Inventing a Nation

For Immediate Release Contact: Marc Apter, 301-904-3690 mapter@mdhs.org

New Exhibition Opens June 30th

Explore the American Revolution in Inventing a Nation at the

Maryland Historical Society 

The Star-Spangled War of 1812 Exhibition Also Opens 

Baltimore, Maryland (June 30, 2011) – It was a miraculous success story. A “Rag, Tag and Bobtail” citizen army defeated the hated professional “lobsterbacks” of the world’s mightiest army. A new nation was created that changed history.  Marylanders played a central role in the Revolutionary War against the British Empire.

The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will open a powerful new exhibit, Inventing a Nation, on Thursday, June 30. It will highlight some priceless paintings and objects that bring America’s Revolutionary era to life. The role of distinguished Marylanders in the creation of the United States of America is featured. Another nearby gallery fast forwards a generation to the War of 1812. The original manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner penned by Francis Scott Key, one of America’s great icons, will again go on display. For more information on the exhibits at MdHS, 201 W Monument St. in Baltimore go to www.mdhs.org or call 410-685-3750.

Museum goers will see how George Washington transformed from citizen soldier and Commanding General of the American Revolution to President of the new nation. After his much-grieved death in 1799, Washington became the ultimate symbol of patriotism, a legacy that continues to this day. 

Paintings from the Maryland Historical Society’s collection and loans from the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art bring to life this dynamic era. Patriots like Washington, William Paca, and John Eager Howard were inventing what would become the United States. One of just a few surviving Revolutionary War uniforms is featured in the exhibition along with documents signed by George Washington and objects associated with the Marquis de Lafayette, Washington’s aide-de-camp.

Museum goers will have the chance to see the actual uniform of Tench Tilghman, one of George Washington’s aides-de-camp.  Tilghman’s uniform is unique among the few surviving Revolutionary War uniforms today.  It conforms exactly to the regulations stipulated by General Washington in 1779. 

The Inventing a Nation exhibit will feature three of Charles Willson Peale’s most famous life-size paintings, including “George Washington and his Aides at Yorktown.”  Peale was the son of Charles Peale, a member of the British gentry who was exiled to America on charges of forgery in 1735.  Upon his father’s death, Charles Willson assumed the role as head of his family.  After seven years of apprenticeship to a saddler, Peale opened his own shop in Annapolis.  When looking for saddle leather in Norfolk, Virginia, he saw some “miserably done” landscapes and portraits and thought he could do better himself.  After several instruction books, some sessions with Maryland artist John Hesselius, and a trip to England to study with Benjamin West, Peale became one of America’s first great painters.  He was the first of a dynasty of Peale painters that lasted three generations.

The works of his son, Rembrandt Peale will be featured in another new exhibition celebrating the Star-Spangled Banner and the Battle for Baltimore in 1814. Visitors will learn about Baltimore’s major pivotal role in the War of 1812. In addition, they will have a special opportunity to see one of America’s greatest treasures, the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner written in Francis Scott Key’s own hand, cross-outs and all. Key penned those remarkable stanzas after the attack on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814.  One of the earliest broadsides of the original anthem, complete with a typo, will be on view as well as five of Rembrandt Peale’s portraits of Baltimore Defenders of 1814 which were commissioned by the city of Baltimore almost immediately after the victory of September 15, 1814.

Visitors also have the privilege of seeing the “Etting Cup,” a blackened tin mug etched with the signatures of the 1814 Baltimore defenders.  These brave men who defended North Point and Fort McHenry each scratched their own name into this tankard to commemorate their contribution to their nation’s history.  This exhibition represents a sneak preview of the extraordinary War of 1812 objects in MdHS’s collection. More will come in 2012-2014.

The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the world’s largest museum and library dedicated to the history of Maryland. Occupying an entire city block in the Mount Vernondistrict of Baltimore, the society’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled “Maryland Historical Magazine.” More information about the Maryland Historical Society can be found online athttp://www.mdhs.org/

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