Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Holidays from the State House!

For centuries, the State House has celebrated the holiday season with decorations and concerts. Today, children from schools in Maryland ensure that the State House stays decorated by making ornaments that hang on the official State House tree.

Stereographic image of the State House in the snow, 1836-1872. Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Before the building was accommodated with central heating, its occupants would warm themselves with fireplaces located in the offices and official rooms. The building was kept stocked with wood, which was often acquired in huge quantities by men like Jubb Fowler who worked as caretakers of the State House.

We hope you stay warm this holiday season and to help you, please enjoy these early nineteenth-century knitting instructions for gloves from the Ridout family!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Resignation: Washington Resigns His Commission Before Congress

Two-hundred and thirty years ago today, at noon on Tuesday, December 23, 1783, Congress assembled in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House. The roll that day recorded only seven states in attendance, “namely: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, and most of these only by two delegates.”[1] While this was not enough to pass legislation, Congress determined unanimously three days before that it would be enough to receive the resignation of the commander-in-chief.[2]

Despite the generally poor attendance of delegates, the room was crowded with citizens. Ladies filed into the gallery and men on the floor. David Howell of Rhode Island wrote, “The State House was crowded with people of the first fashion who all partook in the occasion. And many testified their affectionate attachment to our illustrious Hero & their gratitude for his Services to his Country by a most copious shedding of tears.”[3] On this day, the Old Senate Chamber had reached such a capacity that some people were asked to leave! Even so, the crowd was still overwhelming, as James Tilton, a delegate from Delaware, recorded: “At twelve o’clock the General was introduced by the Secretary, and seated opposite to the president, until the throng, that filled all the avenues, were so disposed of as to behold the solemnity. The ladies occupid the gallery, as full as it would hold, the Gentn. crouded below stairs.”[4]

George Washington Surrendering His Commission by Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1883. Image courtesy of the Mint Museum, 1971.14.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Resignation: The State House Illuminated

On Christmas Day, 1783, James Tilton was a little disgruntled over his own behavior at a ball that had occurred three days prior. In a letter to fellow Delaware delegate, Gunning Bedford Jr., he bemoaned, “Such was my villainous awkwardness, that I could not venture to dance on this occasion, you must therefore annex to it a cleverer Idea, than is to be expected from such a mortified whelp as I am.”[1]

The particular ball that Tilton referred to was a rather important one, held at the State House on December 22, 1783 in honor of General Washington. After all, Washington’s public appearances in Annapolis in December 1783 were not only confined to the resignation ceremony, but also included several public celebrations held in his honor. Tilton’s letter to Bedford has since become a valuable resource in determining contemporary impressions of the resignation and the celebrations held on the eve of it.

James Tilton, a Delaware delegate in Congress, was present for the resignation. Lithography by Thomas Edwards, 1828. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.78.141.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Resignation: Committee for Procedures

By all standards, George Washington’s resignation as commander-in-chief was a dignified yet modest affair for Congress. All the same, a certain amount of ceremony for an event as momentous as the resignation was required. Delegates Thomas Jefferson, Elbridge Gerry, and James McHenry were selected by Congress on December 20, 1783 to form the Committee for Procedures for the event.[1]

James McHenry, by Charles Balthazar Julien Feveret de Saint-Mémin, 1803. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Their report was likely prepared during the weekend before the resignation. Apart from establishing the protocol of the actual ceremony, the committee’s responsibilities may have also included writing the President of Congress’ response to Washington’s resignation speech, though James McHenry admitted to not having been involved in this task. In December 1783, McHenry was love-sick over his fiance, Margaret Caldwell, and wrote to her, “I was to assist in writing our answer to General Washington’s resignation - but I am unfit for the purpose.”[2] 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Resignation: Washington at the City Gates

In the days leading up to the two hundred and thirtieth anniversary of Washington’s resignation as Commander-in-Chief in the Old Senate Chamber, we will review the events leading up to one of the most significant events in American history.

On the evening of Friday, December 19, 1783, Generals William Smallwood and Horatio Gates, both Revolutionary War heroes, waited alongside several prominent Marylanders on the road a few miles from Annapolis to meet and escort General Washington into the city.[1] Annapolis was to be the final stop in what had become a sort of farewell tour for Washington, who had stopped in several cities along the way. A discharge of a cannon publicly announced his arrival as Smallwood, Gates, and the others led Washington to Mann’s Tavern where he would lodge for the duration of his visit. After meeting with several leading citizens that night, Washington spent some time with the President of Congress, Thomas Mifflin, before retiring for the evening.

A twentieth-century depiction painted by Everette Molinari of Mann's Tavern, where Washington stayed during his resignation and ceremonies. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-2893.

Friday, December 13, 2013

“The Prettyest in America:” Accounts of the OSC

Much like their accounts of the city discussed in last week's blog post, delegates of Congress had much to say about their new seat at the Maryland State House. Due to a lack of surviving pictorial evidence from the eighteenth century, these descriptions serve as valuable evidence for determining the appearance of the Old Senate Chamber in 1783.

Opinions on the State House were generally favorable, even from those delegates who were unimpressed with the entertainments of Annapolis. David Howell of Rhode Island, who looked unfavorably on the lack of a church in the city, said of the State House, “The State House & the House assigned for the President are spacious & eligantly finished, far exceeding those buildings in Philadelphia.”[1] Charles DeWitt, a delegate from New York, similarly described the State House in a letter to his son as, “the most superb, it is thought, in any of the United States.”[2]

Conceptual sketch of the State House c.1859. Drawn by Elizabeth Ridout, 1954, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1444-01-20.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Annapolis: A “School of Idleness"

Though Congress had opened session on November 26, 1783, very little was getting accomplished. Not enough delegates had arrived to reach even the minimum amount required to vote and pass legislature. In fact, on the day of Washington’s resignation, the Journals of Congress noted that only seven states were represented, and “most only by two delegates.”[1] Without nine states, legislation could not be passed, and with delegates arriving and leaving, the issue of representation was a reoccuring problem. In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson’s frustration was evident as even Maryland delegates at times failed to show up in their own state capitol: “We have eight states only and seven of these represented by two members... the other absent states are N. York, Maryland and Georgia. We have done nothing and can do nothing in this condition but waste our time, temper, and spirits in debating things for days or weeks and then losing them by the negative of one or two individuals.”[2]

With little business in Congress taking place, delegates occupied their time in other ways in their new city. Annapolis, in its heyday, elicited a diversity of opinions from the delegates.

Captaine Michel du Chesnoy's 1781 map of Annapolis, known as "The Frenchman's Map." Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1427-1-7.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

While Thanksgiving was not officially declared a national holiday until 1863, several days during and after the Revolutionary War were designated as days of thanksgiving. The Continental Congress issued many Thanksgiving Proclamations between 1774 and 1789 in honor of military victories during the war.[1] As president, George Washington declared the first national day of Thanksgiving in 1789.

To celebrate, we hope you enjoy trying this eighteenth-century recipe for Molly Ridout’s herb soup!

Herb soup recipe in Molly Ridout's handwriting, c.1765-1775. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 371-0-2-9.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Congress Arrives in Annapolis

On this day, two hundred and thirty years ago, Congress officially arrived in Annapolis to begin holding sessions in the Maryland State House’s Old Senate Chamber. Though it would take several more weeks for enough delegates to trickle into Annapolis to officially meet the quorum, November 26, 1783 marked the beginning of a congressional session that would witness the resignation of George Washington, the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, and the appointment of Thomas Jefferson as foreign minister. The next nine months would not only set the course for America’s future, but also mark the Maryland State House as the nation’s first peacetime capitol and the only state house to ever serve as the nation’s capitol.

Portrait of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of Maryland's signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Senate President in 1783. Painted by Thomas Sully, 1834, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1114.

On October 1781, the British surrendered at Yorktown, but the struggles of establishing a strong government to run the new country were just beginning. The Continental Congress faced staggering war debts and soldiers demanding pensions that the government couldn’t afford to pay, causing civil unrest and dramatic inflation. In June 1783, riots in Philadelphia threatened the safety of the delegates, then meeting in Independence Hall, and Congress relocated to Princeton, New Jersey in the first of a series of congressional venues between 1783 and 1787.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Flag for the State House

In autumn of 1783, men like Jubb Fowler and John Shaw were hurriedly preparing for the arrival of Congress to the Maryland State House on November 26, 1783. Actually a cabinetmaker by trade, the State House hired John Shaw for a variety of tasks. Among Shaw’s various projects in late 1783, perhaps the most famous is what is now known as the “John Shaw flag.”

This watercolor painted by Charles Cotton Millbourne c.1794 is the best known image of a depiction of the original "John Shaw flag." View of Annapolis, courtesy of the Hammond Harwood House Association. You may also view their blog here.

On November 12, 1783, the state paid Messrs C. and R. Johnson of Baltimore for purchasing “2 pieces of red bunting, 2 ditto white bunting, 19½ yards blue ditto. The above, to make a pair of colours for the State at the request of the Gov & Council and Ordered of the purchaser in Balto.”[1] Shaw was paid for providing two matching flags - both were nine by twenty-three feet and were of an unusual design. Descriptions of the eighteenth-century Shaw flag have always been vague, but it was certainly built according to the 1777 resolution by Congress that the nation’s flag must have “13 stripes alternating red and white” and “13 stars white on a field of blue representing a constellation.”[2]

Friday, November 15, 2013

“A Most Amiable Man As Well As An Excellent Artist:” Edwin White’s Commission

Last week, Washington Resigning His Commission was removed from its place on the grand staircase of the State House’s New Annex for conservation as part of the Old Senate Chamber restoration. But how did this major work come to be in the State House?

Edwin White's Washington Resigning His Commission as Commander-in-Chief, painted in 1859. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1112.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Recent Press in The Baltimore Sun

We are excited that last week’s removal of Edwin White’s Washington Resigning His Commission was featured in The Baltimore Sun’s The Darkroom, an online outlet which focuses on visual journalism. The article includes a series of thirteen images by notable photographer Barbara Haddock Taylor that chronicle the deinstallation of the painting, offering readers a chance to glimpse some behind-the-scenes images of the process.

Conservator William Lewin examines parts of the original frame which will go under conservation. Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun, 12 November 2013.

Washington Resigning His Commission will be off-exhibit for approximately twelve months while it undergoes conservation in conjunction with the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber.

You can read the full article to enjoy the rest of the images!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The State House At War

The Maryland State House has been the setting for dramatic turns in the history of Maryland and the nation. Over the years, all of the nation’s wars have in some way impacted the building and the politics that take place within it. During the War of 1812, the State House dome was even used as a lookout while the British fleet raided the Chesapeake Bay. Situated at the center of Annapolis, which is home to the United States Naval Academy as well as Maryland’s capital, it would be difficult for the Maryland State House to not play a prominent role in the home front.

Photograph of procession on Maryland Avenue, with the State House in the background, dated 1859-1906. Copy by Marion E. Warren, Marion E. Warren Collection, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1890-02-3244.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we will take a moment to reflect on the State House and its consequential role in the Revolutionary War effort.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"All Eyes Being Fixed on Washington:" Washington Resigning Leaves the State House

This past Monday, a team of conservators and professional art handlers from Artex Fine Art Services worked with the Department of General Services and the Maryland State Archives to remove Edwin White's Washington Resigning His Commission from the State House. The painting, part of the state-owned art collection managed by the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property and completed in 1859, will undergo major conservation over the course of the next year, and will return to the State House in conjunction with the completion of the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. This masterpiece has hung above the grand staircase of the Maryland State House since 1904, when it had been moved from its original home in the Old Senate Chamber.

Artex staff works to remove Washington Resigning from its place on the grand staircase. Maryland State Archives, 4 November 2013.
An army of art handlers from Artex worked carefully for several hours to first remove the painting from the wall and lower it to the floor. The canvas was then removed from the frame, and the disassembled frame was carried piece by piece downstairs where it was wrapped for safe transport. The canvas, meanwhile, was secured in cardboard and plastic, and carried out of the State House through a window in the original part of the State House. A specialty contractor removed the window to accommodate the painting; they reinstalled it immediately after the painting was out of the building. Once outside, the canvas and the frame components were loaded into a truck for transportation to the conservators’ studios.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Major Anniversaries at the State House

Washington's resignation is far from the only piece of significant history to have occurred in the Maryland State House.  Today the State House celebrates two anniversaries of significant events in Maryland's history: the first occupancy of the current State House, and Maryland's abolition of slavery.

On November 1, 1779, two hundred and thirty-four years ago, the Proceedings of the House of Delegates recorded "Monday, November 1, 1779, being the day appointed for a receiving of the General Assembly, appeared at the Stadt-house, in the city of Annapolis."[1] This entry marks the day that the legislature first moved into the third and current State House, and making today the start of the building's current streak of continuous occupancy--the longest such streak in the nation. 

A conjectural image of the third State House when it first opened. Even though the legislature had begun to occupy the State House in 1779, the roof was not finished until nearly a decade later. By 1788, the dome had been redone and completed by architect, Joseph Clark. Sketch by Elizabeth Ridout, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1444.
The current State House that the delegates moved into in 1779 was not the first State House built on top of Annapolis' State Circle. In fact, there had been two prior. The first, constructed in 1695, was short-lived and burned down in 1704. The second was completed in 1709, and had begun to show its age after sixty years of use. In 1769, William Eddis, the Surveyor of Customs in Annapolis, wrote, "The public buildings do not impress the mind with any idea of magnificence...nothing expressive of the great purpose to which it is appropriated; and by a strange neglect; is suffered to fall continually into decay."[2]

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Keeper of the State House

It is difficult to look through the Maryland State Papers of the late eighteenth-century without coming across Jubb Fowler's name. A skilled carpenter, messenger to the Governor and Council, and caretaker of the Maryland State House, Fowler, like many Annapolitans of the Revolutionary period, had multiple jobs. However, according to Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Jubb Fowler is the only laborer of late eighteenth-century Annapolis to have gained significant upward economic mobility in his lifetime.[1]

Jubb Fowler was born on November 14, 1735 to Benjamin and Helen Fowler of Anne Arundel County. The Fowlers were a farming family, who had settled in Anne Arundel County a short time before Benjamin Fowler's birth in 1717. While there is no record of Jubb Fowler ever having married, he did have one daughter, Frances.

The James Brice House, 42 East Street, Annapolis, MD, where Jubb Fowler worked as a carpenter during its construction. Photograph by Marion E. Warren. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.
Jubb Fowler first appeared in Annapolis in 1767 as a carpenter for employer James Brice's house, now a National Historic Residence. After Fowler's initial work, Fowler and Brice appear to have maintained a professional relationship. In 1769, the pair advertised together in The Maryland Gazette for two runaway indentured servants. Fowler also borrowed money from Sarah Brice on several occasions, as recorded in the Brice account books.[2] 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Artisans of the State House: The Ironmaster

On October 19, 1785, exactly two-hundred twenty-eight years ago tomorrow, the auditor general recorded a payment of ₤21.7.9 to "Simon Ratalick" for iron work to a public pump.[1] This seemingly unremarkable entry was actually one of several state payments to Annapolis "ironmaster" (or blacksmith), Simon Retallick. Throughout the 1780s and 1790s, Retallick completed various projects for the Maryland State House, including the dome's famous lightning rod.

In the first of several upcoming features on the lives of the artisans who worked on the Old Senate Chamber, today's entry will look at a local blacksmith whose work at the State House can still be spotted by any passersby today.

Simon Retallick was born circa 1752 in the town of St. Issey in Cornwall, England to Richard and Elizabeth Retallick. The Retallicks of Cornwall appeared to have been from a long line of skilled craftsmen. Little is known about Simon's youth until, at the age of 22, he registered himself as a blacksmith traveling to Annapolis as an indentured servant on board the Peggy Stewart.

The Peggy Stewart made history upon its arrival in the port of Annapolis in 1774 with a cargo of tea. By that time, Annapolis had adopted a policy of refusing any ship that carried tea to unload any of its cargo. However, a significant part the Peggy Stewart's cargo included approximately fifty indentured servants on board, who would likely not survive a return voyage to England. While the people of Annapolis debated what to do with the vessel, the indentured servants, Retallick among them, were forced to await their fate aboard the ship. After several days, the indentured servants were released, and the ship was famously burned on October 19, 1774 in what is remembered as the "Annapolis Tea Party." This early rebellion was captured in Francis Blackwell Mayer's The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, on display in the Old House of Delegates Chamber.

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart by Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1896, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1111.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Union Card Found in OSC Chimney Breast

On October 4, 2013, the construction workers made an exciting discovery in the chimney of the Old Senate Chamber. Lodged between the bricks was an old piece of paper that turned out to be a union card from the Bricklayer's Union of Maryland #5 dated April 1904. On the back of the card was a handwritten note that said, "Built by C. H. Obery Jr., Jos. Holland, July 29, 1906."

This card is almost certainly a remnant of the 1905 renovations of the State House under architects Baldwin and Pennington, which notably included the addition of the New Annex. The State House Building Commission also worked on the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. Among the extensive renovations to take place in the chamber in 1905, the fireplace, which had been torn out in 1858, was rebuilt.

Workers uncovered a piece of paper in the chimney breast of the Old Senate Chamber, 4 October 2013.
Vicki Lee, Senior Conservator of the Maryland State Archives, inspects the union card in the chimney breast, 4 October 2013.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Molly Ridout's Letter

Out of the few written descriptions of George Washington's resignation, one of the most significant is Molly Ridout's letter to her mother. As we mentioned in last week's post, Molly's letter is the only known account written by a woman in attendance.

Molly Ridout's letter to her mother, Anne Tasker Ogle, 16 January 1784. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 358-1-2.
On January 16th, 1784, thirty-eight year old Molly Ridout wrote to her mother, Anne Tasker Ogle. Molly had the letter delivered "by a frigate that went from this
place [Annapolis] to Brest [France] this you will certainly receive as it goes by a Gentleman that carrys a Copy of the definitive Treaty [of Paris] ratified by Congress."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spotlight on Molly Ridout

As we have mentioned in previous posts, one attendee of the resignation ceremony who will be featured in our exhibit is Mary "Molly" Ridout.

Molly was born in England in 1746, the second daughter of provincial Maryland governor, Samuel Ogle, and his wife, Anne Tasker Ogle. The Ogles were a prominent family, with influence in both England and Maryland throughout the eighteenth century. Molly's brother, Benjamin, later served as governor of Maryland between 1798 and 1801.

Molly's father, Samuel Ogle (c.1694-1752), Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1074.
Molly's brother, Benjamin Ogle (1749-1809), Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1071.
At age 18, Molly Ogle married John Ridout. An Oxford graduate, Ridout accompanied Governor Horatio Sharpe to Maryland as his personal secretary. Under Sharpe's patronage, Ridout quickly garnered several political positions including Judge of Probate (1761-1762) and naval officer of the Port of Annapolis (1762-1777). Upon Sharpe's departure from Maryland in 1773, the former governor left the couple his mansion, Whitehall, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. This property, along with their Annapolis townhouse on Duke of Gloucester street known as Ridout House, played host to several social events attended by Maryland's high society.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recent Press

A few weeks ago, we were excited to have the C-SPAN Cities Tour feature the Maryland State House in their coverage on Annapolis. The feature covers the importance of the Old Senate Chamber and some of the last video footage of the room before the scaffolding was assembled. The tour of the State House also includes information on the Old House of Delegates chamber, the New Annex, and the grounds. You can view the feature on the State House below.

For more information on Washington's resignation speech, the Maryland Constitution of 1864 debated in the Old House of Delegates Chamber, and historical documents related to the life of Frederick Douglass, please view the C-SPAN feature on the Maryland State Archives.

Friday, September 13, 2013

George Washington in Bronze

Yesterday, we had our kick-off meeting with New York-based Studio EIS who will be designing the bronze statue of George Washington, which will be placed in the spot where he stood to resign his commission on December 23, 1783. Along with Washington, Studio EIS will also be creating a faux-bronze statue of Annapolitan Molly Ridout, who watched the resignation from the visitor's gallery in the chamber.

The creation of a lifelike historic statue requires a precise blend of detailed research and creativity. Studio EIS has a large amount of experience with creating lifelike statues of historical figures, including Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln. Their work also appears at Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier and on the steps of the New York Historical Society. Last April, members of our project team were able to visit their studio to see their remarkable work by their talented artists and to discuss the design and fabrication process.

The National Constitution Center's Signers' Hall features 42 bronze figures, all created by Studio EIS. Image courtesy of Studio EIS.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Construction Begins

Though the blog has been quiet for some time now, work on the Old Senate Chamber has continued behind the scenes. Architectural investigations have concluded and the restoration of this historic space is about to begin! This upcoming work will return the room back to its architectural appearance when Congress convened in the chamber in 1783-1784.

Over the past nine months, architects and scholars have analyzed all extant evidence from the 18th, 19th and 20th century renovations in this space, exposing a tremendous amount of original building materials. This work has included the removal of nearly all of the recognizable architecture from the 1905 and 1940 restorations, including floor, paint and plaster, ceiling, and visitor's gallery. More accurate versions of each of these elements, and many others, will be recreated as part of the restoration.

The niche was covered for its protection during some of the architectural investigations. One of the windows has also been transformed into a construction entrance, 30 January 2013.

 As you can see from the photographs, elaborate scaffolding now covers most of the chamber. This will allow the contractors and specialized tradesmen access to all areas within the room.

Image of the scaffolding now up in the Old Senate Chamber, 5 September 2013.

The Old Senate Chamber is scheduled to reopen to the public in December 2014, the 231st anniversary of George Washington's resignation of his commission.

As construction proceeds, we plan to chronicle the restoration with entries on the history and architecture of the chamber, as well as the people and processes involved in returning this space to its original appearance. Special features will also highlight the new interpretive exhibits that will be unveiled as part of this restoration.

Please stay tuned for more updates!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Recent Press

Below is the most recent video from MPT's State Circle, which documented the deconstruction of the gallery in the Old Senate Chamber. Many of the pieces of the 1905 gallery have been salvaged and cataloged and both of the original 18th century columns will be reused in restoration. A big thanks goes out to Lou Davis and MPT for continuing to document the progress of the project. You can view their first video here.

The full episode of State Circle will air January 11th at 7:30pm on
Maryland Public Television.