Friday, February 20, 2015

George Washington’s Speech is Unveiled!

On President’s Day this year, visitors to the State House and the Maryland General Assembly had cause to celebrate. George Washington’s handwritten copy of his resignation speech was at last unveiled in the rotunda, where it will remain, in a new case constructed specifically for its permanent display.

The color guard pays its respects prior to the unveiling of the speech. Image courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor, 16 February 2015.

Since being acquired by the state of Maryland in 2007, and verified as Washington’s original copy through watermark analysis, the speech has been locked away deep in the Maryland State Archives, waiting to be installed in the State House around the time of the opening of the Old Senate Chamber. In preparation for this event, the speech was cleaned and given a bath by Archives conservation staff so that it would be in good shape for the big unveiling!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Thirteen Cannons: Maryland’s First Inauguration

This past Wednesday, Governor Hogan was the center of celebrations as the State House played host to the state’s 62nd gubernatorial inauguration. Standing in front of a crowd of hundreds, Hogan, along with Lt. Governor Rutherford, was sworn-in, received a 19-cannon salute, and delivered his first speech as governor to the people. The ceremony of the day begs the question, from where did many of these traditions come from? The answer to that question can be found at the very root of Maryland’s inaugurations, tracing all the way back to the state’s first governor.

Thomas Johnson, Jr. by Charles Willson Peale. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1119. This painting has recently been conserved as part of the Old Senate Chamber restoration.

Friday, January 16, 2015

O'Malley Gives a Sneak Peek into the Old Senate Chamber

On a press tour this Friday, Governor Martin O’Malley gave the media their first look at the Old Senate Chamber since the room’s doors were closed to the public nearly two years ago as part of the restoration.

Governor Martin O'Malley talks to the press about the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. Image taken 16 January 2015.

“This room has to be the most this State House,” the governor, whose term will end next week, told reporters, “How do you walk into this room without thinking of those men and women who made this such a pivotal time?”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

231 Years Ago: A Rush to Ratify the Treaty of Paris

Most students of American history know the story of the signing of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the American Revolution. However, few are aware of the tensions felt by Congress to ratify the treaty in time and the final dramatic race to return the ratified copy to the peace commissioners by the agreed-upon deadline.

In Paris on September 3, 1783, peace commissioners John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Laurens had at last concluded negotiations with the British delegation. However, the treaty could not be considered a legal, active document until it was ratified by both Congress and King George III within the next six months. Copies of the treaty were immediately sent to both England and America, and Congress, at the time meeting in Princeton, sent messages to all thirteen states to reconvene in Annapolis for the purpose of the document’s immediate ratification.

American painter, and mentor to Charles Willson Peale, Benjamin West captured one of the most well-known images of the Treaty of Paris negotiations. The image depicts American peace commissioners, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and Franklin's secretary, William Temple Franklin. Unable to secure sittings with the British delegation, this painting was famously not completed. American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain by Benjamin West, 1783. Image courtesy of Winterthur Museum and Gardens, 1957.856.

Friday, December 19, 2014

There At the Resignation: James McHenry

Over the past several months, we have covered many of the key players in the Old Senate Chamber’s history, several of whom will be featured in our exhibit. From Molly Ridout to John Shaw, we have introduced you to famous attendees and artisans alike. Now, with only a short time to go until the opening of the restored room, we bring you one last biography of the man who provided one of the most significant accounts of the resignation - one of Maryland’s delegates in Congress, James McHenry.

Pastel portrait of James McHenry, by De Nyse W. Turner after James Sharples, 1975. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1029.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What's Next for the Maryland State House?

The Old Senate Chamber is only a few weeks away from opening, but we hope you don’t get the wrong idea that that is the end of our work for the Maryland State House! Rather, the Old Senate Chamber fits into a larger plan that seeks to restore the Maryland State House, enhance visitor experience, and maintain the building and its grounds for future generations. While perhaps one of the most famous, the Old Senate Chamber is far from the only structure on the State House grounds with a long and impressive story. From the Old House of Delegates Chamber where the Constitution of 1864 was signed to one of the original cannons that came to Maryland on the Ark and the Dove, Maryland’s State House is a building we must preserve.

Artistic sketch of the Old Treasury Building from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, from a sketch by Joseph Becker, 1881. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 4314-1-3.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Conserving Maryland's Masterpieces

With Washington Resigning His Commission soon to return to its home at the Maryland State House, and the Old Senate Chamber project hurtling towards completion, we thought it was time to give a little insight into the work that went into many of our great pieces conserved over the past year. Edwin White’s Washington Resigning, Charles Willson Peale’s portraits of the six governors, William Pitt, and Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown have all undergone conservation work as part of the Old Senate Chamber restoration.

Staff at Olin Conservation, Inc. show areas on Charles Willson Peale's Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman that will require further investigation. Image by Maryland State Archives, 26 March 2014.