THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY CELEBRATES THE RETURN OF THE HERMIONE, THE “LIBERTY FRIGATE” THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
On View May 29 – August 16, 2015
NEW YORK, NY (April 29, 2015) – “She sails like a bird,” the Marquis de Lafayette wrote of the Hermione–the ship that carried him and a cache of materiel across the Atlantic in 1780. The New-York Historical Society celebrates Lafayette, the “Boy General” whose friendship with George Washington and diplomatic networks in Paris helped win the American Revolution, with Lafayette’s Return: The “Boy General,” the American Revolution, and the Hermione, on view May 29 through August 16, 2015. This exhibition coincides with this year’s launch of a recreated Hermione. Under the command of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, it set sail from France on April 18 for a two-month, 3,819-mile journey, including a port call over July 4 weekend in New York City.
“We are thrilled to work with the Friends of Hermione to commemorate the Marquis de Lafayette’s military and diplomatic contributions to American independence,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Lafayette visited the New-York Historical Society at the start of his return tour of the United States in 1824-25, so we are particularly proud to embrace our “French Founding Father” with the launch of this new exhibition. We are also delighted to host Lafayette-related artifacts traveling from France for the very first time, alongside New-York Historical’s own unique collections. A model of the Hermione on view in our Smith Gallery will underscore the show’s pride of place as New York’s port of call for hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe.”
Lafayette first arrived in the colonies in 1777 at the age of 20, eager to join the nascent American Revolution. He went on to play a major role in George Washington’s defeat of the British army, aiding “the insurgents” by both his pen and sword. Lafayette enjoyed a hero’s return to France in 1779, but instead of resting on his laurels, he set to work. He attended court at Versailles, lobbying on the American revolutionaries’ behalf. Lafayette’s dedication paid off: he convinced King Louis XVI and his closest advisors to send an expeditionary force of 6,000 soldiers to support the American cause. In March 1780, Lafayette again returned to America, this time aboard the Hermione with crucial military aid in tow.
The New-York Historical Society’s installation in its Leah and Michael Weisberg Monumental Treasures Wall will highlight Lafayette’s early years—the tragic death of his father in the Seven Years’ War, Lafayette’s Enlightened education, and his budding fascination with Antiquity’s military heroes. The exhibition follows Lafayette through the American Revolution: examining his military service, his fateful voyage aboard the Hermione, and his role in securing French support that won the war just a year later in 1781.
Objects on view reflect the deep holdings in American history of the New-York Historical Society and include treasures from La Grange—Lafayette’s chateau from 1802 to 1834—which have never been on view outside of France. Letters written in Lafayette’s hand will also be on loan from the libraries of Cornell University and Lafayette College. Highlights include:
- War correspondence by Lafayette, his wife, and six-year-old daughter
- A cypher, alongside secretly coded letters shared with Washington
- Lafayette’s Ceremonial Sword, a gift from the Continental Congress
- Lafayette’s Medal of the Society of the Cincinnati, presented to him by George Washington in 1784
- An invitation to Lafayette’s famous Parisian dinner parties addressed to Benjamin Franklin dinner sent by Lafayette to Benjamin Franklin
- A portrait of Lafayette donated to New-York Historical by General Ebenezer Stevens, Lafayette's Artillery Officer during the 1780 Virginia Campaign
Support for Lafayette’s Return: The “Boy General,” the American Revolution, and the Hermione is provided by Belinda and Charles Bralver.
Educational and Family Programs
On Saturday, July 4 from 10 am–6 pm, the New-York Historical Society will invite families to celebrate America’s independence and the Marquis de Lafayette with scavenger hunts, performances of Revolution on the River by the Hudson River Ramblers, and other interactive programs organized through the DiMenna Children’s History Museum. A full calendar of family programs is viewable at http://www.nyhistory.org/childrens-museum.
The Hermione’s arrival will also be complemented by an installation on Governors Island curated by New-York Historical Society’s Student Historian Teen Leaders. New York City and the American Revolution will provide site-specific context for the Hermione’s arrival within the broader history of the American Revolution, and reference Governors Island’s historic military use by the British and Continental Forces during this time. Visitors can enjoy the free installation and drop-in family programs every Saturday and Sunday between July 4 and September 24, 2015. For more information: http://www.nyhistory.org/education/teen-programs.
About the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc.
In 2015, a handcrafted replica of the Hermione, the 18th-century frigate that brought the young Lafayette back to General Washington will return to America. The Hermione’s itinerary reaffirms the historic relationship between the United States and France. The Friends of Lafayette-Hermione in America, Inc. is a non-profit organization, partnering with local heritage and nautical groups, students and teachers K–12, as well as many cultural institutions, museums, and universities. The Hermione will be welcomed at each port with a full program of exciting educational, musical, culinary, and special events. For more information, please visit: www.Hermione2015.com.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.