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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

“That Most Illustrious Character:” Peale’s Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman

Anyone who has visited the Maryland State House in the years past doubtless left with an impression of Charles Willson Peale’s Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown. One of the largest paintings decorating the building’s walls, Peale’s work has been in the Maryland state art collection since its completion in 1784. All the while, the famous Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman has had a long historical relationship with both the Old Senate Chamber and Old House of Delegates Chamber.

Charles Willson Peale's Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown, completed in 1784. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1120.

In 1781, the patriot cause saw great reason to celebrate with the American victory at Yorktown and subsequent surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis. The Maryland General Assembly sought to mark the occasion by unanimously voting “to write to Mr. Peale, of Philadelphia, to procure, as soon as may be, the portrait of his Excellency general Washington, at full length, to be placed in the house of delegates, in grateful remembrance of that most illustrious character.”[1] A Maryland native who had already earned the respect of the Maryland General Assembly with his portrait of William Pitt hanging in the Old Senate Chamber, Peale was an obvious choice for the painting’s commission. A year earlier, Peale’s painting of Washington in Princeton had garnered enough popularity, that he made several copies of the piece. However, Peale was not satisfied with the idea of presenting his native state with a copy. He sought to paint something new, and a rendition of Washington from life. Ultimately, Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman took three years to complete.