The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts is the oldest chartered military organization in North America and the nineteenth oldest chartered military organization in the world. Its charter was granted in March 1638 by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay and signed by Governor John Winthrop as a volunteer militia company to train officers enrolled in the local militia companies across Massachusetts. With the professionalization of the US Military preceding World War I including the creation of the National Guard of the United States and the federalization of officer training, the Company's mission changed to a supportive role in preserving the historic and patriotic traditions of Boston, Massachusetts, and the Nation. Today the Company serves as Honor Guard to the Governor of Massachusetts who is also its Commander in Chief.
As the settlements which followed the landing at Plymouth increased and spread, there was no organized military force for protection - only local volunteer companies, which lacked the capacity for joint action or any centralized authority. Many of the settlers of Boston had been members in England of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) of London, and the military training they had received in that company led them to form a similar organization in the new country. In 1637 the company was formed as a citizen militia for instruction in military discipline and tactics. Robert Keayne and many of the original members of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company had been members of the original HAC of London.
Governor Winthrop granted a charter on March 13, 1638, and on the first Monday in June following, an election of officers was held on Boston Common. The original name of the Company was "The Military Company of Massachusetts". It began to be referred to as "The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company" in the year 1737.
Among the charter members was Nicholas Upsall, who later forsook his membership to join the Quakers. Since that time, the company has continued to hold their annual elections on the Boston Common on the first Monday in June by casting their votes on a drum head. Company membership has long been considered a distinction among the New England gentry in a similar manner to which regimental membership conferred distinction on the sons of the English gentry. The Honourable Artillery Company of London and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts acknowledge and celebrate their common historical roots.
Since 1746, the headquarters of the Company has been located in Faneuil Hall. In this armory, the company maintains a military museum and library containing relics from every war the United States has fought since its settlement. The armory is open to the public daily.
Prior to 1913, the Company served as the de facto officer school for the Massachusetts Militia. (Although not all officers in the Massachusetts Militia were selected from members of the Company.) In 1913, the Massachusetts Militia established the Training School for officer training. This school was later renamed the Massachusetts Military Academy and is today designated the 101st Regiment - Regional Training Institute (RTI).
Membership in the company has traditionally been selected from the upper middle and upper classes of Boston society. In recent decades membership has been expanded to include those from outside of Massachusetts. It is common for senior officers in the Massachusetts National Guard to be members of the Company. Although prior military service is not a requirement for membership, about one third of the current (2014) members of the Company have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, in most cases as commissioned officers.
Prior to the late 20th Century, the membership of the Company was almost exclusively white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). In recent decades, however, the Company has recruited a more diverse membership.
Most individuals who join the Company are elected as Regular Members. After serving in the Company for a prescribed period of time, Regular Members become Life Members.
Individuals who are descendants of members of the Company who joined prior to 1738 may join as members by right of descent. Members by right of descent have discounted membership fees but may not vote or hold office in the Company. In rare cases, honorary membership is extended to highly distinguished individuals.
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company members have served in King Philip's War, King William's War, Queen Anne's War, King George's War, the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The Company has had ten members who were awarded the Medal of Honor (four of whom are still living), and has also had four members who served as President of the United States: Presidents James Monroe, Chester A. Arthur, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy. Honorary membership was also extended to Prince Albert, King Edward VII and King George V. A number of Governors of Massachusetts have also been members of the Company.
In 2012, the organization voted to induct its first woman members. Lieutenant Colonel Catherine M. Corkery and Lieutenant Colonel Christine Hoffmann, both officers in the Massachusetts National Guard, were inducted into the organization on September 17, 2012.
The Company's official motto is "Acta Non Verba" – a Latin phrase meaning "Deeds Not Words".James Monroe
John F. Kennedy
Colonel Harvey C. Barnum, USMC
Captain George L. Street III, USN
Captain Thomas Hudner, USN
Captain Thomas G. Kelley, USN
Lieutenant Colonel Francis S. Hesseltine, USA
Brevet Major George H. Maynard, USA
1st Lieutenant George C. Hawkins, USA
Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, USA
Sergeant Charles A. MacGillivary, USA
Corporal Lowell M. Maxham, USA
Captain Samuel Turell Armstrong – Lieutenant Governor and Mayor of Boston
Major General Nathaniel Banks – U.S. Representative
George S. Boutwell
Major General John Brooks – Revolutionary War veteran, general in the United States Army and Massachusetts Militia
Major General Benjamin Butler – U.S. Representative
James Michael Curley – Legendary Mayor of Boston and U.S. Representative
William Dummer – Philanthropist and founder of Dummer Academy
Edward Everett – U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator
Christian Herter – U.S. Secretary of State
John Leverett – Major General in command of the Massachusetts Militia and captain of the Company.
Major Levi Lincoln – U.S. Representative
John D. Long (honorary member) – Secretary of the Navy
Leverett Saltonstall – U.S. Senator
Maurice J. Tobin – Mayor of Boston and U.S. Secretary of Labor
John A. Volpe – U.S. Secretary of Transportation
HRH Prince Albert (honorary member) – Consort of Queen Victoria
William Aspinwall – Colonist
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dawes – Assisted with Paul Revere's midnight ride
Major General Henry A. S. Dearborn – U.S. Representative
Major General Daniel Denison
HM King Edward VII (honorary member)
HM King George V (honorary member)
Major General William Heath – Continental Army general during the American Revolution
Major General John Hull
Brigadier General William Hull – General in the War of 1812
Captain Edward Hutchinson – officer in King Philip's War
Captain Isaac Johnson – Killed at the Great Swamp Fight
Captain Robert Keayne – First commander of the Company
Colonel Samuel C. Lawrence – Mayor of Medford, Massachusetts and Masonic Grand Master of Massachusetts
Major General John Leverett
Lieutenant John Leverett the Younger – President of Harvard College
Major General Benjamin Lincoln – Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Brigadier General Augustus Pearl Martin – Civil War colonel and Mayor of Boston
Major General Ebenezer Mattoon – U.S. Representative and officer in the American Revolution
Major General George B. McClellan – Civil War general
Henry F. Naphen – U.S. Representative
Captain John Nelson
Samuel L. Powers – U.S. Representative
Captain Josiah Quincy, Jr. – Mayor of Boston
Colonel Richard Saltonstall – Superior Court Judge
Major Thomas Savage – 5 time commander of the Company
Major Samuel Sewall, 2nd – Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature
General Gordon Sullivan - Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Captain William Tailer – Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Colonel Samuel Thaxter – An early commander of Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and grandfather of Major General Benjamin Lincoln
Brevet Brigadier General William S. Tilton
George Washington Warren – Mayor of Charlestown, Massachusetts
Brevet Brigadier General Stephen Minot Weld, Jr.
Captain Thomas Weld
Captain Edward Winslow
Brigadier General John Winslow – Officer in the Continental Army
Thomas L. Winthrop – Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Major General Wait Winthrop – Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court
Captain John Gerrish − Merchant and Ship-Owner and Assistant Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court