The Society that came to be known as the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia was named in honor of Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of Scotland.
While formal, recorded minutes of the Society began in 1749, it appears that the Society was founded in 1747 at the Tun Tavern, which was the fashionable meeting and dining place of the time in Philadelphia. The Tun was near Third Street which was at the time the western boundary of Philadelphia's metropolitan limits.
"Twenty -five gentlemen of Philadelphia" were the founders of the Society. The Minutes list them as follows:
According to the Society's Charter, the sole purpose of the organization has been the relief of distressed Scottish immigrants. This purpose is evidenced by an advertisement which was published to announce the emergence of the Society to a none-too interested citizenry.
"That peculiar benevolence of mind which shews itself by charitable actions by giving relief to the poor and distressed has been always justly esteemed one of the first-rate moral virtues. Any persons then who form themselves into a society with this intention must certainly meet with the approbation of every candid and generous mind, and we hope it will plainly appear by the rules which are to follow that the St. Andrew's Society, of Philadelphia, was solely instituted with that view … "
We who are natives of that part of Great Britain called Scotland and reside in the City of Philadelphia, meeting frequently with our country people here in distress who generally make application to some one or other of us for relief, have agreed to form ourselves into a society in order to provide for these indigents whereby they may be more easily more regularly and more bountifully supplied than could well be done in the common troublesome way of making occasional collections for such purposes.
"Thus it appears that the design of this society is fair, equitable and innocent and to convince the world that it is so, we though it proper to take this method of making public our rules."
The charitable work of the Society was performed by members who were called Assistants. Only a few days after the publication of the advertisement, the Society was importuned by a certain Alexander Ross, surgeon of Gallowayshire, who lay in a certain "loathesome gaol" in Philadelphia by virtue of debts which he was unable to pay. He wrote: "I hope that the honorary gentlemen will compassionate my misfortune and produce my liberty as soon as possible, when I shall, by the blessing of God, make restitution as soon as possible. Your petitioner shall be ever bound to pray." The Society promptly produced forth shillings which, it proved, were quite sufficient to liberate him from duress and to re-establish his profession.
As noted in the history of our Society, since the beginning, our members have reached out into the community to give a helping hand. Hundreds of Scots benefited from the largesse of Society's members in the second half of the 18th century. This generosity continued during periods of steady migration of the 19th century and particularly during the Great Depression in the 1930s when the chief purpose of the Society was to provide food, coal, clothing, and work to scores of distressed Scottish families. Of course, with the migrations through the year, our land has been enriched with Scots bringing their culture and many various skills to America. Fortunately, most people of Scottish ancestry with their frugal work ethic diligently and successfully avoid financial distress. This has enabled our Society's members to develop additional outlets in which to serve.
The Assistants Committee has provided financial assistance to Scottish widows and orphans in the region, as well as to Scottish nationals who have needed legal, medical, or educational assistance. Close contact is maintained with The Daughters of Scotia, with assistance provided to members as needed. When requested by the Marguerite Reid School of Highland Dance, funds are given to students needing additional support to perpetuate the extraordinary art of highland dance. Funds are provided annually by the Society to encourage bagpiping in the US.
The Scottish Mores and Educational Committee was established to conduct research on and to promote recognition of Scottish customs, culture, and achievements to acquaint the Society's membership and the public of the many and varied contributions Scots have made to the world, and in particular to the Philadelphia and American scene. This is a large undertaking since no country the size of Scotland has contributed more to the world's culture. Different avenues are used to accomplish this:
It has long been suggested that charitable activities are so arduous for Scots that they require vast quantities of food and alcohol to endure them. So, since the Society's inception, its members have restored themselves with sumptuous repasts. Some members have adamantly suggested that the charity justified the dinners, as evidenced by the meager levels of relief provided at some meetings.
The By-Laws of the Society stipulated that "In order to observe that frugality which becomes a charitable society, the four assistants shall take care at the quarterly meetings to provide a neat a plain supper, and shall call for and settle the bill at eleven o'clock, at furthest every meeting, except St. Andrew's night and at nine o'clock furthest on that night." The By-Laws continued: "Nor shall any liquor be brought into the company but what is ordered by the assistants, and if any members shall stay after the bill is settled, their expenses shall be paid wholly by themselves."
At one "neat and plain supper" on September 3, 1755, the following victuals were consumed by approximately thirty members: "Two hams, 24 pounds; round of beef, 23 pounds; sirloin of beef, 29 pounds, four tongues, dozen of fowls, side of lamb, 10 pounds of veal, pigeon pie, pound of butter, 5 pounds of cheese and 10 six penny loaves."
On December 1, 1788, 45 gentlemen, obviously good drinkers, consumed "38 bottles of Claret, 8 bottles of Port wine, 2 bowls of punch, plus Welsh rabbit, bread and cheese"! There was no mention of designated drivers.
At the Annual Dinner in 1762 Benjamin Franklin was one of the guests. It was reported that the Society was charged for replacing a considerable number of broken wine glasses and also for replacing three chairs, all reputedly broken by Mr. Franklin. A member of the Society subsequently waited upon Franklin and called to his attention the amount of damage he had caused. Mr. Franklin, however, far from offering to pay up, suggested he come to the next meeting to see how much more damage he could do. He apparently was a perennial guest at the Society's annual dinners, but not the following year, when the members unanimously declined to extend an invitation!
In 1898, the Society's annual dinner began a long tradition at the Bellevue Strafford Hotel Ballrooms' inaugural function.
The first president of the Society was Dr. Thomas Graeme, a distinguished physician, member of City Council, Collector of the Port and Port Physician, surgeon of the Pennsylvania Hospital, and a judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
In the Society's early years virtually all members were native born Scots. Some fled Scotland after the downfall of Prince Charles Edward Stuart at Culloden. All were Royalists prior to the Revolution. During the war some Scots fled to Canada and Nova Scotia while others served in British regiments. One member of the Society, Captain John Pitcairn, was mortally wounded while leading British troops in the battle of Bunker Hill.
An entry in the Society's minute book for August 3, 1776 states that the meeting was cancelled "on account of the convulsed and unsettled state of times." Another note, a year or so later, stated that some members were "standing awful guard" with Washington's army at Valley Forge.
Five members of the St. Andrew's Society were signers of the Declaration of Independence: James Wilson, George Ross, Philip Livingston, John Witherspoon, D.D., and Thomas McKean. Wilson, a distinguished lawyer, is widely recognized as the "father" of the Constitution of the United States. Dr. Witherspoon was also president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). McKean later became Governor of Pennsylvania.
Another distinguished member of the Society was General Hugh Mercer, a supporter of Charles Edward Stuart and a friend and confidant of General Washington. Mercer was commissioned by Washington as Surgeon General of the Continental Army and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Princeton on January 4, 1777. In 1840 the Society was instrumental in arranging the reburial of Mercer's body at Laurel Hill Cemetery where his gravesite has remained in the care of the Society. His sword is one of the Society's treasured relics and is carried in the procession at every Annual Dinner of the Society. The Society erected a monument honoring General Mercer at Red Bank on the Delaware River, south of Camden, New Jersey. The monument, dedicated on October 25, 1970, commemorates General Mercer's participation in a Revolutionary War battle at that place. Lineal descendants Dr. Daniel Blain, president of the American Psychiatric Associates, and song writer Johnny Mercer attended the dedication, and the Revered G. Hall Todd delivered the address.
Alexander Hamilton was an honorary member in the Society's earlier years, as were officers of the Royal Highlanders, the Royal Americans, and many sea captains whose homes were in Scotland, London, the Carolinas, Virginia, and the West Indies. In more recent times, honorary members included two Presidents of the United States, William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and Lieutenant General Robert B. Johnson, USMC.
Several members achieved prominence in public life. Edwin Sidney Stuart, William Cameron Sproul, and Thomas McKean all became Governors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the field of finance, industry, and philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie, Robert Pitcairn, and Jay Cooke had no peers.
Perhaps one of the Society's most prominent members, due to his versatility in several fields, was Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie who achieved international distinction in the fields of medicine and surgery, physical education, and sculpture. McKenzie was born in Canada and graduated from McGill University in 1889. In 1904, he became head of the Department of Physical Education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served until 1931. During World War I he served as a surgeon in the British Army with the rank of Major. He was renown in the field of rehabilitating wounded soldiers, serving both Canadian and American armies in this work.
McKenzie is best known for "The Call", a Scottish-American War Memorial, located on Princess Street in Edinburgh. It was dedicated in 1927. Our Society commissioned McKenzie to create the Memorial and played a leading role in raising the necessary funds . The original of the sculpture is in the Mill of Kintail, the R. Tait McKenzie memorial, near Almonte, Ontario, Canada.
The 50th anniversary of its unveiling was celebrated September 7, 1977 in the presence of a distinguished gathering. Among those present were His Excellency, Kingman Brewster, Jr., Ambassador of the United States of America to the Court of St. James; the Right Honorable Kenneth Borthwick, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh; J. Telfer Brigadier General William Buchanan Gold, Jr., President of our Society; and future Society Presidents, Vice Admiral Ephraim R. McLean, Jr., and R. Stewart Miller.
McKenzie was elected to membership in our Society on March 31, 1907. He served as Secretary, Vice President, President, and Chairman of the Library Committee. His many sculptures included the figure of a Boy Scout in front the Scout Headquarters at 22nd and Winter Streets in Philadelphia and the figure of a World War I nurse in the garden of the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. Many of his other sculptures may be seen in the Gimble Gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Society's library was founded in 1907 by S. Weir Mitchell, a noted physician, author, and President of the Society from 1908 to 1911. Until recently it was the only Scottish library in the United States, or for that matter, in North America. The library was located initially in the Bullet Building at 4th and Walnut Streets. In 1969 it was transferred to 804 Bailey Building, 1218 Chestnut Street, and in 1990 it was moved to is current location at the Racquet Club, 215 South 16th Street, Philadelphia. In 1996, historical documents relating to early activities of the Society were loaned to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies to enhance its collection of materials dealing with Scots in America. They have since been returned to theSociety's Library.
When John Peter MacBean was president of the Society in 19210-22, he suggested that the August 31 quarterly meeting in 1922 be preceded by a golf outing and tournament. Accordingly, our first golf outing was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, St. Martins Course, on August 31, 1922. Mr. MacBean donated the MacBean Silver Bowl for the low gross score. David Halstead won the trophy in 1922, 1923 and 1924. Thinking that three consecutive wins entitled him to keep the Bowl, he retired it. After Mr. Halstead's death, his widow returned it to the Society in 1941 for annual competition in isubsequent years.
In 1945, our member, William C. Tuttle, donated the Silver Tuttle Bowl to be awarded to the member with the low net according to official USGA handicap standards. The first winner was the Rev. Burleigh Cruickshank.
In 1957, Allyn B. McIntire donated to the Society the magnificent Silver McIntire Bowl in memory of his uncle, the former President of the Society in 1927 and 1928. This trophy is awarded to the low net by the Calloway system. The winner in 1957 was Tom Smith. Incidentally, Allyn McIntire was a Vice President of Pepperell Scheetz and a son of Harding McIntire, also a former member. Allyn McIntire died March 24, 1980. In 1966, Allyn McIntire also gave the Society the Olde Fifty Quaich, which is awarded to the winner of the low gross for nine holes by a members who is at least 50 years of age. The winner in 1966 was Cortland VanDyke Hubbard.
In 1977, Nevin Hunter donated the Silver Nevin Hunter Bowl for the best low net by a member for nine holes, according to the official USGA handicap standards. Carter Fergusson was the first winner.
The venues for the Society golf outings have been as follows:
Cricket Club, St. Martin's Course
It has been customary to award each member who wins a trophy an additional prize. The trophy is kept by the victor for only one year and returned to the Society after engraving it with the winner's name. In the case of the MacBean Bowl, our late member, Edward Campbell MacBean, grandson of John Peter MacBean, donated to the winner an attractive silver spoon as the additional prize. He did this for approximately ten years.
The "Kirkin of the Tartan" is officially a church service for the blessing of our tartans, but in reality it is a tribute to family and heritage and valor. The St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia holds the church service on a Sunday in the Spring to ask God's blessing for the new officers and upon our efforts to preserve and promote the customs, traditions, and culture of Scotland.
A lapel rosette, comprising the colors of the flag of the Society, was conceived by our member, E. Harding McIntyre, and had been in use by members since sometime prior to 1947.