On September 1, 1824, a member of the Lexington Artillery Company wrote a note on a 5 x 7 inch piece of paper requesting “Three Quarter Casks Powder for the Salute in honor of Gen'l LaFayette.” The famed Revolutionary War general, “American’s Fighting Frenchman,” had landed in Boston a couple of weeks earlier for his big 1824-1825 American tour and Lexington was eager to mark his visit in a big way.
On August 24, 2020, David Wood, long-time curator of the Concord Museum, forwarded me an email from David Hillier of Antique Associates at West Townsend. That 5 x 7 piece of paper had survived for 196 years and Hillier wanted to know if we would be interested in it returning home to Lexington. We were!
However, there is no acquisition line item in the Historical Society's budget. We budget a certain amount per year for collections care, but buying valuable items (or conserving them) is often beyond our regular budget. Therefore, when our director Erica McAvoy brought the acquisition proposal to our Board of Directors at their September meeting, we hoped that generous Board members might offer to help bring the Lafayette document home.
And they did! The Board voted unanimously to acquire the exciting document and many offered to donate to its purchase price. Once we were off and running on the purchase, we received a generous offer from Enterprise Bank to cover the cost of the document. Thanks to that help, our Board gifts will be saved for future conservation work.
For example, conservation work was performed in 2014 on the 39-foot linen banner that greeted General Lafayette, in addition to the booming salute made possible by that gunpowder! Read more about the banner here.
Now that we care for both the banner and gunpowder receipt, we’re looking forward even more to the 200th anniversary of Lafayette’s visit, coming up in 2024. We’re looking into partnering with the Lafayette Trail project, as well. Stay tuned for more on Lafayette in Lexington!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.