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 in March 1638, and on the first Monday in June following, an election of officers was held on Boston Common. 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 in which the United States has been engaged since its settlement. The armory is open to the public daily.
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