't it be nice if these two groups with practically the same aims could get together?" It's unlikely that it will ever happen. Some enthusiastic Revolutionary descendants find enjoyment in a dual membership belonging to both S.R. and S.A.R.

The whole thing apparently started in the far west, in California. Planned and instituted in 1875 in San Francisco, the Sons of Revolutionary Sires came into being three thousand miles away from the scenes of the struggles for American Independence. They immediately set out to form "auxiliary" branches all over the United States. While they stirred up considerable interest the idea didn't seem to take hold. Perhaps it was mostly because the East didn't particularly go along with the idea of having the headquarters of such an organization located in a part of the country that was a long way off, and never even involved in the Revolutionary picture.

Anyway, this California society was the pioneer of the modern hereditary patriotic society, and its influences led to the formation of all of them. It cannot, however, be considered as the founding of either the Sons of the Revolution or the Sons of the American Revolution, as had sometimes been claimed, although it appears that it eventually dropped its name and became affiliated with the S.A.R.

The Sons of the Revolution was actually formed in New York City in 1883, from organizational plans launched in 1876 by John Austin Stevens, a members of the Order of the Cincinnati, obviously due to the influence of the Sons of the Sires, but in no way connected. Since plans for the New York Society of the S.R. were actually "on the drawing board," and meetings held, in 1876, it can be rightfully claimed that this is our 100th Anniversary.

As we gather from reading contemporary reports, in 1888 a group of New York members living in New Jersey, proposed a New Jersey Society, and in 1889 groups in several other states followed the lead. Although they intended to effect union with the previously existing New York and Pennsylvania Societies as Sons of the Revolution, technicalities and some disagreements caused them to disassociate themselves and form a separate organization, which, unfortunately for the sake of clarity and easy identifications, was called the Sons of the American Revolution.

Each national association ever since has travelled its own path, with member Societies being formed often in the same states. Over the years, in fact as early as 1893, several attempts have been made by some members of both organization of consolidation under one name. Sound reasons for and against have been advanced, but the opposition has always been powerful enough to forestall each attempt. Neither Society has wanted to lose its identity, and compromisers have not jelled. Undoubtedly we will continue to co-exist peaceably, and the confusion will remain despite continual explanations.

It has been suggested that the Sons of the Revolution change the name to something else. This seems to be a defeatist attitude that would upset a century of tradition and pride in a name. Granted, of late years "revolution" has become a "dirty word," but it would seem that the Bicentennial has more or less clarified that situation as to "our" revolution. Taking a cue from our insignia, the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California has added "1775" to its name, and no one seems to inquire any more, "What revolution?"

To get back to the two Societies: the aims and purposes of each are practically the same. The requirement for membership, however, differ somewhat. While both recognize lineally descendants of ancestors who participated in the Revolutionary War in a military or naval capacity in behalf of American independence, or as official or individual whose service was of sufficient importance to have rendered him liable to conviction of treason against Great Britain, the S.A.R. will accept other services not considered by the S.R. These are descent from a justice of the peace, a members of a coroner's jury, surveyor of highways, associator, persons rendering various types of patriotic or civil service, etc. The D.A.R. has patterned its requirements after the S.A.R.: consequently D.A.R. lineages cannot always be accepted by the Sons of the Revolution.

In the S.R. membership are available in the various state societies. The only members of the General Society are the various state societies. No individual holds membership in the General Society as General Society membership can only be granted to a State Society. The General Society officers are "honorary" positions which may be held by any member of a recognized State Society. In recent years the General Society has issued "Honorary" general society membership numbers to members of the General Society to provide some continuity between the various State Societies.

The General Society, through its officers, organizes member meetings at which general operating policy guidelines are established and State activity reports are presented. Held in the Fall in sequences of three annual meetings, the first two are termed Board of Managers meetings and are held over a period of three weekend days in one or another of the State Society headquarters or Chapter cities. Friday afternoon is devoted to committee meetings. An informal arrival buffet is held Friday evening, usually in some historic building. Saturday is a business meeting day for the men and a day of tours for the ladies. A formal dinner is the attraction on Saturday evenings. Sunday concludes the meetings with participation in a local church service followed by a traditional farewell sherry and, on occasion, light luncheon.

During the Triennial Meeting, at the end of the three-year cycle, a greater amount of time is devoted to Society business and ladies’ touring activities over an additional day. At the formal dinner on Saturday evening the attendees usually hear a talk by a prominent citizen who is a winner of the Society’s Modern Patriot Award. A new slate of officers, elected at the last business session, is installed and other General Society awards for excellence in operations are presented to leading State Societies. These dinners, which include dancing, usually are held in the headquarters hotel or a local country club.

The General Society provides all members of state societies with a quarterly publication, the Flintlock & Powderhorn containing historical articles and speeches given to one or another of the State Society meetings throughout the year by distinguished guests and information on State and General Society activities. The General Society also centralizes membership application information and historical records. No individual is a member of the General Society and the General Society has no control over the State Societies each of which is established as a not for profit coporation within their respective states.

Application Procedure

Any male person of good character who is of a lineal descent of one who served as an active military, naval, or marine officer, soldier, sailor, or marine under the authority of any of the thirteen states or the Continental Congress and remained loyal to such authority, or is a lineal descendent of a member of the Continental Congress who assisted in the establishment of American Independence by services rendered thereby becoming liable to conviction of treason against the Government of Great Britain, and alway remained loyal to the authority of the Colonies or States; (The civil officials and military forces of the State of Vermont are treated in the same manner as if they had belonged to one of the thirteen original States during the War of the Revolution) is eligible to apply for membership in the Sons of the Revolution.

SR-Indiana Application forms may be obtained from the SR-IN Registrar. . Two original typed application forms (we now have computer word processing forms available as computer files for those without typewriters), signed, notarized, and endorsed by a proposer and a seconder are required. Direct descent must be shown from a qualifying ancestor. Copies of documents proving proof of service and proof of the applicant's descent (birth certificates, death certificates, wills, deeds, census records, and other reliable secondary evidence) must be submitted with the application.

Application fees for the SR-Indiana are currently $25.00 and annual dues are $25.00. ($35.00 after December 31 2008). (Please contact an officer as to the current rates). Application fees are waived for members of the Children of the American Revolution. Annual and Life Membership are available. If you are interested and qualified, application forms may be obtained from the Registrar. Each State Society is an independant organization so please contact the State Society to determine their dues and application procedures.

Dr. Donald E. Gradeless, Registrar
E-Mail to:
1402 East 225 South
Winonda Lake, IN 46590-2041
AC 574 - 267-6020

Please contact the Registrar of the SR Society you are considering for membership as to any differences that state society may have as to fees. For other SR societies or additional information please write to:

General Society Sons of the Revolution
108 South Liberty Street
Independence, MO 64050-3701
800 - 591-1776
(816) 254-1776
Fax (816) 254-1783

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June 17, 2006 - DEG