This morning I spoke about The Way of Improvement Leads Home to the South Jersey chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. I have never been to an SAR meeting before, so I learned a lot from a local manifestation of this patriotic organization. First, I realized as soon as I walked into the meeting that I was underdressed. I was sporting what I call my “academic uniform”–a pair of khakis, a short-sleeve button-down shirt, and a pair of loafers. The rest of the group wore ties with their sports jackets or suits. Some of them wore elaborate medals around their necks.
After a continental breakfast the meeting opened with prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and the recitation of an SAR creed. Following the business meeting I spoke for about 25 minutes and answered questions. Since I did not have much time, I ended up doing a simple biographical overview of Fithian’s life. After the talk, many were eager to get a signed copy of the book, so the president of the chapter decided to skip the traditional singing of “God Bless America” and move directly into the benediction so the signing could begin.
I met many great people today and learned a lot. For example, I learned that the “Sons of the American Revolution” is a completely different organization from the “Sons of the Revolution.” I also was strongly encouraged by one of the members to research my ancestry since there might be a chance I had a relative who fought in the American Revolution and could join the SAR. (I tried to tell her that my Italian and Slovakian ancestors were not around in 1776, but this did little to curb her enthusiasm about the possibility that I might be able to become a member of the SAR). During the course of the morning I signed a 65th birthday card for one of the members, learned of a woman who wrote a school play about the Greenwich Tea Burning, and listened as the members told me the stories of their ancestors. They were eager to read the book and learn more about Fithian.
Thanks to program director Harry Engleman for inviting me to speak and handling all the details of my visit. One of the highlights of the event was the chance I got to visit with Megan Giordano, one of my former students and the curator of the Red Bank Battlefield and Whitehall House in National Park, NJ. Megan, a Messiah College alum and graduate of the prestigious Winterthur Program in Early American Material Culture, is doing a great job providing leadership to this historical site. She gave me some great news about an upcoming new website for the organization that looks to be quite impressive.
I am off to spend another two weeks at the David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing. I hope to post from there. I will be doing a book talk and signing on July 12.