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May/June 2015

“Emblems are quite essential to all well-organized bodies and should be suggestive of the organization they represent,” Fannie S. Ketterman wrote in an article titled “Our Insignia,” which appeared in the February 1913 issue of The American Monthly Magazine. The article explains, “Soon after the organization of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, a committee of three Honorary Vice Presidents was appointed to design something characteristic.”

Numerous design submissions were rejected before the winning suggestion came from an unlikely source: Dr. G. Brown Goode, a museum administrator for the Smithsonian Institution and a zoologist specializing in the study of fish. He was also the husband of Sarah E. Goode, one of three members of the committee charged with designing an insignia for the Society. Dr. Goode proposed that the Daughters base the insignia design on the spinning wheel motif that had already been adopted as the Society’s official seal. After refining his initial sketch based on feedback from DAR members, who found the spinning wheel too reminiscent of a ship’s wheel and the distaff too cannon-like in appearance, Dr. Goode’s second draft was met with approval.

Dr. Goode’s design, now familiar to Daughters worldwide, was inspired by a spinning wheel that belonged to his grandmother, Rebecca Hayes Goode of Amelia County, Va., and which was later donated to the DAR Museum. The emblem features a wheel with 13 spokes projecting from the hub toward a rim encircled by the words “Daughters of the American Revolution.” Thirteen stars line the outer edge of the rim, and a distaff filled with flax rests under the wheel. The design was unanimously adopted by the National Board of Management on May 26, 1891, and patented September 22, 1891.

In Ms. Ketterman’s description, the spinning wheel emblem, “is a photograph of Colonial days, vividly portraying the sterling qualities of the Colonial Dames, industry, thrift and patience, and of their wonderful ingenuity and proficiency in the art of weaving. … The 13 spokes and 13 stars represent the 13 states’ unity, so our emblem is a most happy blending of industry and unity; of the practical and mythical; of prose and poetry; and may it ever be an impetus to us to weave greater deeds of patriotism and acts of loyalty.”

At the Eighth Continental Congress in 1899, Ellenore Dutcher of Nebraska proposed the adoption of an official emblem of suitable size for daily use. This proposal resulted in the creation of the DAR Insignia pin, which each member may purchase upon admission. At the 10th Continental Congress in 1901, the Insignia pin was adopted as the official emblem for daily use. It is to be worn over the left breast in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the DAR Handbook and National Bylaws. Each pin is engraved with the owner’s unique membership number—the lower the number, the older the pin.

After reading last year about New Jersey Daughter Nancy Kritch’s generous donation of Insignia #9, which she found on eBay, Virginia Member-at-Large Joanna Miller contacted the Office of Development to say she had Insignia #1, which belonged to DAR Founder Eugenia Washington. Ms. Miller inherited Insignia #1 from her mother, who was regent of Eugenia Washington Chapter when it disbanded.        

On February 6, 2015, at a luncheon with the Executive Committee, Ms. Miller announced her intention to donate Insignia #1 to the NSDAR Archives, allowing this historic treasure to come home to NSDAR Headquarters in time for the National Society’s 125th Anniversary. President General Lynn Young, awed by the opportunity to see and touch something that had been worn by one of the Four Founders, gratefully accepted the donation on behalf of the National Society.

The NSDAR Archives collection also includes an Insignia that belonged to Founder Mary Desha. A great-niece of Miss Desha gave the Insignia to Albemarle Chapter, Charlottesville, Va., which in turn donated it to the Archives in 1983. The Archives owns several pins that belonged to Founder Mary Lockwood, including an insignia. The donor of these items is unknown.

It’s impossible to know what other treasured pieces of NSDAR history are held in private collections. If you own an item that is of historic significance to the National Society, please consider donating it to NSDAR during our quasquicentennial year to ensure that it will be cared for and preserved for future generations of Daughters to enjoy.