Located in Charleston, the South Carolina Historical Society is the state’s oldest historical society and one of South Carolina’s largest private manuscript archives. James Louis Petigru and several prominent Charleston residents founded the organization in 1855 with the mission “to collect information respecting every portion of our State, to preserve it, and when deemed advisable to publish it.” To this end the organization’s founders established a noncirculating research library.
The society held its first formal meeting on Carolina Day, June 28, 1855, and was incorporated in 1856. In 1860 it moved a portion of its collections to the Robert Mills Fireproof Building on Meeting Street. This compilation was lost during or immediately following the Civil War. Frederick A. Porcher, the society’s first recording secretary, saved much of the organization’s collection by storing it at the College of Charleston’s library. The society met once between 1861 and 1875, when it resumed regular meetings and moved its collection to the Charleston Library Society, where it remained until 1943. The society leased portions of the Robert Mills Fireproof Building from Charleston County for its operations during that year and in 1968 became the sole occupant of the building. Charleston County deeded the building to the society in 1980, and as of 2006 that location remained its headquarters.
In 1857 the organization began publishing manuscripts related to South Carolina history. That year it issued the Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society, Volume I, the first in a series of five volumes published. In 1900 the society began publication of the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, and in 1952 the word “genealogical” was dropped from the title. For more than one hundred years the South Carolina Historical Magazine has published original scholarship and edited documents concerning South Carolina history. In 1985 the society began publication of Carologue, a general-interest magazine distributed to its approximately 3,800 members.