Friday, July 18, 2014

The Last Royal Governor at Washington's Resignation?

It seems unlikely that one of Maryland’s last living reminders of their days as a colony would attend Washington’s resignation, an event that symbolized the new country’s loyalty to the democratic principles that encouraged the dramatic break with England. Yet, in 1783, the last royal governor, Robert Eden, and the last Lord Baltimore’s illegitimate son, Henry Harford, had returned to Annapolis in the hopes of regaining their property that they had lost as loyalists during the war; and, on December 23, the Englishmen entered the Old Senate Chamber not as intruders, but as honored guests.

Portrait of Sir Robert Eden, by Florence Mackubin after Charles Willson Peale, 1914. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1108.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Capital Gazette Features the Old Senate Chamber

Charles Willson Peale's portrait of John Eager Howard, 1823, taken while the portrait is under conservation as part of the Old Senate Chamber restoration. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1053.

This past weekend, we were pleased to have the Capital Gazette feature the Old Senate Chamber restoration. The article covers the origins behind the original restoration and especially focuses on many of our paintings currently under conservation as part of the project.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Joseph Clark's Dome

Many tourists enter the Maryland State House, admire the copy of George Washington’s resignation speech in the rotunda, and look above them at the interior of the dome. Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that the dome visitors see today was the very dome that stood when Washington entered the building on December 23, 1783. In fact, the famous dome that crowns the State House is not the first on the building.

Conjectural drawing of the original appearance of the State House dome when the building first opened in 1772. Sketch by Elizabeth Ridout, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1444.

Though construction on the State House began in 1772, when Continental Congress arrived in 1783, they found a building still riddled with complications. The building's undertaker, Charles Wallace, left the project in 1779 due to frustration with finances and continual delays to the project from weather and war. Though the rooms were fully completed and furnished in 1783, the roof continually leaked and damaged much of the upstairs rooms. Aesthetically, the original dome that Congress would have seen was considered too small and unimpressive for a building considered the most beautiful in America.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Signer at the Resignation

It’s almost the Fourth of July and what better way for the Old Senate Chamber to celebrate American Independence than to honor the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence? Charles Carroll of Carrollton, apart from his contributions to the national cause, was deeply interested in the politics of his own state, and spent perhaps an unequaled amount of time in the Old Senate Chamber.

Portrait of Charles Carroll of Carrollton by Thomas Sully, 1834. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1114.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lafayette Becomes “Quite the Thing” in Annapolis

As recent visitors to the State House may have noticed, the Old Senate Chamber restoration impacts much more than just the closing of one room! Many paintings in the state art collection are currently undergoing conservation as part of the restoration, including several portraits of Maryland governors, which have recently been removed from the Archives Room. Walls in the State House rarely remain bare for long though, and we are pleased to use this opportunity to introduce a new exhibit to the Archives Room, featuring an eighteenth-century character with surprisingly strong connections to Annapolis! The Marquis de Lafayette, who first landed in the colonies on June 13, 1777, 237 years ago this month, visited the Maryland State House several times over the course of his long and heroic life.

Marquis de Lafayette by Robert Templeton after Charles Willson Peale, 1975. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1034.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tench Tilghman's Historic Swords

With just over six months to go before the Old Senate Chamber reopens, many pieces in the state collection are undergoing conservation to ensure that everything will be ready and looking its best for years to come. Some people may not realize that this group of valuable relics consists not only of paintings, but also artifacts, like the very sword worn by Tench Tilghman in Charles Willson Peale's Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown! Tench Tilghman’s swords, gifted to the state in 1997, have become some of our most treasured pieces, representative of one famous Marylander’s role in the Revolutionary cause.

Long officer's sword, owned by Tench Tilghman and seen in Peale's Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 4873.
Short sword, supposedly passed down to Tilghman by his great-great grandfather. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 4873.

Friday, June 13, 2014

“A Venerable Relic” That Guards the State House

While the Old Senate Chamber is still closed to the public while in the final stages of construction, the Maryland State House is still filled with enough history to make it worth a trip this summer. One item in particular sits outside of the Old Senate Chamber on the State House grounds, and has some of the strongest ties to Maryland’s early history! The cannon, a popular attraction for many visitors to the State House, has long since been believed to have been one of approximately eight cannons to have arrived on board Maryland’s “Mayflowers,” the Ark and the Dove.

Image of the historic cannon in its current location, outside of the State House. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1430-00211, August 1949.

In 1634, European settlers first landed on the banks of the St. Mary’s River on board the Ark and the Dove. While seventeenth-century settlers are generally believed to have been encouraged to supply their own weapons, it was the expectation that the colony’s proprietor, Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, would supply the settlers with larger ordnance.[1] According to a receipt dated August 23, 1633, Lord Baltimore included “four sakers ordnance” and four demi-culverins to be taken on board the Ark.