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New Portrait Timeline of SAR Presidents General

12 Apr

New Portrait Timeline of SAR Presidents General


Author: Rae Ann Sauer

A new addition to the 2nd floor greets visitors to the SAR National Headquarters.  The Presidents General Wall is now proudly displayed along the wall outside the Board Room.  The President General is the chief executive officer of the SAR. He guides the policies, oversees SAR Headquarters’ operations, and appoints the members of all the committees. He presides over meetings of the Executive Committee, the trustees, and the annual Congress. He (or his designated representative) represents the SAR at the meetings of or in negotiations with other organizations.

The wall provides a rich visual history of the 128 years of the Sons of the American Revolution.  The wall was generously funded by the George Washington Endowment Fund. It took several months to complete its construction, as the staff worked with a Willis Woodworking and Franklin Custom Framing to coordinate the many display elements. It features four cherry-stained wooden rails upon which the photos sit, allowing for ease in arranging the portraits.  The photos are all black and white, sized 5 x 7 with light gray matting and black wooden 8 x 10 frames.  Brass name plates are affixed to the matting with the dates of their presidency engraved in black.  Black wooden letters across the top of the wall say “Presidents General,” completing the display.

At the moment, 113 portraits adorn the wall, dating from the first President General, Lucius Deming, to the current President General, J. Michael Tomme, Sr. In the early years of the society, there were several Presidents General who served a more than one year term, which is why there only 113 rather than 128 portraits on the wall. Ample space is left for the addition of the Presidents General in future years.

 A couple of notable Presidents General includes Gen. Horace Porter and Gov. Franklin Murphy. Gen. Horace Porter served with the Union in the Civil War and later became President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary. He was also vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. He was the President General of the SAR from 1892-96. He is probably most famous for paying to bring back the body of John Paul Jones from France to be reinterred in the United States when he was the U.S. Ambassador to France in 1904.

Gov. Franklin Murphy was born in Jersey City, NJ on January 3, 1846.   At sixteen, during the Civil War, he enlisted in the 13th Regiment of the New Jersey Volunteers and participated in the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.   After leaving military service, he founded the Murphy Varnish Company in Newark in 1865.  He served as President General from 1899-1900. Murphy became involved in politics, serving in the Newark Common Council and the New Jersey state legislature. He was Governor of New Jersey from 1902-1905 and was a candidate for Vice President of the United States in 1908.

The Presidents General Wall was originally placed on the lower level of the former National Headquarters on Fourth Street by Former President General Arthur King in 1981. All of the photos on display at Fourth Street were originals dating as far back as 1889.  Since the move to Main Street, the photographs have been stored in the archives. High resolution scans of the photographs were taken in order to preserve the originals, some of which were the only copy, and these copies are now on display.  It is amazing that all of the originals still exist, given that they have survived moves from Washington, D.C., to Louisville, Fourth Street to Main Street, natural disasters, and exposure to light. The display will now educate members and the public about the SAR’s rich history. We invite all members to take a moment to enjoy the new display and the next time they visit the National Headquarters. 

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