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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

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States. New York Commandery
Title: Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, New York Commandery records
Dates [inclusive]: 1894-2012 (bulk 1894-1960s)
Abstract: The collection includes membership applications from 1895-1963; foundational documents from the Military Order's inception in 1894-1895; meeting minutes and related documents for the organization's early decades through 1922; photographs of about 100 members (known as companions), including its Commanders from the early twentieth century; a history of the national organization self-published in 1997; and other items.
Quantity: 4.5 Linear feet in 4 record cartons, 1 document box, and 1 oversize folder
Location: Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact manuscripts@nyhistory.org prior to your research visit to coordinate access. Keep in mind that it will take between two (2) and five (5) business days for collections to arrive, and you should plan your research accordingly.
Language: The documents in the collection are in English.
Call Phrase: MS 3201

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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.)

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Scope and Contents

The collection includes about 1,750 applications for companionship (i.e., membership applications) from 1895-1963, with the applicant's service record (or of his ancestor in the case of a hereditary companionship); foundational documents from the Military Order's inception in 1894-1895; meeting minutes and related documents for the organization's early decades through 1922; photographs of about 100 companions, including its Commanders from the early twentieth century; a history of the national organization self-published in 1997; and other items.

Arrangement

The collection is organized in three series:

Series I. Applications for Companionship [Membership Applications], 1895-1963

Series II. Organizational Records, 1894-1997 (bulk 1895-1922)

Series III. Photographs and Graphic Material, 1917-2012 (bulk undated)

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Membership application.
  • Minutes (administrative records)
  • Photographs.

Subject Topics

  • Societies -- New York (State)
  • Veterans -- New York (State)

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact manuscripts@nyhistory.org prior to your research visit to coordinate access. Keep in mind that it will take between two (2) and five (5) business days for collections to arrive, and you should plan your research accordingly.

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, rightsandrepro@nyhistory.org. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions

Preferred Citation

The collection should be cited as: Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, New York Commandery records, MS 3201, New-York Historical Society.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies of most of the documents in the collection were made by the Commandery and were included with the donation in 2021. These are expected to be made available in time through N-YHS's Digital Library. Only two items were included by the Commandery as digital-only documents: a list of members (original remains with the Order) and a compiled history of the New York Commandery.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States, New York Commandery, 2021

Processing Information

The collection was well inventoried and orderly when presented to New-York Historical. N-YHS archivist Larry Weimer made minor adjustments to the arrangement to facilitate storage and access, and fashioned the items into categories for presentation in this finding aid in July 2021. Framed items were removed from frames for conservation purposes.

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Container List

Series I. Applications for Companionship [Membership Applications], 1895-1963. 3 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

The series includes the completed applications for veteran or hereditary companionship in numbered sequence from #1, submitted at the beginning of the organization in 1895, to #1750, dating from 1963. Later applications were not included in the donation to N-YHS.

In addition to the applicant's basic identifying information, such as name, address, occupation, date and place of birth, the applications include the applicant's service record or, in the case of a hereditary companionship, the ancestor's service record and identifying information. Supplementary documents, such as letters of recommendation, are also included.

The pre-printed application forms, which changed over time, include the various attestations required of a successful applicant, including some no longer required by the organization, such as being of the Caucasian race [sic](from about 1918 to 1962) or that a hereditary applicant be of the male line of descent from the veteran.

Arrangement

The series is arranged in numerical order of the applications, which are roughly chronological by application date, bound in 20 volumes.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Offsite-Box: 1 Volume : 1 Applications #1-100
1895-1896
Offsite-Box: 1 Volume : 2 Applications #101-200
1896-1899
Offsite-Box: 1 Volume : 3 Applications #201-301
1899-1903
Offsite-Box: 1 Volume : 4 Applications #302-402
1903-1918
Offsite-Box: 1 Volume : 5 Applications #403-503
1918-1919
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 6 Applications #504-604
1919-1920
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 7 Applications #605-705
1920
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 8 Applications #706-806
1920-1922
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 9 Applications #807-901
1922-1924
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 10 Applications #902-1000
1924-1928
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 11 Applications #1001-1100
1928-1936
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 12 Applications #1101-1200
1936-1945
Offsite-Box: 2 Volume : 13 Applications #1201-1300
1945-1946
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 14 Applications #1301-1400
1946
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 15 Applications #1401-1450
1946
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 16 Applications #1451-1500
1946-1947
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 17 Applications #1501-1550
1947-1949
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 18 Applications #1551-1600
1949-1951
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 19 Applications #1601-1650
1950-1953
Offsite-Box: 3 Volume : 20 Applications #1651-1750
1953-1963

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Series II. Organizational Records, 1894-1997 (bulk 1895-1922). 1 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

The series includes various organizational records, primarily foundational documents from the inception of the organization as the Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York, the court approval for the name change in 1895, and meeting minutes and related documents from the Military Order's early decades, through 1922. There are far fewer documents from the mid-late twentieth century, and these relate primarily to recipients of the organization's MacArthur Award in the 1960s-1980s and to the organization's anniversary celebrations in 1975 and 1994. The latter includes a congratulatory letter from U.S. President Bill Clinton. Opening the series is a self-published centennial history of the national organization.

Arrangement

The series is arranged by subject matter.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 1 "The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States: History of the First One Hundred Years, 1894-1994, [with] Current Constitution and Membership Roster." Compiled by Captain Ronald E. Fischer, AUS
1997
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 2 Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York. Founding declaration

Scope and Contents

Original declarations signed by the charter members establishing the organization.

1894-1895
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 3 Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York. Constitution

Scope and Contents

Draft and final(?) constitution.

1894?
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 4 Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York. Certificate of Incorporation

Scope and Contents

Includes the original certified copy of 1895 and a second copy certified in 1913. A third copy in the folder is a transcript of the 1913 certified copy.

1895, 1913
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 5 Name change approval

Scope and Contents

Original copy of the court approval for name change from Military and Naval Order of the United States in the State of New York to Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States; New York Commandery, with letter of acknowledgement from the Navy Department (1895), and a certified copy (1913) with related letter from the New York Secretary of State (1912).

1895, 1912-1913
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 6 National Commandery. Constitution
[1896]
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 7 Law and regulation concerning military society badge

Scope and Contents

Letter from the Navy Department confirming that regulations permit the wearing of military society badges on ceremonial occasions by officers and enlisted men, and copy of the New York state law regulating the wearing of such badges.

1895-1896
Offsite-Box: 5 Volume : 1 Minutes of the Council

Scope and Contents

Handwritten minutes.

1895-1902
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 8 Minutes of the Council
1902-1907
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 9 Minutes of the Council
1908-1912
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 10 Minutes of the Council
1913-1916
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 11 Minutes of the Council
1916-1922
Offsite-Box: 5 Volume : 2 Meeting Minutes

Scope and Contents

Handwritten minutes beginning with the first meeting of the organization in December 1894 and ending at December 1895. Includes both Council meeting minutes and membership meetings. Includes transcriptions of the founding declaration and the constitution.

1894-1895
Offsite-Box: 5 Volume : 3 Meeting Minutes
1895-1903
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 13 Meeting Minutes
1905-1912
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 14 Meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes notes for minutes of the special meeting of October 27, 1897; report of the committee on a reception for the National Council; and biographical sketches of James W. Abert and Michael Moore.

1897
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 15 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes the Secretary's report in both original typed, signed form and in printed form; and reports of the committee to consider and draft an amendment to Article XI of the Constitution.

1898
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 16 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes Secetary's report for the annual meeting; stenographer's minutes of the annual meeting and the adjourned special meeting; and the Committee on Nominations adopted slate of candidates for office.

1899
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 17 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes stenographer's report of the annual meeting; reports of the Council and of the Secretary at the meeting; report of the Committee on Revision of the Constitution; and report of the Committee on Nominations.

1900
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 18 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes the proceedings (stenographer's report) of the annual meeting; the Secretary's report at the meeting; and the Treasurer's report, with a list of companions in arrears.

1901
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 19 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes annotated list of members; Secretary's report to the annual meeting; and report of the annual meeting.

1902
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 20 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes list of members (1902 list annotated for 1903 changes); printed announcement for the annual meeting; minutes of the annual meeting; secretary's report at the meeting; Council's report at the meeting; and treasurer's report.

1903
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 21 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes minutes of the annual meeting and the reports of the secretary and of the Council at the meeting.

1904
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 22 Annual meeting documents

Scope and Contents

Includes minutes of the annual meeting and the reports of the secretary and of the Council at the meeting.

1905
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 24 4th Triennial Convention documents

Scope and Contents

Includes seven letters regarding the appointments of delegates to the convention, a list of dinner attendees and payment record, and transcripts of four speeches (also referred to as toasts) made at the convention. Speeches were by General Alexander S. Webb concerning a proposed joint congressional resolution about the wearing of military society badges by military officers; Colonel George C. Cabell, Jr. of Virginia on the positive aspects of the expansion in the number of state commanderies, including increased patriotism across the United States, reconciliation between North and South, and an eager preparedness for the eventual wars certain to be fought by the U.S. to protect its foreign interests; Baron Kentaro Kaneko of the House of Peers of Japan concerning "the Moral Rules of the Japanese Army"; and Colonel Snowden of Pennsylvania, responding in part to Cabell, framing the role of the organization as patriotic, but in opposition to war and military conquest in favor of diplomacy and reconciliation.

1905 April
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 25 Honorary Member nominations

Scope and Contents

Includes 3 carbon copies of letters: one to General Douglas MacArthur informing him of his nomination by the New York Commandery as an honorary member and asking if he will accept; and two letters to the National Commandery with the recommendations of honorary memberships for MaArthur and for Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright.

1945
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 26-29 MacArthur Award (4 folders)

Scope and Contents

Includes copy of the resolution establishing the award (1961) and documents related to the award program and recipient for various (though not all) years from 1962-85. Includes photographs of some recipients receiving the award, including General MacArthur (1962), Francis Cardinal Spellman (1963), Vice Admiral Harold T. Deutermann (1965), and Paul Volcker (1982). Other documents are press releases, clippings, nominations, event invitations, declined acceptances and nominations, and the like.

1961-1985
Box: OS-Small Mayoral proclamation. Oversize

Scope and Contents

Commemorating its 80th anniversary, a proclamation that the week of May 12, 1975, was "Military Order of Foreign Wars Week." Signed by New York City Mayor Abraham D. Beame.

1975
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 30 Centennial anniversary

Scope and Contents

Includes congratulatory letters (1994) from U.S. President Bill Clinton, New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo, and New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; and two resolutions from the 42nd Biennial Convention (1995) acknowledging the death of Commander-General Chalmers Dale and his leadership of the centennial observance.

1994-1995

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Series III. Photographs and Graphic Material, 1917-2012 (bulk undated). .5 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

The series is comprised primarily of almost 100 photographic portraits of companions from across the history of the organization. All are identified by name and, for most, their companion number. These range from one of the group's charter members (#3, James Henry Morgan) to a set of photographs taken in 1990-91 during Operation Desert Storm with member #1955, Christopher Arnheiter. These photographs are of various sizes, ranging from small snapshots to larger, matted poses. There is a roughly even split between those that picture companions in their military uniforms and those in civilian dress. Eleven of the portraits are of companions that served as the organization's Commander from 1910-1937; these are identified in the container list. The series also holds a few group photographs from some of the organization's events, including dinners and meetings, and other graphic materials. All items are identified to some extent in the container list.

Arrangement

The series is arranged by subject, with portraits followed by events and miscellaneous topics. Portraits are generally arranged by size or other such feature.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 31 Companions. Portraits, small

Scope and Contents

Companions 105 (Betts), 176 (Perrine), 400 (Knauer), 428 (Whitney), 467 (Hitchcock, news clipping photo) 548 (Wallace), 581 (McLean), 617 (Crocker), 670 (Garrison), 692 (Ulrichs), 803 (Fiske), 1014 (Thierry, exceptionally small), 1016 (Pell, Jr)

1930s, undated
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 32 Companions. Portraits, approximately 4x6 inches

Scope and Contents

Includes 61, (Andrews), 205 (Parker), 281 (Kobbe), 407 (Mazet), 494 (Nexsan), 522 (Robinson), 682 (Hays), 707 (Sloan), 728 (Joyce), 742 (Bourne), 749 (Huddleson, Jr), 754 (Pederson), 802 (Bogert), 818 (Vermeule, Jr), 828 (Wells), 849 (Vanderbilt), 927 (Heckard), 978 (Goodwin), 988 (Hellweg), 1020 (Berg), 1038 (Hansen)

1930s, undated
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 33 Companions. Portraits, approximately 6x9 inches

Scope and Contents

Includes 168 (Andrews), 217 (Emmet), 267 (Wood), 421 (Adams), 586 (Reynolds/Ruscovar), 676 (Cattus), 699 (Moore), 725 (Gibbons, photo of painting), 765 (Towns), 771 (Merrill, Jr), 831 (Knierim), 882 (Cronin), 901 (Bolles), 907 (Durand), 953 (Benjamin), 965 (Sellman), 1035 (Douglas), 1036 (Reichner), 1046 (Gardner), 1842 (Carman)

1920s-1940s, undated
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 34 Companions. Portraits, approximately 8x11 inches

Scope and Contents

Includes 360 (Cluett), 408 (Engel), 479 (Chauncey), 610 (Clarke, Jr), 644 (Rack), 734 (Merriman), 768 (Comfort), 781 (Lloyd), 845 (Gilbert), 911 (Stewart), 1019 (Albee), 1023 (Lovejoy), 1043 (Perkins)

undated
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 35 Companions. Portraits, on boards or matted (medium size)

Scope and Contents

Includes 79 (Falls), 358 (Forshew), 834 (Shepard), 942 (Langdon), 975 (Davis)

undated
Offsite-Box: 5 Folder : 1 Companions. Portraits, unframed

Scope and Contents

These items were unframed for conservation reasons by N-YHS. Includes companions #3 (James Henry Morgan, one of the charter members, 1st Secretary General of the National Commandery), #304 (Amory Sibley Carhart, Commander, 1910-12), #145 (William Graves Bates, Commander, 1912-20), #397 (De Witt Clinton Weld, Commander, 1921-22), #390 (William Seaman Bainbridge, Commander, 1922-25), #455 (Paul Debevoise, Commander, 1925-26), #557 (Gustav Tuska, Commander, 1927-28), #970 (Pelham St. George Bissell, Commander, 1930-32), #875 (John H. Byrue, Commander, 1933-1935), #484 (Washington Irving Taylor, Commander, 1935), and #387 (John F. Daniell, Commander, 1936-37).

Box: OS-Small Companions. Portraits, oversize

Scope and Contents

Includes companion #456 (David Banks, Commander, 1920-21) and #888 (John W. Morgan, Secretary General of National Commandery).

1920s?, 1934
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 36 Companion 934 (Hoblitzell). Portrait, drawing

Scope and Contents

Inscribed drawing by Joseph Cummings Chase

1918 October 1
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 37 Companion 1955 (Arnheiter). Desert Storm (Iraq)

Scope and Contents

Includes color photographs taken in the field during the war, several of tanks (member was in the 3rd Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 24th Infantry Division. Two of the unit's "business cards" are with the photos.)

1990-1991
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 38 Companions, unknown number. Portraits.

Scope and Contents

Includes Ralph Earle, Henry Lyden, Albert Kann

1917, 1924, undated
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 39 Honorary companions, no number

Scope and Contents

Includes John F. O'Ryan, Joseph K. Kuhn, W.M. Wright, and Joseph Park Moorer (1975)

1975, undated
Box: OS-Small Events. Dinners

Scope and Contents

Includes 3 panoramic photos: 46th annual dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria (1940), mess dinner of the European Commandry of the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (1943), and dinner in honor of General Hugh A. Drum, retiring commanding general of the New York National Guard, held at the 7th Regiment Armory (1948)

1940, 1943, 1948
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 40 Events. Annual banquet

Scope and Contents

Includes guest list as well as many photographs of the event.

1974
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 41 Events. New York Commandery group photo

Scope and Contents

Taken at Park Sheraton Hotel in 1974 or 1975

circa 1975
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 42 Events. Meetings/Banquets?

Scope and Contents

Includes event snapshots (1990, 1994), speaker notes (1990), program for 1995 meeting with publicity photograph of featured speaker Angier Biddle Duke.

1990, 1994, 1997
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 43 Events. President's Day celebration

Scope and Contents

Includes print-outs of digital photographs. The folder also has the CD of images; this is restricted from use in order not to corrupt the files. For access, make arrangements with the manuscripts curator at manuscripts@nyhistory.org.

2008 February 21
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 44 Other events

Scope and Contents

Includes awards to West Point cadets (1936, 1980, undated) and commemoration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (undated, but likely 1937)

1930s-1980
Box: OS-Small Drawing

Scope and Contents

Pen and ink drawing depicting military servicemen of various wars for the organization.

1923
Offsite-Box: 5 Folder : 2 Photoreproduction of Saturday Evening Post cover, with inscription

Scope and Contents

Includes reproduction of October 23, 1965, cover featuring the Medal of Honor recipient Captain Roger Donlon. Inscribed by Donlon in 2012, with accompanying texts. Item was unframed at N-YHS for conservation purposes.

2012
Offsite-Box: 4 Folder : 45 Digital storage device (RESTRICTED)

Scope and Contents

Small USB thumb drive with digitized scans of most of the collection as provided by the donor, plus a small number of other items. This digital storage device is for staff back-up access only; not for research access. The digital files will be made accessible in time through the N-YHS digital library.

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