to the great heritage of liberty and law exemplified by the founders of our country.”
The Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York holds the unique distinction of being the first Society of Mayflower Descendants to be established.
Richard Henry Greene founded the Society on December 22, 1894 in New York City as a society for lineal descendants of passengers who came over on the Mayflower in 1620.
The original seven members of the New York Society were:
J. Bayard Backus
Richard Henry Greene
William Milne Grinnell
Edward Loudon Norton
Joseph Jermain Slocum
Since its inception, the Society has processed more than 6,000 applications. As of
December 31, 2015, there were 1,260 current members.
More Historical Notes of Interest…
With the outbreak of World War I, the Mayflower Society donated an ambulance to the National League of Woman’s Services to be used in New York for transporting wounded American soldiers arriving by ship to local hospitals.
During the 1920s the Society grew in membership and activities leading up to the purchase of Mayflower House in 1928. The five story town house located on East 71st Street was re-decorated and furnished to host Mayflower teas and receptions as well as serve as the headquarters for the Society’s operations and library.
In April 1931 the Society held its dinner dance at the Ritz Carleton Hotel on 45th Street and Madison Avenue attended by several hundred members, family and friends. In 1933 the Society decided to present a gold medal for “conspicuous achievement” to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in 1934 to present one to Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, who made explorations in South America.
Mayflower Officers 2016
Unfortunately, the Depression of the 1930s forced the Society to sell Mayflower House in 1941 and by 1943 the Society’s offices were relocated to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society building at 58th and Lexington Avenue. The office was relocated in May 2007 to it’s present location at 20 West 44th Street.
In the post-World War II era, the Society saw an increase in young members; a dinner dance was held at the Hotel Pierre in January of 1947 – the proceeds being donated to the Endowment Fund of the Mayflower House in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Society members collected books and records which were donated to vocational and convalescent departments in Halloran Hospital and Manhattan Beach Hospital, both veterans’ hospitals. vocational and convalescent departments in Halloran Hospital and Manhattan Beach Hospital, both veterans’ hospitals.
In 1957 the Mayflower II – a replica of the original ship manned by an international crew – sailed from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. To celebrate its arrival, Gimbel’s Department Store in Manhattan created a Gimbel’s Mayflower Museum. The Society’s then Governor, Pelham St. George, presided with Bruce A. Gimbel, president of Gimbel Brothers, at a ribbon- cutting ceremony on June 24, 1957. Over 200 members attended the opening of the exposition which featured life-size reproductions of Pilgrim houses, a Cape Cod Indian hut, furniture, household goods and mannikins dressed in authentic Pilgrim clothing.
Throughout the 1950s the Society held an annual dinner-dance at the Plaza Hotel. The first Ball at which six debutantes were presented was held in their Grand Ballroom.
In 1962 the Society donated a portrait of Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States, to the White House for which First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a thank you letter to the Society.
In 1970 the Society celebrated the 350th Anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact at its Ball at the Plaza. The Swedish-American line arranged a cruise on the S.S. Kungsholm and 450 GSMD members sailed to Leyden where they laid a wreath on the tomb of John Robinson, pastor of the Leyden Congregation. They were also received by the Mayor of Boston, England and attended a splendid reception at the Guild Hall in Plymouth, England.
Today the Society sponsors three Educational Programs each year: The Educational Outreach Program in conjunction with Plimoth Plantation, the Compact Award Program for high school seniors and the Margaret K. Moore Essay, also for high school seniors. In addition to hosting its’ Annual Mayflower Debutante Ball, the Society has receptions, a Cousins Dinner and an Annual Meeting (held every year in April).
(This brief history of the Society was extracted from A Short History of the Society of Mayflower Descendants by Sondra Blewer).
Albany Colony History…
Although the Albany Colony was the first Colony in New York State to be founded, its membership disbanded as a result of the Depression and World Wars. In 1952 the Colony was re-organized and set about to furnish the Mayflower room, an early Dutch bedroom at Ft. Crailo. The Colony donated a Dutch chest and table, paintings, quilts and china from personal donations and fund-raising projects. The room was completed in 1962 but since then the Fort has been taken over by the State of New York with the understanding that the Colony gifts would be used in other exhibits. The Albany Colony holds luncheon meetings twice a year.
Buffalo Colony History…
Although Society members created the Buffalo Association of the Society of Mayflower Descendants on June 25, 1901 with Henry R. Howland as its President, the reconstituted Buffalo Colony held its first formal meeting in 1962. Its members helped save the Ainsley Wilcox Mansion from being destroyed. This home served as a barracks in the War of 1812 and was the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s swearing-in ceremony upon the death of President William McKinley on September 14, 1901. The Buffalo Colony holds luncheon meetings
twice a year.