Two hundred sixty years ago today Nelly Conway Madison gave birth to James Madison, Jr. in Port Conway, Virginia. Nelly and her husband, James Madison, Sr. raised their son at Montpelier, where young James developed an insatiable intellectual curiosity. This curiosity remained with Madison as he traveled to the College of New Jersey (today Princeton University), where he completed the curriculum ahead of his classmates and became the school’s first graduate student.
James Madison is often remembered as a contemplative scholar, a political philosopher, and an ardent life-long learner. Like most educated men of his generation, he maintained a sizeable reference collection, including nearly 4,000 published volumes, stacks of significant newspapers, and other materials. To enhance his study of national, international, and state politics as well as his interest in the natural world, Madison often referred to sources beyond text: maps and globes.
Do you enjoy the mental challenge of a game of chess, moving the pieces across the board trying to bring about check or checkmate? Or is your interest in chess limited to vague memories of the chess match between Russian Grandmaster Kasparaov facing off against the chess-playing computer Deep Blue, or maybe having seen The Search for Bobby Fisher? Either way, we hope you’re as excited as we are about Montpelier’s latest acquisition: a Madison-era chess set, now on view in the Drawing Room!
Does the number 1.618 mean anything to you? Perhaps not, but it is a number of importance to many mathematicians, architects, art history scholars, and maybe to our very own James Madison. In fact, it is the latest clue in the Presidential Detective Story.
More than 2,500 people came to Montpelier on Saturday to celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution (September 17, 1871). There was food, beer and wine, tethered baloon rides, history students in period costumes, Facepainting, baloons and colonial games for the kids, the Navy Jazz band and local musicians, and fireworks at the end of the evening! All to celebrate the founding document of our nation.