Among the many hereditary societies that formed in the later decades of the nineteenth century, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA), founded in 1892, distinguishes itself as one of the most active and successful groups to pursue a mission of historic preservation. This invitation-only, all-female society, composed of descendants of prominent early American colonists, proudly claims to have preserved more historical property than any other American organization, with the notable exception of the National Park Service.
The Connecticut chapter of the Colonial Dames of America was founded by Elizabeth Colt, Hartford socialite and widow of the famous gun manufacturer Samuel Colt, only a year after the National chapter was first incorporated. Colt and three of her friends gathered at the Colt family estate, Armsmear, on November 22, 1893 to draw up and sign formal articles of incorporation for the Connecticut chapter of the already well-known hereditary society. Their stated mission was “to create widespread interest in American history to inspire love of this Republic, to do justice and honor to heroic ancestors, and to commemorate the labors and achievements of the founders of our country.” On a more practical level, however, the Connecticut Dames would provide much-needed support for statewide efforts to preserve deteriorating colonial records, manuscripts, and historic homes.
Today, the Connecticut chapter of the NSCDA remains active in its mission of promoting early American history and preservation, most notably as the owners and operators of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, composed of three adjacent 18th century houses. The Dames also offer annual scholarships and prizes for student essays on Early American topics, have sponsored a number of historic preservation-related publications (including the reference book Domestic Architecture of Connecticut), and remain one of Connecticut’s foremost organizations for history-related fundraising.
Anne Kuckro, “The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of Connecticut,” Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
“About Us,” NSCDA Connecticut