Since 1783, patriotic societies have become an integral part of American history. The great number of Sons, Daughters, and Dames, and the alphabetical jungle of G.A.R., D.A.R., V.F.W., U.C.V., U.D.C., W.R.D., etc. are well known--and are often subjects of controversy. Wallace Evan Davies here recounts, in fascinating detail, the activities and attitudes of both veterans' and hereditary patriotic societies in America up to 1900. In a lively manner, he explores their significance as social organizations, their concept of patriotism, and their influence upon public opinion and legislation.
At the close of the American Revolution a group of officers formed the first patriotic veterans' society, The Society of the Cincinnati--open to all officers who had served for three years or were in the army at the end of the Revolution. Thus it began. Then, after the Civil War, came the numerous organizations of veterans of both sides and of their relatives. And as some Americans became more nationalistic, others, becoming absorbed in family trees, started the many hereditary societies. After discussing the founding of men's, women's, and children's patriotic societies, the author describes their organizational aspects: their size, qualifications for membership, officers, dues, ritual, badges, costumes, and the like. In hereditary groups, membership wasdeliberately limited, for exclusiveness was often their strongest appeal. The veterans' groups, however, were usually anxious to be as large as possible so as to enhance their influence upon legislators.
The appearance, beginning in the 1860's, of nearly seventy patriotic newspapers and magazines testifies to the rising popularity of these groups: prominent publications of the patriotic press included The Great Republic, The Soldiers' Friend, The Grand Army Record, The Vedette, National Tribune, and American Tribune. Many people turned to patriotism as to a sort of secular religion in which their increasing differences--in national origin and in religious and cultural inheritance--could be submerged; many others joined these societies primarily for social reasons. Once members, however, all became devoted campaigners for such projects as pensions for veterans, care of war orphans, and popular observance of national patriotic holidays; they also took to the field over desecrations of the flag, sectional animosity, the teaching of history, immigration policy, labor disturbances, military instruction in schools, and expansionism.
In Patriotism on Parade we have a cross-section of American social and intellectual history for the period 1783-1900. In writing it, Davies quotes liberally from contemporary letters and newspapers which make lively reading, and he has had access to the many scrapbooks and voluminous papers of William McDowell--prominent in the founding of several hereditary groups--which shed new light on the early years of the D.A.R. and the S.A.R. in particular. His book will be read with interest by the general public, by historians, and especially by persons who have belonged to any of the organizations he describes.
Table of Contents
1. The Cincinnati Story
2. The Veterans Organize-and Their Relatives Too
3. Blue Blood Turns Red, White, and Blue
4. Recruits and Brass
5. The Patriotic Press
6. From Pink Teas to a Hot Time in the Old Town
7. The Veterans Discover the Welfare State
8. "The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay"
9. The Veterans in Politics
10. Patriotism in Practice
11. Division and Reunion
12. Judgments on Public Questions
13. Nationalism vs. Internationalism