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Guide to the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, New York Commandery Records
1894-2012 (bulk 1894-1960s)
 MS 3201

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 28, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, New York Commandery was formed in New York City in December 1894 by a group of veterans and descendants of officers of America's wars with foreign adversaries, specifically at the time the Revolution, War of 1812, War with Tripoli, and Mexican War. The organization was incorporated under the name Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York, but it was immediately determined that the name bore a resemblance to a similar organization in Massachusetts. Consequently, in 1895 the Order changed its name to its present form.

The foundational declaration, or "Institution," of the Order's charter members cited the purposes of the organization, which included honoring the memory of the veterans of America's foreign wars, strengthening ties of fellowship among the companions (as the Order's members are known), fostering the cultivation of military and naval science, and maintaining national honor, union and independence. A constitution was established which included the qualifications for membership. The specifics of these have changed over the course of the New York Commandery's history, sometimes in exclusionary ways, such as the institution of a Caucasian [sic] racial requirement after World War I (eliminated around 1962), and sometimes in inclusionary ways, such as the removal of a male lineage requirement, but a basic thread throughout is that officers or descendants of officers who served in a foreign military conflict are eligible.

The formation of the New York Commandery quickly served as a model, and Pennsylvania formed its own Commandery in 1985, followed by Connecticut in 1986 and then several other states. In response to this sudden proliferation, a National Commandery was formed in 1896. The New York Commandery held its own annual meeting; the National Commandery sponsored triennial (later biennial) conventions.

(The above note was based on materials in the collection and the website of the Military Order of Foreign Wars, New York Commandery's website.)