The Society was founded in 1910 following the local celebrations of the bi-centenary of Johnson's birth the previous year. The Society took a prominent part in the annual September Birthday Celebrations which had been started in 1903 by Lichfield City Council. Outings to places with Johnsonian associations were an important activity for the Society from its outset and these visits continue today.
After the Second World War the Society began to publish its annual Transactions. This has continued ever since. Each year a new President has been installed at the Birthday Supper in the Guildhall. The presidents have been chosen from many areas of public life reflecting the wide-ranging appeal of Samuel Johnson. Prominent Johnson scholars have included R. W. Chapman, L. F. Powell, Mary Hyde, J. L. Clifford, Mary Lascelles, Donald Greene and latterly Graham Nicholls. Figures from the worlds of broadcasting, the press, the church, industry, law, politics and literature include Lord Harmsworth, Frank Muir, John Wain, Malcolm Muggeridge, Robert Robinson, Richard Ingram, Enoch Powell, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Dame Beryl Bainbridge and biographer Adam Sisman. John Sergeant, broadcaster, journalist and author was our president in 2003. Other recent presidents include: Lord Butler of Brockwell (2004), Professor David Crystal (2005), Nigel Rees (2006), Professor Lynda Mugglestone.(2007), John Byrne (2008). The current president is the Bishop of Lichfield.