Our History

A History of the Center for Advancing America’s Heritage and The SAR Foundation


The Trustees of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution recognized over a decade ago the need for increased education efforts to ensure that Americans, especially young Americans, learn the key lessons of the American Revolution and started in motion plans which have led to today’s SAR Center for Advancing America’s Heritage (CAAH) and the SAR Foundation (SARF).

In 2000, the Trustees approved the development of plans for an approximately 5,000-square-foot expandable library/administration building. The Executive Committee created a Charitable Giving Task Force with a goal of raising $10 million. Delegates to the 110th Annual Congress unanimously approved construction of what was then conceived as the George Rogers Clark memorial library of the SAR on land already owned across from the National Headquarters.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the library was held in 2001 at the 111th Annual Congress in Louisville. The overall project was designed to be developed in phases, with the first one being actual construction of the 8,500-square-foot building and attendant courtyard at a cost of approximately $2.1 million.

On October 2, 2002. The SAR Foundation, Inc. was incorporated as the fundraising arm of the SAR under the leadership of President General Larry D. McClanahan (2001-2002). President General Howard F. Horne, Jr., PhD (1999-2000) was elected the Foundation’s first President & Chief Operating Officer and served until 2004. A $6 million capital campaign, “Advancing America’s Heritage,” was launched under the leadership of Compatriot Charles F. Bragg to raise funds for a new SAR Genealogical Library and for an Endowment Fund that would provide a permanent source of support for the Library and other SAR programs.

In 2003, noting that the founding principles of our nation and the sacrifices of our founders were being marginalized in schools across America, President General B. Rice Aston (2002-2003) announced the creation of the SAR Center for Advancing America’s Heritage. Fundraising Chairman Charles F. Bragg inaugurated the CAAH Awards in recognition of compatriot generosity at various levels with certificates, medals, and lapel pins marking distinctive giving. The Aston-Horne Administration noted compatriots responded quickly and offered $1.5 million in pledges and cash and the Brown Foundation committed $300,000 toward the project to preserve our history and heritage.

Following the terms of President General Raymond G. Musgrave (2003-2004) as SARF Chairman and SARF President & Chief Operating Officer Howard Horne (2002-2004), President General Henry N. McCarl (2004-2005) succeeded as SARF Chairman and Compatriot Jack London succeeded as President & Chief Operating Officer and served until 2008 when he became SAR’s Treasurer General.

During the successive terms of President General Roland G. Downing (2005-2006) and President General Nathan E. White (2006-2007) as SARF Chairmen and under the leadership of SARF President & Chief Operating Officer London, SAR’s fundraising objective clearly shifted from preserving books and artifacts in a new library and museum to preserving America’s Heritage in the new SAR Center for Advancing America’s Heritage. President London’s leadership led to the hiring of SARF’s first Development Director, first fundraising consultant and first “direct mail” consultants. London not increased the number of SARF contributors to but increased the size of contributions by incentivizing larger gifts with naming opportunities in the new Center.

Just as the project had evolved from a library expansion to the creation of a SAR Center to preserve America’s Heritage, the project also evolved from a modest expansion across the street to a spectacular expansion across town. In 2007, President General Bruce Wilcox (2007-2008) seized the opportunity to put the Center in the heart of Louisville’s museum and cultural district on W. Main Street. As SARF Chairman, Wilcox won Trustee approval to purchase the historic Fulton Conway Building, located directly across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and several doors east of the Frazier International History Museum.

Another significant development during the Wilcox-London Administration was the organization of a Capital Campaign Planning Committee led by Compatriot Samuel Powell, PhD. The Capital Campaign Planning Committee surveyed SAR’s membership, Corporate Louisville, and Corporate America to determine if there was sufficient interest to sustain a Capital Campaign. With positive survey results, SARF launched a $10 million Capital Campaign under the chairmanship of Powell. A State Challenge was launched under the leadership of Co-Chairmen Lindsey Brock and George Thurmond to encourage and recognize an average gift of $250 per state.

In 2009, SARF President & Chief Operating Officer Jack London succeeded Charles F. Bragg as SAR’s Treasurer General. London was replaced by Compatriot I. Barnett Ellis, who served as SARF President & Chief Operating Officer through the rest of Chairman David N. Appleby’s Administration (2008-2009). Compatriot William Allerton III was appointed to the SARF Board to fill Treasurer General London’s unexpired term. Allerton’s first contribution to the SARF Board was to introduce the SARF Streamer Award to recognize the generosity of SAR State Societies and Chapters.

During the Appleby-Ellis Administration, the Capital Campaign kicked off with a lead gift of $1 million from the William Drinkard Charitable Trust Fund, secured by the leadership of President General Roland G. Downing, a devoted colleague and friend of Compatriot Drinkard. During his tenure, President Barnett Ellis launched the SARF website and produced the Foundation’s first video detailing the Center’s construction plans with interviews of leading citizens from Louisville, including Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. In recognition of his outstanding leadership, Compatriot Ellis was elected SARF President Emeritus.

At the 119th Annual Congress, it is announced that $5.6 million in gifts and pledges has been received. President General Edward F. Butler (2009-2010) was elected SARF Chairman and Compatriot William Allerton III was elected President & Chief Operating Officer. President General Butler quickly seized the momentum and on August 25, 2009, signed contracts to begin construction at the Fulton Conway Building site. Other notable accomplishments of the Butler-Allerton Administration was the publication of SARF’s first Annual Report, the introduction of commemorative lapel pins to incentivize smaller contributions while broadening the contribution base, endorsement of a $1 million Capital Outlay from the Kentucky State Assembly by the Mayor of Louisville and Greater Louisville, Inc. (Chamber of Commerce), increased Louisville foundation giving, and provided new regulations to safeguard the corpus of SAR youth award endowments.

At the 120th Annual Congress, President General J. David Sympson (2010-2011) succeeded President General Butler and Compatriot William Allerton III was re-elected President & Chief Operating Officer. The pinnacle of the Sympson-Allerton Administration was the dedication of the SAR Genealogical Research Library. On September 25, 2010, President General Sympson dedicated the SAR Library to “Liberty & Learning,” quoting Founding Father James Madison, who said: “What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty & Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?” SARF continued its highly successful series of commemorative lapel pins in recognition of generosity to the Annual Appeal, retained new Advertising and Internet consultants, raised the most ever at an Annual Congress ($160,000), launched the “Lantern Award” to provide a new incentive to bridge the gap between CAAH Awards and Naming Rights, introduced advertising in non-SAR publications, reduced the National Society’s debt by one-third, raised the number of foundation grants received - including a $50,000 grant from the Steele Reese Foundation to help SAR help teachers in the poorest school districts in Kentucky improve American History instruction, and, in May 2011, began restoration of the Fulton-Conway Building façade thanks to a $200,000 gift by Compatriot Lanny R. Patten and his wife, Ann.

At the 121st Annual Congress, President General Larry J. Magerkurth (2011-2012) succeeded President General Sympson as SARF Chairman and William Allerton III was re-elected as President & Chief Executive Officer. Notable achievements include, commemorating the U.S. Constitution’s 225th with a James Madison lapel pin and medallion as contribution incentives, despite a meltdown of financial markets in August 2011 conducting a highly successful Annual Appeal allowing SARF to completely retire SAR’s debt, and completely revamping the SARF website.

Join the Sons of the American Revolution in Advancing America’s Heritage for succeeding generations by keeping alive the stories of our Founding Fathers and the heroes that won America’s independence. Select naming opportunities are available and individual and corporate donations will be gratefully acknowledged. The SAR Foundation, Inc. is classified by the IRS as an educational organization exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Happy Anniversary!

The SAR commemorates the 225th Anniversary, of our First President. 

Washington Pin The first inauguration of George Washington as the first president of the United States took place on April 30, 1789.

The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of George Washington as president. Sworn in by Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston during this first presidential inauguration, Washington became the first president of the United States following the ratification of the Constitution.

The first presidential term started on March 4, 1789. Following the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine states, that date had been set by the Congress of the Confederation for the beginning of the operations of the new government under the Constitution of the United States. On that date, the House of Representatives and the Senate assembled, but both convened without a quorum. The House of Representatives first achieved a quorum on April 1, when it elected its officers. The Senate first achieved a quorum and elected its officers on April 6. Also on April 6 the House and Senate met in joint session, and the electoral votes were counted. Washington and Adams were respectively declared elected president and vice president, and the results of the count were subsequently published in the journals of Congress.

On April 30, 1789, the inaugural ceremony took place on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, then the first US Capitol and the first site where the 1st United States Congress met.

Since nearly first light a crowd of people had begun to gather around Washington's home, and at noon they made their way to Federal Hall by way of Queen Street and Great Dock (both now Pearl Street) and Broad Street. Washington dressed in an American-made dark brown suit with white silk stockings and silver shoe buckles; he also wore a steel-hilted sword.

Upon his arrival at Federal Hall, Washington was formally introduced to the House and Senate in the then Senate chamber, after which already sworn-in Vice President John Adams announced it time for the inauguration. Washington moved to the second-floor balcony where he took the presidential oath of office, administered by Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston in view of throngs of people gathered on the streets. The Bible used in the ceremony was from St. John's Masonic Lodge No.1, and due to haste, it was opened at random to Genesis 49:13. Livingston shouted "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!" to the crowd, which was replied to with cheers and a 13 gun salute. The first inaugural address was subsequently delivered by Washington in the Senate chamber running 1419 words in length.

At this time there were no inaugural balls for the day of the ceremony, though a week later on May 7 a ball was held in New York to honor the first president.

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The SAR is a "lineage" society. This means that each member has traced their family tree back to a point of having an ancestor who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774-1783.