George Washington: A Virginian in Maryland

MdHs Header
From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 1 Issue 2

George Washington:
A Virginian in Maryland

October 16, 2012

Dear Reader,


As you explore the galleries in our Carey Center for Maryland Life, you will soon see some stunning portraits of our first president. One masterpiece, Charles Willson Peale's giant 1784 Yorktown victory painting of General George Washington, dominates the north wall of the "Inventing a Nation" gallery. We thank the Maryland State Archives for its loan of this portrait while the Maryland Statehouse is undergoing restoration.

An equally prominent portrait of President Washington, probably from Rembrandt Peale's shop in the 1830s, overwhelms the south wall. Nearby is a striking 1821 Rembrandt Peale study of the aging president. In fact, Washington paintings, sculptures, documents, books and furniture dot a gallery of early American treasures.


Washington, Lafayette, and Tilghman at Yorktown Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Oil on canvas, 1784
Signed lower left: "C.W.Peale pinxt 1782" Collection of the Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1120

Why is there so much about this famous Virginian in a Maryland museum? Next to his 10,000 acre home plantation on the Virginia side of the Potomac, George Washington considered Maryland his home away from home. Close friends and colleagues, business ventures, roads north and west, politics and playgrounds were all a part of his Maryland connections.

It began with a 1753 expedition that almost killed an ambitious young man.


A Maryland frontiersman named Christopher Gist guided Washington through many harrowing adventures in the Pennsylvania wilderness. From then on, every stage of a legendary career was shared with Marylanders.


The plantation owner traveled regularly to Annapolis to gamble on horses and cards. The revolutionary general trusted his Maryland chief of staff, Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman, depended on the troops of the Maryland Line and resigned his commission in Annapolis, then the U.S. Capital. The First President was welcomed and celebrated in Maryland as he rode triumphantly north to take office in New York City.   


When he was dying in 1799, his two favorite physicians were called in from Maryland. The list of Washington's contacts with the Old Line State, stretching over half a century, is substantial.

Maryland's pivotal role in the revolutionary events that changed the world is evident everywhere in our "Inventing a Nation" Gallery. The treasures from those turbulent years tell proud and important stories. George Washington's iconic tale is well known. We're committed to telling how Maryland played its essential part as well.


I want to personally invite you to see the beautiful Rembrandt Peale portrait of General Washington - it's new on display for the next six months. I would also like to thank the collectors, Mr. and Mrs. David Smith, for their very generous loan.


Upcoming Events
in October & November

A Man and His Ship

On Thursday, October 18 at 6pm, Steven Ujifusa will be speaking about his new book, "A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and his Quest to Build the SS. United States."

This is the sweeping story of one man's quest to build the fastest, finest ocean liner in history - set against the politics, culture, and enterprise of twentieth century America.


William Francis Gibbs was an American original, on par with John Roebling of the Brooklyn Bridge and Frank Lloyd Wright of Fallingwater. Forced to drop out of Harvard following his family's sudden financial ruin, he overcame debilitating shyness and lack of formal training to become the visionary creator of some of the finest ships in history. He spent forty years dreaming of the ship that became his post-World War II masterpiece, the S.S. United States - a cutting-edge ocean liner whose hull and engine room designs were classified top secret. Capable of carrying 2,000 passengers at the record-breaking clip of 35.59 knots, she could be transformed into a troopship capable of delivering 14,000 soldiers over 10,000 miles without refueling.


The New York Times has called it "[An] absorbing, transporting new history... Ujifusa's book is a portrait in determination, as Gibbs's plans for his big ship are continually tossed about in political, economic and personal squalls."


Ujifusa is a historian living in Philadelphia. He serves on the Advisory Council of the S. S. United States Conservancy and is involved in efforts to save Gibbs's great ship. He received his master's degree in historic preservation and real estate from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.A. in history from Harvard University.


A book signing will follow the 6pm lecture. Tickets are $10 for Members and $15 for non-Members. You can register on our website or by calling 410-685-3750 ext. 377.


Join The Young Defenders
for a Haunted Pub Crawl!

Fells Point Haunted Pub Crawl

Meet our MdHS Young Defenders - 50-plus members strong, they're focused on reinvigorating history in Maryland through social engagement and historical events. After all, history isn't only about textbooks and multiple-choice tests - it can (and should) be fun, too!

On Saturday, October 20 from 6:30-10pm, the Young Defenders will host a Haunted Pub Crawl through Fells Point. Join them as they roam around neighborhood 'haunts' and hear fascinating tales of historical significance from a near-legendary Fells Point denizen.


Come dressed in your favorite period piece costume (or other Halloween get-up). The meeting location is at the corner of Broadway and Aliceanna Streets. Tickets are FREE for Members and $10 for non-Members. Participants will also receive a $20 credit toward a membership to the Maryland Historical Society. Register on our website, or call 410-685-3750 ext 399. Email for more information.


'Who's Who' in Baltimore: Greenmount Cemetery Tour of Famous Marylanders

Greenmount Cemetery
Courtesy Baltimore Heritage

On Saturday, October 27 from 12-2:30pm: Just in time for Halloween - take a tour of historic Greenmount Cemetery! We're partnering with Baltimore Heritage to bring you the fascinating details of many important Marylanders who are buried here, such as:

A.S. Abell - Baltimore Sun founder
Johns Hopkins
William Henry Reinhart
Enoch Pratt
Henry and William Walters
Betsy Patterson Bonaparte
Patty Atavis - slave nurse of the Whitridge family
Ross Winans - B&O locomotive designer
John Wilkes Booth
And more


The program will begin with a slideshow and discussion of the Marylanders - you'll learn who they were & why they were important. We'll be incorporating items from our collection into the discussion, too.


Then we'll head out to Greenmount Cemetery for the tour. Lunch will be provided. Registration is $40 for both Members and non-Members. Sign up on our website or by calling 410-685-3750 ext 399.


Francis Scott Key Lecture Series: 'A Pacifist and His Defenders'

General Samuel Smith
Portrait of Samuel Smith, Rembrandt Peale, 1818, Maryland Historical Society, ca681

On Thursday, November 1 at 6pm, join Project Associate Curator Carol Soltis, Ph.D., from the Philadelphia Museum of Art as she discusses 'A Pacifist and the Defenders: Rembrandt Peale and His Portraits of Baltimore's Heroes of the War of 1812.

The "Defenders" portraits, all in our MdHS collection, were commissioned for the Council Chamber of Baltimore's City Hall, and they hung there for many years. This portrait commission was meant to commemorate Baltimore's major heroes from the War of 1812. The first four portraits were commissioned in 1816 and included Generals Sam. Smith and John Striker, Lt. Col. George Armistead and Mayor Edward Johnson. In 1819 the Council requested two additional portraits, one of Commodore Joshua Barney and another General Andrew Jackson, bringing the total to six.


Dr. Soltis' "A Pacifist and the Defenders" focuses on Rembrandt Peale's portraits of Baltimore's "Defenders" and the place they occupy within his work and his residence in Baltimore between the years 1813 and 1822. It introduces the audience to who Rembrandt was, why he relocated to Baltimore and opened a museum at such a perilous time, the roots of his decision to be a conscientious objector, and how despite this he ended up with the commission from the city to paint its "Defenders."


This Peale Collection is "a collection that showcases both the individual excellence and the communal interests of the Peales as they sought to respond to and shape the evolving tastes and interests of their American audience," says Dr. Soltis. Her forthcoming book on the Peale collection is entitled The Art of the Peales: Adaptations and Innovations.


This is the final lecture in our 2012 Francis Scott Key Series. Tickets are $40 per person and can be obtained thru our website or by calling 410-685-3750 ext. 377. Email for more details.   


Our 1812 Bus Tour

Todds Inheritance
Todd's Inheritance

Have plans for Saturday, November 3? Why not take our bus tour of 1812 sites through Baltimore!

Stops include The Battle Monument, the Flag House Museum, Todd's Inheritance, Fort McHenry, and a special tour of the MdHS exhibit, In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812. Lunch will be provided.


Seating is limited, and tickets are $100 for Members and non-Members. To register, call 410-685-3750 ext. 377 or visit our website. Email for more details.


A 'Passion for Fashion'
Our Special 1812 Fashion Show  

1812 Fashion Show
Photo courtesy Dumbarton House

Now this will be fun: on Sunday, November 4 at 2pm, come take part in our 1812 Fashion Show!

The Baltimore National Heritage Area, in conjuction with Fort McHenry and MdHS, will present original designs inspired by the 1812 era. Models in daywear, eveningwear, and even military regalia will strut their stuff on the catwalk.


"This is a new way of looking at history," says emcee Vince Vaise, Chief of Interpretation with the National Park Service at Fort McHenry. "Fashion puts an emphasis not on dates and objects, but rather, on people." 


Models representing Dolley Madison and Francis Scott Key will be featured, as well as sailors and the working classes - "the people who built Baltimore," Vince continued. 

"The Federalist era was all about the democratization of fashion - away from ruffles and silk, and with a new focus on tailoring."

Students at The Baltimore School for the Arts received inspiration from the 1812 fashions. They will be presenting sketches with a 'modern twist.'  

We'll serve refreshments at our Tea Bar, complete with select pastries and appetizers that would have been in vogue in 1812.

"It's our version of Project Runway: 1812!" Vince added, "It's going to be an afternoon of fashion, food, and fun." This event is funded through the 1812 Education Committee on Lifelong Learning. 


Tickets are $30 for both Members and non-Members. To register, visit our website or call 410-685-3750 ext. 377.

For a complete listing of the Maryland Historical Society's events, be sure you're following us on Facebook; we're also on Twitter and Tumblr!

Trivia Time

Congratulations to all who correctly answered last month's question!

O'Neill's survived the Great Baltimore fire and continued to serve Baltimore until 1954. We found this great article about O'Neill's that ran in The Sun back in 1998.


Ready for this month's question?


Question: In 1917, Jazz music took Baltimore by storm. One group in particular began playing to packed audiences at the Maryland Theater dining room. They were also the first in the city to label their music 'jazz.' Prior to this group, most musicians eschewed the label for fear of moral condemnation from those threatened by the new form. Name that band!


We will be offering prizes for the correct responses - so email us your answer, and best of luck!  


Until next month,
Burt Sig 2
Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society

When to Visit:
Wednesday - Saturday from 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday from 12 noon - 5 pm (Museum Only)

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. As Maryland's History Center, 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."

The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (library only) 12 pm-5pm.