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RDS History

On June 25 1731 the first meeting of the Dublin Society was held in the Philosophical Rooms of Trinity College, Dublin. The minutes of the first meeting record that the Dublin Society's founding aims were to assist in the improvement of “husbandry [agriculture], manufactures and other useful arts…” in Ireland.

By the mid-18th century the Dublin Society was advancing its mission through the distribution of grants from the Irish Parliament and the Society’s premium scheme. The premium scheme, administered by the Dublin Society until the early 19th century, contributed directly to the economic improvement of Ireland by supporting innovation in agriculture, art and industry; it was originally proposed by the Rev. Samuel Madden and outlined in "A Letter to the Dublin Society" written in 1739.

The Society received its first Charter from George II on 2nd April 1750 and on May 3 1750 the first election of its members under the new constitution was held in the Irish Parliament House. Shortly after this the Dublin Society ordered that a seal be prepared for their use. The design of the seal was to incorporate the Roman goddess Minerva with a cornucopia and the motto "Nostri plena laboris" (full of our hard work).

The Dublin Society adopted the title of Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in 1820 in recognition of their patron George IV on his visit to the Society in 1820.

In 1815 the RDS moved to Leinster House and continued to develop the cultural and scientific interests they had established during the 18th century. Here the RDS expanded their library and museum collections, hosted Dargan’s 1853 Great Exhibition and administered their Drawing Schools, Botanical Gardens and the Irish Radium Institute.

In 1877 the State took over the bulk of the RDS cultural possessions, the RDS Museum and Library formed the foundation collections of the National Library and National Museum of Ireland, its Drawing Schools became the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, later the National College of Art and Design, and its Botanical Gardens the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin.

The RDS sold Leinster House to the Government of the Irish Free State in 1924 and moved their headquarters to Ballsbridge. The RDS originally purchased the land at Ballsbridge in the 1870s to hold their Spring and Horse Shows as they had outgrown their environs at Leinster House.

The RDS continued to expand at Ballsbridge, developing its grounds and exhibition halls to accommodate ever increasing crowds for its Shows and building the foundation of what has ultimately become Ireland’s largest conference and events centre.

Today, the RDS is acknowledged as one of the world’s oldest philanthropic societies and continues to support Irish science, arts, industry and agriculture through projects which are overseen by Committees of RDS members.

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