Buena Vista Conference Center, a set on Flickr.
The Buena Vista campus was just too beautiful to keep to ourselves last week. We thought we’d spread some of the love for those of you who won’t make it out to see it before summer’s end. Enjoy!
Are there any other historic sites in bloom right now?
Written on: August 21st, 2012 in News
We were saddened to learn this morning of the passing of beloved Delaware artist, Jack Lewis. With a career spanning the course of nearly a century, Mr. Lewis created a prolific body of work that captured and brought out the beauty in Delaware and Delawareans alike. The State of Delaware is fortunate to have more than 400 of his works in our collections, many of which are prominently displayed in our public buildings and offices across the state.
Lewis also had an undeniable and unmistakable impact on generations of regional artists through his tireless work with institutions like the Rehoboth Art League. Today, Historical & Cultural Affairs celebrates and continues to promote the life and legacy of Jack Lewis, a friend and leader from the Delaware arts community.
Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs curates more than 400 of the artist’s works.
We encourage you to share your own reflections and memories about Jack Lewis as comments below.
By: Alice Guerrant
The staff of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has finished the first complete draft of the statewide historic preservation plan for 2013-2018. We’ve kept it as short as possible, while making sure the necessary background is included.
Help us make the plan better! Click here to download a copy of the draft, and let us know what you think.
Do you know of any preservation successes or accomplishments since January 2008 that aren’t in the list in the appendix? Tell us about them, and we’ll be happy to add them to the list. Make sure your organization’s work gets recognition in the state plan!
E-mail your comments, suggestions, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 7, 2012. And thanks for all the help we have received through this whole process!
Once this comment period ends, we will make changes and corrections based on the comments. On September 14, we will send the final draft to the National Park Service for their technical review. By early November, we should have any comments back from the Park Service. We will then prepare the final plan to submit to the Park Service by the middle of November, and to the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation in January 2013 for their adoption of the plan. Shortly after that, the plan will be posted to our web site and copies will be printed for distribution.
By Chuck Fithian, HCA Curator of Archaeology
While the fighting was occurring in America, peace negotiations had been taking place in Russia, and later in Belgium. One of Delaware’s senators, James A. Bayard, would be one of the American commissioners who helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which was signed on December 24, 1814 ending the war.
Congress ratified the treaty in February 1815, and after news of its ratification spread throughout the country, the citizens of Lewes would illuminate their town in recognition of the “Peace of Christmas Eve.”
The War of 1812 in Delaware is an important part of the overall history of this conflict as well as that of the Mid-Atlantic region. For nearly two-and-one-half years, Delawareans experienced and endured a grueling form of naval warfare with seaborne attack potentially coming from any corner at any time.
The effective response was constant vigilance. Delaware also became one of the most militarized landscapes along the eastern seaboard with many of its men seeing extensive military service. Actual combat included pitched engagements, raids and skirmishes, the deployment of new technologies by both sides, and required adaptations to what a Delaware militiaman termed a “maraudering species of war.” The intensity of sustained Royal Navy operations and Admiral Cockburn’s interest in attacking Delaware Valley targets indicates this region remained a critical part of British strategy in the Mid-Atlantic naval campaigns of 1813 to 1815.
Long after the fighting ceased, the war continued to resonate well into the nineteenth century and even beyond. The state’s economy would take time to recover from the loss of shipping, the disruption of commerce and manufacturing, and price inflation that resulted from the blockade. Unlike the rest of the country, the Federalists remained in power and would shape the state’s politics in the years prior to the Civil War. The war’s veterans would continue to serve the state with several going on to be elected governor.
Many Delawareans had a sense that they had contributed to the larger national success through their sustained defense of the lower Delaware Valley. This sense of service, of having protected vital interests of the country, was the basis of negotiations between Delaware and the federal government as the state sought reparations for the extensive financial costs it bore during the war. Negotiations over how to settle these would be debated back and forth, but they would finally be resolved and the state reimbursed in 1910.
The War of 1812 has a complex history, and the war in the Delaware Valley comprises an important part of that history. No longer seen as simply a group of isolated events, the actions and operations in the Delaware Bay and River and along its Atlantic coast made Delaware an important theater of the war. As we enter the bicentennial of the war in June 2012, present-day citizens of our state are encouraged to contemplate the service and sacrifice of Delawareans of 1812 to 1815; and to better appreciate the fact that Delaware played a significant role in a war that contributed to shaping the development of the United States.
If you weren’t already familiar with the First State’s role in the War of 1812, we hope that this helped to build that context for you. If you’re still hungry for more and like piecing together your own stories, be sure to check out the beautiful database of primary source documents that the Delaware Public Archives has made available at Warof1812.delaware.gov.
Written on: August 12th, 2012 in Found!
As the Olympic Games come to a close across the pond, our thematic sampler from the state’s collections must also come to an end… but we will keep up the guessing game from yesterday as we present you with one of Delaware’s gold historical treasures:
What do you think this treasure could be?
Written on: August 11th, 2012 in Found!
We continue to celebrate the Summer Olympics in London by highlighting something silver from the state’s collections of historic objects…
We thought it might by fun to let you figure out what this one is…
It was made by Bancroft Woodcock. Here is a close-up of his maker’s mark:
So what do you think? An oil change fit for the DuPonts?
Written on: August 10th, 2012 in Found!
While there aren’t any Olympic medals in the state’s collections of historic objects, we care for metal items of all kinds. We thought it might be fun to join in the Olympic spirit by highlighting some random bronze, silver, and gold objects as we round out the last three days of the games.
First (or third, depending on how you look at it), we found a 1909 bronze bust of James H. Wilson:
Fans of The Pirates of Penzance might say that this is “…the very model of a modern Major General…”
Here is a close-up of the inscription:
Come back tomorrow to see our silver selection!
What’s been your favorite Olympic moment/event so far?
By Chuck Fithian, HCA Curator of Archaeology
The year 1814 saw the inauguration of a new governor— Daniel Rodney of Lewes. Like his predecessor, he continued to oversee and maintain the active defense of the state. Defensive measures continued with Delawareans manning the various fortifications and ongoing militia service. During the year, Delaware ceded Pea Patch Island to the federal government, which fortified it using Martello-type towers, a new type of fortification developed earlier by the British for the defense of southern England.
Also at this time, Delawareans would be assisted, for the first time, by the arrival of significant elements of the United States Regular Army. These regulars were stationed in Lewes and in encampments across northern Delaware. Naval operations by British vessels also continued unabated in the Delaware Bay and River. For example, small boats from the frigate Nieman destroyed a group of shallops containing a valuable cargo of shingles in Indian River. However, Delaware would face new threats, this time ones originating in events taking place in the Chesapeake Bay.
British military forces, now under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane and Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, launched new and more vigorous attacks against American assets on both sides of the Chesapeake. Both of these highly experienced officers had served in naval campaigns in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and were aggressive practitioners of the concepts of total war.
Numerous raids were launched throughout the region, but the 1814 campaign also included larger engagements such as the destruction of the Chesapeake Flotilla in the Patuxent River, the battle of Bladensburg, the burning of government buildings in Washington, the battle of North Point, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
It is also significant that at this time Admiral Cockburn pressed his commander to consider attacking targets in the Delaware Valley including New Castle, Wilmington, and the DuPont gunpowder works in Delaware; and Chester and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Admiral Cockburn’s interest in enlarging the scale of British operations in the Delaware Valley shows the strategic importance of the region and clearly indicates that the operations on the Delaware should not be considered a backwater of the regional naval campaign.
The events occurring in the Chesapeake were being watched by Delaware authorities, who had begun to prepare the state for attacks from the west. Immediately after the attack at Fort McHenry, British forces again threatened the northern Chesapeake and Delawareans would be a part of the measures to counter that move. Under the command of Thomas Stockton of New Castle, then a major in the 42nd United States Infantry, a force of Delaware militiamen, United States Army regulars, and United States Navy sailors from the Delaware Flotilla marched into northern Maryland and occupied positions in the Elkton area.
By this time the war was clearly winding down, and British forces withdrew into the lower Chesapeake, and began to depart to other areas. However, for Delaware the war was not over. As late as November and December, garrisons, such as those at Lewes, were still being manned, Royal Navy vessels, such as HMS Majestic , a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, were sighted on station in the Delaware Capes, and fears of landings along the coast were still real.
Chuck Fithian holds a master’s degree in history from Salisbury University and has extensive expertise in military and maritime history/archaeology, in material-culture studies, and social history of Colonial- and Revolutionary War-era America. Mr. Fithian is responsible for the curation of the archaeological collections of the state of Delaware and for conducting historical/archaeological research. His current work includes directing the research and conservation of the artifact collection and hull of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak and conducting a survey of Delaware sites related to the War of 1812.
Last February, we shared a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of a film crew from the National Geographic Channel working on a segment from their new show, America’s Lost Treasures, at the Johnson Victrola Museum. For those of you who didn’t get to see the finished product’s premiere last Wednesday, here’s a taste of what you missed:
Has anyone seen any other episodes? What do you think? Any favorite episodes or “treasures?”