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The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR or NSSAR) is an American congressionally chartered organization, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. A non-profit corporation, it has described its purpose as maintaining and extending "the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, a respect for our national symbols, the value of American citizenship, [and] the unifying force of 'e pluribus unum' that has created, from the people of many nations, one nation and one people."[1]

National Society
of the
Sons of the American Revolution
Sons of the American Revolution.png
Emblem of the Sons of the American Revolution
AbbreviationSAR, NSSAR
Motto"Libertas et patria" (Latin)
"Liberty and Country"
EstablishedApril 30, 1889; 130 years ago (1889-04-30)
TypePatriotic-Hereditary society
Legal statusFederally chartered corporation
PurposeFraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable, educational
Headquarters809 West Main Street,
Louisville, Kentucky
Region served
35,111 (2019)
Official language
AffiliationsDaughters of the American Revolution
Philadelphia Continental Chapter of the SAR at a ceremony commemorating the birth of General and President George Washington at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier in Washington Square, Philadelphia

The members of the society are male descendants of people who served in the American Revolutionary War or who contributed to establishing the independence of the United States. It is dedicated to perpetuating American ideals and traditions, and to protecting the Constitution of the United States; the official recognition of Constitution Day, Flag Day, and Bill of Rights Day were established through its efforts. It has members in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.[2]

The organization is distinct from the Sons of the Revolution, a separate descendants heritage organization founded on February 22, 1876 by businessman John Austin Stevens and members of The Society of the Cincinnati. SAR Founder William Osborn McDowell disagreed with the Sons of the Revolution requirement at that time that all state societies were to be subordinate to the New York society.



Theodore Roosevelt, a member of the organization, who signed its Congressional Charter in 1906
Logo used by the SAR

The first organization of descendants of Revolutionary War patriots was established in San Francisco, California, in 1876. A group of men who were descendants of Revolutionary War veterans gathered to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States. They also wanted to honor the men and women who pledged their lives, fortunes, and livelihood to the striving for independence from Great Britain. This group formed an organization called the Sons of Revolutionary War Sires (SRWS). There is, however, no direct link between the SRWS and the SAR except that members of the SRWS were permitted to join the SAR after its founding in 1889.

The history of the SAR can be traced to the founding of the Sons of the Revolution, the New York Society which was organized in 1876. The SR was founded by John Austin Stevens who envisioned an aristocratic social and hereditary organization along the lines of the Society of the Cincinnati. In 1889 William Osborn McDowell, a New Jersey financier and businessman, organized the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the Revolution but was unwilling to accept the SR's requirement that other state societies be subordinate to the New York society. Furthermore, McDowell wanted the society to become more of a mass movement of descendants of Revolutionary patriots rather than an exclusive social club. As a result, McDowell organized the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) at Fraunces Tavern in New York on April 30, 1889. This was the centennial for the inauguration of George Washington as the First President of the United States of America in 1789. SAR membership number 1 was assigned to McDowell. In addition to organizing the SAR, McDowell worked with six women to organize the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on July 29, 1890.

The SAR was formally granted a congressional charter by an act of Congress under Title 36 of the United States Code on June 9, 1906. The act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a member.

Sons of the American Revolution grave marker, Old Ship Burying Ground, Hingham, Massachusetts


Membership in the society is open to any male of "good repute"[3] who can prove lineal bloodline descent from an ancestor who actively supported the American Revolution.[4] Acceptable ancestors include:

No state society or chapter may discriminate against an applicant on the basis of race or creed. The SAR claims a membership of over 37,000 members in over 550 chapters representing all 50 states in the United States, as well as societies in Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Overall, about 175,000 descendants have been admitted since the founding of the S.A.R. in 1890.


Horace Porter, U.S. Ambassador to France, served as President-General of the Sons of the American Revolution from 1892 to 1897.

The governance of the Sons of the American Revolution is made up of 10 National (General) Officers, 15 Vice-Presidents that preside over separate geographical regions and a Trustee elected from each state and international society. These officers meet several times over the year to discuss business pertaining to the society. The National Officers meet at least four times during their term of office, unless special meetings are called. The Trustees meet twice each year at the Society's Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. These meetings, known as the Fall and Spring Leadership Meetings, are normally held in late September and early March. During the Leadership Meetings committee recommendations and the society's budget are approved. While only the National Officers, Vice-Presidents and Trustees have the right to vote on the floor, all SAR members are welcome to attend and may request appointment to committees. The National Officers and Trustees also meet during the National Congress held in late June or early July of each year. Unlike the Leadership Meetings which always take place at the Society's National Headquarters, the National Congress is held in different locations throughout the United States. Locations are often selected in order to honor a historical event in United States history or in the history of the SAR, and there is an effort to alternate the meetings between the Eastern and Western United States. The National Congress is responsible for electing the National Officers and approving changes to the Society's constitution, along with any other motions brought before it. In addition to the National Officers, Vice-Presidents and Trustees, State and International Society Presidents and specially elected delegates from each society also attend with voting privileges. The number of delegates are determined by each State or International Society's membership size.

In addition to the larger meetings previously listed, there are over 60 standing and special committees that SAR members are appointed to in order to oversee the Society's welfare. Some of these committees include: facilities, insurance, genealogy, library, merchandise, medals and awards. All SAR members are welcome to participate on committees and are appointed by the Society's President General for a one-year term. There are no term-limits and all committee members have the right to vote on the committee's decisions.

The President-General for 2018–2019 is Warren Alter from the Arizona Society. He was sworn in as President-General at the 128th National Congress in Houston, Texas. The Executive Director is Don Shaw of the Kentucky Society.

Genealogical libraryEdit

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has held a collection of genealogical reference dating back to 1889. Materials were originally kept by the Secretary General or Registrar General up until 1926, when the materials were moved to the Registrar General's office in Washington, D.C., in 1927, this collection was moved to the recently purchased Sixteenth Street Headquarters Building, and the collection had grown to 914 books by 1933. From this point until the move of Headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Louisville, Kentucky, the book collection grew at a rapid pace, growing to approximately 25,000 items by 1988. At this point, the Library was on the Second floor of the Headquarters building on South Fourth Street, and possessed a 544-square-foot vault for books not out in the library due to space.

Because of continuing growth, the SAR Library was moved in 2010 to a renovated building on West Main Street in the heart of the Historic Museum District of downtown Louisville. By this point, the Library collection had grown to over 58,000 items, mostly covering the Revolutionary War period, but also containing other genealogical materials. The library collection includes family histories, state genealogy materials, federal censuses, Revolutionary War pension applications, and CD collections, and the library separates materials based on State. The library also provides access to online research databases, including,, and Heritage Quest Online.


The society operates a Merchandise Department that sells items intended for both SAR members and the general public. Among the products available to the general public are: clothing apparel for men and women, Revolutionary War replicas such as Liberty Bells and Field Cannons, jewelry for men and women such as lapel pins and cuff links, along with cups, mugs, key-chains, books, CDs, videos and knickknacks. Items intended for SAR members only include: clothing, decals, license plate holders and frames, certificates and medals corresponding to SAR activities, medals designed to reward active and retired military personnel, firefighters, EMS, JROTC and ROTC, individuals involved in education, Eagle Scouts and many others.

The Merchandise Department is located on the lower level of the SAR Genealogical Library, located at 809 West Main Street, just across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.


Indiana Society SAR Color Guard appearing with the recreated 19th US Infantry at an outdoor 4 July concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

The society is involved in historical research, raising funds for local scholarships and educational awards, and preservation of sites and documents related to the American Revolution. The SAR petitioned Congress to store Revolutionary era documents in a fire-proof area and make them available to the public, leading to the creation of the National Archives in 1913.[5] It is also active in cataloging and marking Revolutionary War patriot graves and conducts an annual Eagle Scout scholarship program. The society is active in promoting "patriotism," and was instrumental in the establishment of Constitution Day.[6] Several SAR societies and chapters have active color guard groups that appear in various public and private venues as a means of community outreach.

The Sons of the American Revolution hosts two Leadership Meetings and one National Congress every year. The two leadership meetings are held in the Spring and Fall in Louisville, KY at the Brown Hotel. The National Congress is held at a different location every year during the Summer. The 2017 National Congress took place in Knoxville, Tennessee, while the 2018 Congress will take place in Houston, Texas.

SAR national headquartersEdit

The SAR's national headquarters, located along Museum Row in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, contains the organization's administrative staff offices, SAR Genealogical Research Library, and the future site of an American Revolutionary War Education Center. The SAR is currently raising funds to finish the Center's development. The building houses original and copied art that commemorates important people and events of the Revolutionary War, as well as historical uniforms, flags, documents, and other colonial era pieces.

Symbolism of the SAR insigniaEdit

The SAR insignia consists of a Maltese cross surrounded by a garland, with a relief of George Washington in a center circle.

The cross's vertical bar represents the commandment "You Shall Love Your God"; the horizontal bar represents the commandment "You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself." The four limbs are a reminder of the four cardinal virtues; its eight points represent eight spiritual injunctions:

  1. To have spiritual contentment
  2. To live without malice
  3. To weep over your sins
  4. To humble yourself at insults
  5. To love justice
  6. To be merciful
  7. To be sincere and open-hearted
  8. To suffer persecution

Surrounding the relief of Washington in the center are the words "LIBERTAS ET PATRIA," a reminder of the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.[7]

The insignia is normally worn suspended by a ribbon of blue, white and gold (buff) on the wearer's left breast. National officers and former state and chapter presidents wear the insignia suspended from a neck ribbon of the Society's colors.

On other occasions a rosette in the Society's colors is worn on the wearers left lapel.

Notable SAR membersEdit

Presidents of the United StatesEdit

To date, 17 presidents of the United States have been members of the SAR. President Grant was admitted posthumously in recognition of his being a member of the Sons of Revolutionary Sires, whose members were later admitted to membership in the SAR.

Of the presidents who lived since the SAR's founding in 1889 and are not listed above, presidents Grover Cleveland, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama[11] all had patriot ancestors but did not join the SAR. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump did not have patriot ancestors.

Of the presidents who served prior to the founding of the SAR, six qualify as patriot ancestors – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson.

Vice presidents of the United StatesEdit

In addition to the above, the following vice presidents were SAR compatriots and later became President of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

Nobel Peace Prize recipientsEdit

Nobel Prize for Literature recipientEdit

Medal of Honor recipientsEdit

The following 38 SAR Compatriots are known to have received the Medal of Honor. It is possible that there are other Medal of Honor recipients who were SAR Compatriots.

(The rank indicated is the highest held by the individual and not necessarily that held at the time the Medal of Honor was earned or awarded.)

Military and naval officersEdit

Public officialsEdit

Foreign national leadersEdit

Cabinet officersEdit



United States senatorsEdit

U.S. representativesEdit


Other public officialsEdit

Other notable membersEdit

List of presidents-general of the Sons of the American RevolutionEdit

This is an incomplete list of the presidents-general of the Sons of the American Revolution.[25] The first President-General was Lucius Deming. Three Presidents have died in office. The current President-General is Warren M. Alter.

President-General Term in office
Lucius Deming 1889–1890
William S. Webb 1890–1892
Horace Porter 1892–1897
Edward S. Barrett 1897–1898
Franklin Murphy 1898–1900
Joseph Cabell Breckinridge Sr. 1900–1901
Walter S. Logan 1901–1902
Edwin Warfield 1902–1903
Edwin S. Greeley 1903–1905
W. I. Lincoln Adams 1922–1923
Ernest E. Rogers 1927–1928
Ganson Depew 1928–1929
Howard Rowley 1929–1930
Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel 1930–1931
Benjamin Newhall Johnson
(died in office)
Josiah Alexander Van Orsdel 1932
Frederick W. Millspaugh 1932–1933
Arthur M. McGrillis 1933–1935
Henry F. Baker 1935–1936
Messmore Kendall 1936–1940
Smith Lewis Multer 1943–1946
M. Graham Clark 1974–1975
Calvin Ellsworth Chunn 1978–1979
Stewart Boone McCarthy Jr. 1994–1995
Howard F. Horne Jr. 1999–2000
B. Rice Aston 2002–2003
Henry N. McCarl 2004-2005
Roland G. Downing 2005–2006
Nathan E. White 2006–2007
Bruce A. Wilcox 2007–2008
David N. Appleby 2008–2009
Edward F. Butler 2009–2010
James David Sympson 2010–2011
Larry J. Magerkurth 2011–2012
Stephen A. Leishman 2012–2013
Joseph W. Dooley 2013–2014
Lindsay C. Brock 2014–2015
Thomas E. Lawrence 2015–2016
J. Michael Tomme Sr. 2016–2017
Larry T. Guzy 2017–2018
Warren M. Alter 2018–2019

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "OKSSAR – Purpose". Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  2. ^ "Sons of the American Revolution." World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 9 May 2013.
  3. ^ Media, Blackstone. "Sons Of The American Revolution". NSSAR – National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
  4. ^ The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Official Handbook (PDF). September 2012. p. 1. Retrieved 24 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Charles B. Schweizer. "SAR New Member Information" (PDF). Retrieved 24 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Williams, Winston C. (ed.). Centennial History of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889–1989. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. p. 9. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Suggested Induction Ceremony for New Members No. Two" (PDF). The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Official Handbook Volume II: History, Organization and Protocol. The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Retrieved 27 July 2012.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ (President Grant died in 1885 – prior to the founding of the S.A.R. – but he was a member of the "Sons of Revolutionary Sires". Though it had no direct connection with the SAR, its members were later granted admission to the Sons of the American Revolution after its organization if they so desired.)
  9. ^ Presidents who are SAR members Archived 2009-10-15 at the Wayback Machine (California SAR)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "The California Compatriot" (PDF). California Society SAR. Spring 2007. p. 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-09-04.
  11. ^ Frederick, Don (December 12, 2007). "Barack Obama's family tree grows and grows". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ SAR Handbook, VIII, pg 6. General MacArthur approved an SAR service medal bearing his likeness, and was the first recipient following his death in 1964. Websites accessed 28 December 2008.
  13. ^ "Stony Point Battle Chapter Sons of the American Revolution". Archived from the original on 2018-03-08. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  14. ^ Short History of the Sons of the American Revolution. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  15. ^ "Texas SAR".
  16. ^ "Recovery of the Remains of Patriot John Paul Jones".
  17. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-10-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Political Graveyard".
  19. ^ Federal Register 17 Sept 2013
  20. ^ "Sons of American Revolution welcome Gates". Harvard University Gazette. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  21. ^ NSSAR Membership Roster 2009
  22. ^ Henry E. Chambers, History of Louisiana, Vol. 2 (Chicago and New York City: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1925), p. 247
  23. ^ "Dr. Rod Martin to Speak at 2015 Commencement". Hannibal LaGrange University. Archived from the original on 17 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  24. ^ Homans, James E., ed. (1918). The Cyclopedia of American Biography. The Press Association Compilers. pp. 299–300.
  25. ^

External linksEdit