The history of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati is intimately interwoven with the history of the United States of America. Members were founders of the nation, both in the Revolutionary War and in the framing of the Constitution. They and their descendents have gone on to play significant roles since that time including United States presidents, justices, cabinet members, generals, admirals, ambassadors, and a vast number of others who have been New York Society members.
The foundation for the establishment of the Society was built on three principles: to preserve the friendships from the war, to keep alive the memories of the sacrifices made by this founding generation and, when necessary, to provide financial support to those members or families of members when they might be in need.
When the New York Society, also called the “Society of Friends,” was organized in 1783, about 453 officers qualified for membership, and 235 officers became Original Members. From information available about the members, we know these officers ranged in age from 18 to 63 years with an average age of 32 years. Most were born and lived in New York. All the ranks of officers were represented. The percentages of the eligible officers in each rank that became Original Members ranged from 44% of the Lieutenants; 52% of the Captains; 50% of the Majors; 71% of the Lt. Colonels and 100% of the Major Generals that survived the war. While the Society was primarily made up of officers from the Continental Army, it also included five Navy Officers and one Marine Officer.
Provisions in the Institution also included the ability to extend honorary membership to individuals “in the respective states, eminent for their abilities and Patriotism, whose views may be directed to the same laudable objects with those of the Cincinnati.” Since the founding of the New York State Society many honorary members have joined the organization including seven Presidents of the United States; two Secretaries of State; 17 Generals from the U.S. Army; 15 Commodores; Admirals or Captains of the U.S. Navy; 13 Ambassadors; and many others.
Today the Society continues to grow focused on the three basic principles upon which we were founded. We focus on maintaining this Society of Friends and look for opportunities to help those in need. The most significant opportunity we have is to "keep alive the memory of what they did."