One of the prized possessions of Lexington Historical Society is the banner that welcomed General Lafayette to Lexington on September 2, 1824 during his American tour. Nearly 40 feet long, the banner is made of linen and bears the painted legend: WELCOME, FRIEND OF AMERICA, TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY. It hung from an arch erected near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue (then Main Street) and Clark Street. Contemporary accounts of Lafayette’s visit to Lexington describe the banner, so it has excellent provenance. It is a unique artifact of Lafayette’s visit and there are no others like it known in the United States.
Although in remarkably good condition given its age (193 years in 2017), the banner required significant conservation in order to preserve it for future generations. The Society undertook a fundraising effort to pay for this project, which was carried out in 2013 by Deirdre Windsor, a highly regarded textile expert.
The banner was featured in the Battle After the Battle exhibit at Buckman Tavern from 2014 to 2016 (below left) and it recently returned from a six month loan to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (below right). UV light can harm textiles so after so long on display, the banner will now be packed for long term storage and have a little rest in the dark. Luckily, we have images of it to enjoy!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager