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!

Archives Director of Conservation, Vicki Lee, works on the resignation speech. Image taken 24 September 2014.

Designed by Baltimore based company, CaseWerks, the case was made specifically for the display of the speech underneath the dome, so visitors to the State House would be able to view both sides of the well-lit and protected document simultaneously. The case was then constructed in Germany and moved into the State House, where it was carefully installed by professional art handlers.

The case was moved into the State House by professional art handlers. Image taken 13 February 2015.

On Monday, the speech was officially placed into the case and unveiled to the Maryland General Assembly and public as part of Senate President Mike Miller’s annual Washington’s Birthday celebration. The ceremony was also attended by Governor Larry Hogan. The speech’s new home was heralded in with a color guard, a chorus, and speeches by former state archivist, Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Speaker of the House of Delegates Mike Busch, and keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Taylor.

This beautiful case and the protection it offers to allow the display of this valuable document could not have been completed without the support of the Friends of the Maryland State Archives, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Revolution, Middendorf Foundation, and Society of the Cincinnati, along with several other private donations.

Image courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor, 16 February 2015.
Image taken 16 February 2015.

You can see the original speech for yourself in the rotunda today! Start planning your next trip to the State House now so that you can check it out.


  1. What is the status of Old Senate Chamber restoration? It did not open to the public in December as we were initially informed and there has been scant information about the room itself since. Can you direct me to a site where we can at least see what state the chamber is in currently and hope to see someday?

  2. We are delighted in your interest in the Old Senate Chamber! The room and its exhibits are very close to completion and will be open to the public soon. We will continue to update the blog as the latest information becomes available.
    In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to follow this blog, the Old Senate Chamber facebook page, or the Maryland State Archives instagram at for behind-the-scenes images and news.

    1. Thank you for your prompt reply. We do follow the blog but it has not been updated in over a month. Can pictures be taken of the chamber and put on the blog so we can see the progress? Where is facebook for the chamber? Are we to go to facebook and instagram for information on the restoration of the chamber? Your website says "Follow our blog on restoration...".

    2. Here are some in progress shots from a little while ago on the Maryland Senate Flickr.