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The DAR Library, the research center of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), is located in downtown Washington, D.C., three blocks from the White House. Founded in 1896, the library is one of the nation's premier collections for genealogical research and contains materials from all four centuries of American history. It has been open to the public since about 1900 and has had several homes in the complex of buildings that the NSDAR has constructed since 1905 on the city block that it owns. The library has resided in the NSDAR's original auditorium space in [End Page 85] Memorial Continental Hall, a Beaux Art building, since 1949. The four-story ceiling, with a decorative skylight and a cornice ringed with all of the state flags, is a fitting setting for historical and genealogical research.
Bookplates have had a presence in the DAR Library since its inception. The library's official bookplate was approved in 1896 and features the NSDAR's symbol—a spinning wheel and distaff—at the top. In the center is an eagle perched on a shield that contains a woman in colonial attire sitting at a spinning wheel surrounded by thirteen stars and radiating stripes. The dates "1776" and "1890" appear to commemorate the Declaration of Independence and the year the NSDAR was founded. This bookplate, 10 cm by 8.5 cm, is placed in all books that the library purchases.
In addition to the library's primary bookplate, a collection of NSDAR state bookplates evolved in the early twentieth century. When members, chapters, or state societies within the NSDAR donate a book to the DAR Library, the appropriate state's bookplate is placed in the book. These bookplates have varied over the years as styles and tastes have changed. Besides the state bookplates, the DAR Library owns a collection of bookplates from individuals prominent during the early twentieth century and from libraries, companies, and other institutions. Many have a distinctly Art Deco appearance.
When the DAR Library was in its infancy, its primary purpose was to provide materials for the use of the staff in approving membership applications. The Daughters of the American Revolution is a lineage society, that is, an organization whose members join based on their lineal descent from someone living or active during a particular period in history. In the case of the NSDAR, this would be someone who performed military or patriotic service in support of the American cause during the Revolutionary War. To join a woman must be eighteen years old and be able to provide a documented family lineage as part of her membership application. Since 1890 approximately 820,000 women have joined the NSDAR. At the present time the membership total stands at 170,000 women organized in 3,000 chapters in the United States and in several foreign countries. The NSDAR's main activities center on historic preservation, education, services to veterans, and patriotic activities, and the organization is strictly apolitical by its charter.
As the twentieth century progressed, the DAR Library grew into one of the places for Americans to visit when researching their family histories. Together with the Library of Congress and the National Archives, the library is one of the "big three" of Washington research facilities that attract thousands of researchers from around the country [End Page 86] every year. Among the most important parts of the library's collections are extensive compilations of cemetery and family Bible record transcriptions, church records, published and unpublished family genealogies, and county record abstracts. The holdings are not in any way limited to the period of the American Revolution, as the name of the parent organization might lead some people to believe. Extensive colonial and nineteenth-century sources are available to researchers, and an increasing quantity of twentieth-century information arrives frequently.
The DAR Library is moving rapidly into the twenty-first century with several projects that electronic technology has enabled and enhanced in the past few years. At the present time, many of the NSDAR's historical papers, especially...