On April 3, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law-82-293 that gave a Congressional Charter to the National Conference of State Societies (NCSS). But the roots of the state societies of Washington, DC go back much further. In fact, a list of many state associations as they were then called can be found in the Congressional Director of 1877. There, on page 144, readers see a listing for the Illinois State Association. The names of two officers appear. Mr. F. D. Stephenson of the Pension Office was president and Mr. Theo L. DeLand of the Treasury Department was secretary. Most officers of the 19th Century state clubs were government clerks at middle to senior levels.
Many of the state associations of the 19th Century were partisan for Republicans or Democrats and some, starting with the Lone Star State Society in 1891, were nonpartisan. Illinois was both partisan and nonpartisan at different times between 1854 and 1917 when it became the permanently nonpartisan Illinois State Society of Washington, DC. There is strong evidence that the roots of the Illnois club go back the farthest in time but by 1856 there were at least Maryland, Louisiana, and Michigan clubs in existence.
Whether partisan or not, the major reason most state expatriates joined state clubs was to keep in touch with their home states. The state clubs of Washington, DC in the 19th and 20th Century had huge social events. In 2001, the Illinois State Society had about 3,500 guests for its Inaugural Gala. There were about 900 guests at the same event one hundred years before in 1901. The largest Inaugural galas in recent years have been hosted by the Texas State Society for their quadrennial Black Tie and Boots parties.
For more information about the National Conference of State Societies, visit their web site at www.StateSocieties.org. If you are a female student from Illinois, a high school graduate, and between the ages of 18 and 24, and if you want to find out how to apply to be the Illinois representative in the National Cherry Blossom Festival, leave your name and number on the Illinois State Society hotline at 703-461-3610 and someone will call you back. Some additional information on past participants is on this site or at www.IllinoisStateSociety.org.