Unbound booklet in good condition published by the Society in 1787 containing the rules for the operation of the Society and a list of the members. Typographical errors have been corrected, as have names of some of 75 members with another 44 written in, all by the same hand, suggesting that this may have been the Secretary’s copy. Notable members include: Rev. Benjamin Moore, later Episcopal Bishop of New York; and James Rivington, the Loyalist newspaper publisher. The booklet is the earliest corporate document the Society possesses.
The back page of the May 8, 1832, edition of The New –York Spectator contains an account of the anniversary dinner held by the Society on April 23 at the City Hotel. Notable guests included the President of St. Andrew’s Society, John Johnson; the President of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, John Chambers; and the British Consul General in New York [no name given], among others. The text of the speech delivered by the President of St. George’s Society, Thomas Dixon, is quoted extensively. Fifteen toasts were proposed, with music after each, during the dinner starting with “The Day and all who honor St. George and the Dragon” and continuing with “The King,” [William IV] “The Queen,” [Adelaide], “The United States of America,” and others before concluding with “The British and American Fair.” The Society owns other newspapers, published in different years, with similar accounts of its banquets.
Newspaper illustration accompanying an account in Harper’s Bazaar of the Society’s anniversary dinner held on April 23, 1857, at Delmonico’s. In addition to the traditional guests – heads of fraternal societies, prominent citizens – the dinner was graced with the presence of the new British Minister to Washington, Lord Napier, whose portrait also illustrates the report. This was “his first public appearance on this or any other stage,” the writer states, and “much curiosity was felt about what he might say.” Several paragraphs of his remarks are printed. The dinner illustration shows a large portrait of Queen Victoria in the background. All the guests are men; women did not attend the annual banquet, which was a dinner and not yet the dinner-dance it later became. It is now called The English Ball.
The Society possesses annual reports going back to the mid-19th century, this one being the oldest, for the year 1863, published in 1864. It contains a list of the Officers, Stewards, Chaplains, Physicians, the members of the Charitable Committee, the Committee of Accounts, and the Delegates to the Board of Deputies of Benevolent and Emigrant Societies. The office address is given as 40 Exchange Place. “Each year calls for renewed exertions on our part, and we hope our Members will use more active exertions in endeavoring to add to our means of usefulness by enlisting the sympathies of all Englishmen who are not already Members of our Society and inducing them to join us – and also by seeking out objects of relief among our countrymen.” The Society’s Permanent Fund at the time had a market value of $10,783.00, and consisted of 240 shares of bank common stocks. Disbursements in 1863 for Charity in New York and Brooklyn totaled $1,795.42. The report of the Charitable Committee states that ”the number of applicants for relief was for New York 240; for Brooklyn 16; total 256; besides 83 pensioners, 7 of whom have died during the year, leaving 76 now on the list. Seven families have been assisted to return to England, or the Colonies, at an outlay of $51.25.”
Very similar in look to the 1863 report (published in 1864) but in better condition. In 1864, “the number of applicants for relief was for New York 160; from Brooklyn 20, besides 76 Pensioners, 9 of whom have died during the year, (2 buried in the lot belonging to the Society in Cypress Hills Cemetery,) 6 added, leaving 73 now on the list. 32 persons have been assisted to return to England or the Colonies, at an outlay of $77.75.” A list of those patients sent to the Ward of St. George the Martyr, in St. Luke’s Hospital, is included, showing who presented them, their names, place of birth, residence, disease (“broken arm”, “sore leg”, “debility”), when discharged, date of death (if any), and remarks. The Society still owns and maintains the cemetery plot at Cypress Hills; and appoints two Delegates to the Board of St. Luke’s Hospital, with the theoretical right to nominate patients for treatment. The Society currently has over 80 beneficiaries (as we now call “pensioners”), all from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries.
Handwritten contemporary copy of an agreement between St. George’s Society and St. Luke’s Hospital whereby the Hospital agrees to transfer the rights of the Anglo-American Free Church of St. George the Martyr to nominate up to 20 patients to beds at the Hospital for free treatment. The Church obtained those valuable rights in 1852 in exchange for ceding a property it owned on Fifth Avenue at 54th Street (the site of the University Club today), which became the site of the first St. Luke’s Hospital building. The Church was termed “free” because it did not rent its pews to congregants for income and was intended to minister to poor people from Great Britain. It never found a congregation and was taken over by the Society in order to afford medical treatment to its beneficiaries. When the Hospital decided to move uptown and wanted to sell the property, it found it could not do so without the consent of the Church; which the Society would not give unless the Hospital agreed to transfer to the Society the Church’s right to nominate patients. In those days, beds were endowed by wealthy donors. Only the poor went to hospitals: doctors visited wealthy patients in their homes.
Exceptionally lavish cover of the program produced for the anniversary dinner held in 1897, which was the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Two images of the Queen adorn the cover, one as a young woman and another as she appeared 60 years later, with the royal arms prominently featured in color at the center. The Society’s constitution calls for the Society to hold a banquet on St. George’s Day annually. This has happened continuously since 1770 except on a few occasions during the Civil War and the First World War.
Ornate illustrated cover of the program produced for the anniversary dinner in 1903. St. George is clearly displayed on the shield (with a dragon as a crest), between the American and British flags. The shield was a generic one, utilized by many St. George’s Societies around the world. (In 2000 the New York Society acquired its own devisal of armorial bearings.) A shield with the cross of St. George embellishes the capital “S” of “St.” Lower down, behind the words “One hundred and Seventeenth Anniversary” can be seen a romantic rendering of Windsor Castle. This is another example of the fine engraving technique that was available in New York at the time to manufacture such pieces.
A different feel and style pervades this program cover from 1911. A new sovereign, George V, occupies the British throne. His portrait, with the royal cypher “GR” (“George Rex”) above and the shield of St. George below, is the dominant image, with the royal arms, the royal crown on a cushion, a British flag and the Palace of Westminster in the distance. The Society’s arms are at the bottom. No American symbols are visible. The Society’s always held the anniversary dinner on the 23rd of April but in 1911 it fell on a Sunday so the date was changed to Monday the 24th.
A neo-Gothic romantic aura permeates the dinner program cover for the 1913 banquet, held on 23 April at the Waldorf Towers. Rather than on the British monarch, the emphasis is on St. George himself: within an architectural structure resembling an altar, with a Paschal lamb at the top, the main illustration shows the Saint freeing the princess after slaying the dragon (lying dead in the lower right corner). George’s dates are helpfully provided in shields on the left and right. He died a martyr on 23 April, which is the reason why that is the date of St. George’s Day.
A custom arose of sending messages to Buckingham Palace conveying the information that loyal members of the Society were to gather at a dinner in New York on St. George’s Day. In return, a message would arrive from the Palace. By 1942, telegrams were being exchanged, such as this Radiogram from 1942, the contents of which were almost certainly read out at the dinner to general delight. In recent years the Society’s President has written a letter to the Palace, and received one in return, which is printed in the dinner program.