The South Carolina Society is a social and benevolent organization established in Charleston in 1737. Its membership has included gentlemen of the highest rank in the history of both the city and the state.
The society was founded by Huguenots, mostly artisans and small merchants, who gathered weekly at a local tavern and collected funds for the relief of their distressed countrymen. From this practice they earned the title “Two Bit Club,” but the present name was adopted in 1737 along with its first set of rules. Within a few years the French character of the society was diluted by the admission of English, Scots-Irish, and Scots members. The society’s stock steadily increased through the collection of fees, interest on loans, rents on leased property, and donations. It was incorporated in 1751. In the mid-1740s the society began funding the primary education of orphans among its ranks, and by the 1760s it employed its own schoolmaster for this purpose. In 1804 the organization built its own hall on Meeting Street, which was designed for use as both a school and a social hall. After the state established free primary education in 1811, the society closed its classroom, but it opened male and female secondary schools in 1827. The society’s principal era of activity came to an end around 1840, when the advent of public secondary education rendered these academies unnecessary. Despite its withdrawal from educational endeavors, the organization continued to extend monetary assistance to the families of members in need.
During the Civil War the society’s hall was severely damaged, its records burned, and much of its invested funds lost. Reorganization and repairs were gradual, hampered by economic difficulties and natural disasters. During the early twentieth century the society scaled back its membership, and public programs gradually superceded its tradition of extending charitable assistance. The South Carolina Society is now primarily a social organization. Due to the great demand for inclusion, only descendants of early members are admitted.
South Carolina Society. The Rules of the South Carolina Society . . . Containing . . . an Historical Sketch of the Institution from the Date of Its Foundation to the Year 1937. Baltimore: Waverly, 1937.