History & Mission Statement


Plaque at the Capitol

In March of 1976 a bronze plaque was unveiled in the East Lobby of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. commemorating the fifty-six signers. The plaque was designed and made by Alan Robbins. Important to our society is its responsibility for drawing public and government attention to the needs of historical landmarks and to indicate publicaly by resolutions our non-political support of patriotic activities in keeping with the high ideals of the 56 Signers

The Mission Statement

The purpose or purposes which it will hereafter pursue are exclusively charitable and educational within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). Its general powers and purposes shall be:

(a) To strengthen in American life the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence by its signers.

(b) To promote fellowship among their descendants.

(c) To inspire and cultivate a spirit of unselfish patriotism.

(d) To aid and encourage historical research and education, the preservation of relics and records of the American Revolution and marking of historic sites.

(e) To perpetuate the memory of those men who, in signing the Declaration of Independence, mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the cause of liberty.

(f) To provide a national organization for the promotion of the purposes herein set forth.

 

History

The first active steps toward the formation of the Society were taken on July 4, 1907 at the Jamestown Exposition near Norfolk, Virginia, where descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had gathered upon invitation of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association and the Exposition officials to assist in an impressive celebration of the one hundred and thirty-first anniversary of the “Immortal Declaration.” After the public exercises of the day over one hundred and fifty descendants, representing a majority of the fifty-six signers, assembled in the Pennsylvania State Building on the Exposition grounds and a temporary organization of the Society was effected.

The meeting was then adjourned to October 19th when a large number of those who first assembled, and many others, met in the Maryland State Building on the Exposition grounds, adopted a Constitution and elected officers for the current year to end July 4, 1908. The officers then elected were: Mr. Albert McClellan Mathewson of New Haven, Connecticut, President; Mr. Thomas Jefferson Randolph of Norfolk, Virginia, Secretary; and Mr. William Shields McKean of Washington, D.C., Treasurer.

The First Congress of the Society was convened at Philadelphia on July 3 and 4, 1908, meetings being held in the old State House, generally known as “Independence Hall,” in the room in which the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. The Society has continued an unbroken sequence of activities and meetings since then.

The Annual Congress of the Society shall be held every year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whenever possible in Independence Hall, on a Saturday between May 9th and June 13th or on a July 4th weekend.

History of the Society of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

The first meeting of the descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was held on July 4th, 1907, at the Jamestown Exposition, in Virginia. The meeting was held under the joint auspices of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States and the Exposition officials. At the general assembly in the Convention Hall, the Declaration of Independence was read by Hollins N. Randolph, of Atlanta, GA, a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Woodrow Wilson, then President of Princeton University, delivered an address on “The Author and other Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Their Descendants.” After the public exercises of the day more than one hundred and fifty descendants, representing a majority of the Signers, assembled in the Pennsylvania State Building, and the organization of this Society was effected. Another meeting of the Society was held the following day and was adjourned to October 19th, 1907, in the Maryland State Building, on the Exposition Grounds, at which a constitution was adopted and the following officers were elected to serve until July 4th, 1908.

President Albert McClellan Matthewson
Secretary Thomas Jefferson Randolph
Treasurer William Shields McKean

Dr. Henry Morris was elected President in 1909, and served until 1912, when Mr. Peter Vivian D. Conway was elected.

The First Annual Congress of the Society was held in Philadelphia, on July 3rd and 4th, 1908, in the room in Independence Hall, in which the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed by most of the Signers. Each subsequent Annual Congress has been similarly held.

Charles Thornton Adams, Historian. Source: Year Book of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, 1912.
Submitted by Johnny D. Alexander, Assistant Historian Spirt 2010

What We Do

Since its founding in 1907 the society has successfully completed a great many patriotic and commemorative projects.

Annual scholarships are awarded to deserving boys and girls descended from one of the Signers. Tablets or other memorials have been placed at birth places, homes, or graves of the Signers wherever such were unmarked. Through the efforts of the society the grave of Francis Hopkinson, unknown for over a century, was identified. It sponsored the preservation of the Frank Willing Leach MSS, containing the lines of all descendants of the Signers which could be ascertained at the time of their compilation. Contributions are constantly being made toward the restoration or preservation of such historic monuments as Independence Hall itself, St. Paul’s Church, Eastchester, N.Y., birthplace of freedom of the press, the Powel House in Philadelphia, home of the last pre-Revolutionary and first post-Revolutionary mayor of the city, Stratford Hall, home of the Lees, etc. The insigne of the society was presented to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington in 1933, and its flag was given to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It gave the plate for the leaflet bearing the description of the church which is handed to all visitors to Bruton Parish Church, in Williamsburg, Va. as a memorial to the Signers who worshipped there.

In March of 1976 a bronze plaque was unveiled in the East Lobby of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. commemorating the fifty-six signers. The plaque was designed and made by Alan Robbins.

Important to our society is its responsibility for drawing public and government attention to the needs of historical landmarks and to indicate publicly by resolutions our non-political support of patriotic activities in keeping with the high ideals of the 56 Signers

Past President Generals | 1907 – Present

DSDI wants to thank all those who have served as our President General. We greatly value their leadership and commitment to DSDI.

Name Year
Judge Albert McClellan Mathewson 1907-1909
Dr. Henry Morris 1909-1912
Peter Vivian Daniel Conway 1912-1913
Brigadier General Charles Lukens Davis 1913-1915
W. Gordon McCabe 1915-1918
Russell Duane 1918-1922
Carl MaGee Kneass 1922-1927
John Calvert 1927-1930
Carl MaGee Kneass 1930-1933
Russell Duane 1933-1937
Major Samuel B. Scott 1937-1939
Franklin Steele Wiltse 1939-1941
Rev. Francis Hopkinson Craighall, Jr. 1941-1945
Percy Hamilton Goodsell 1945-1963
Marsden Churchill Smith 1963-1964
Rear Admiral Schuyler N. Pyne, USN, Ret. 1964-1967
Franklin Bache Satterthwaite 1967-1972
W.B. Shubrick Clymer 1972
Mrs. Lionel T. DeForest 1972-1975
The Reverend Frederick Wallace Pyne 1975-1978
Percy Hamilton Goodsell 1978-1981
William Ward, IV 1981-1984
Mrs. Philip Kennedy 1984-1987
Rieman McNamara, Jr. 1987-1990
Mrs. William G. Kalbfleisch 1990-1993
Richard H. Corson, M.D. 1993-1996
Allan M. Heyward 1996-1998
1998-2001
Richard H. Stromberg 2001-2004
Thomas G. Heyward, Sr. 2004-2007
Donald Crosset Ward, Sr. 2007-2010
John Curtiss Glynn Jr. 2010-2013
Lawrence McMahon Croft 2013-2015
Hope Middleton Wood 2015-2017
Robert Bruce Warden Laubach 2017-2020
Lucy Duke Tonacci 2020-Present

 

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