The Society was founded in Lichfield in 1910, a year after the local bicentenary celebrations of Johnson’s birth. Its members played a prominent part in the annual Johnson Birthday Celebrations (started in 1903 by the City Council) and they continue to do so. Activities are focussed around the September Birthday Weekend, but other events, lectures and outings are also organised and visits to places with Johnsonian associations have been an important activity for the Society from its outset (see Events). Ever since the end of the Second World War the Society has annually published its Transactions, which is distributed throughout its worldwide membership.
Each year a new President of the Johnson Society is installed at the Birthday Supper in the Guildhall. Presidents have been chosen both from the field of Johnsonian scholarship and from many areas of public life, reflecting the wide-ranging appeal of Samuel Johnson (see The Birthday Supper and Past Presidents) The current President is Dr Rowan Williams. Dr Williams is a former Archbishop of Canterbury and currently Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge.
In 1900, Lichfield City Council was presented with the house in which Johnson had been born in the Market Square. The Johnson Society has been active in helping to preserve the Birthplace Museum and has frequently assisted the City Council in the purchasing of Johnsonian items. The Society also works closely with the Birthplace Museum to increase public awareness of Johnson.
The Society takes part in other appropriate events and commemorations: examples include sponsorship of drama workshops for local schools.
The Johnson Society is a member of the Alliance of Literary Societies.
The official name of the Society is The Johnson Society (Lichfield). It is a registered charity and its registered charity number is 1078243.