The American Antiquarian Society has in its collection over 320 hand-lettered, engraved or relief printed certificates of membership dating from 1785 to 1946. Many of the engravings depict allegorical, genre or historic scenes illustrating an institution's founding or mission. These items, which are useful as an ephemeral resource, where intended to be framed and displayed in both domestic and business spaces; they document the birth and growth of voluntary associations in the early nation. Institutions represented include Masonic and agricultural organizations, temperance and historical societies, medical and humanitarian associations, and idle clubs. In addition to some blank certificates, the AAS collection also has many inscribed to such notables as Daniel Webster, James Fennimore Cooper and Charles Lamb.
While some certificates of membership in the collection feature skilled calligraphy and letter engraving, many more are visually stimulating as they are drawn from original art by such prominent artists as Hammatt Billings and John R. Penniman which in turn were engraved by such distinguished artisans as the Annin & Smith firm, Samuel Hill, and the Maverick Brothers.
The accompanying inventory lists alphabetically the named society, its locale, date of certificate signing, honoree [in brackets], engraver or printer of certificate (copied exactly as it appears on the certificate) and sheet size. To search for specific printers, artists or engravers, please see the supplementary alphabetical index as PDF.