One hundred and sixty-three years ago today, Dolley Madison died at approximately 10:15 in the evening, “at peace with the world & it with her.” According to James Madison Cutts, Dolley’s nephew, America’s first First Lady “expired without an effort & without apparent pain.”1 Dolley was the last surviving member of the founding generation, living as a widow for thirteen years after the passing of James Madison.
This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, also known as “Mr. Madison’s War.” Two hundred years ago, this war tested our young nation. President Madison proved the United States could go to war without depriving citizens of their constitutional rights.
In the early nineteenth century, many fashionable men and women including Napoleon Bonaparte, Henry Clay, Queen Charlotte of England (wife of George III), and Dolley Madison dipped snuff. The nicotine stimulant made from ground tobacco leaves was typically stored in a small highly decorated box made of silver, tortoise shell, or other decorative material.
April 21-28, Montpelier will celebrate the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week along with sister historic sites and landmarks across the commonwealth. The Orange County Tour, entitled “Mr. Madison’s Neighborhood,” includes stops at James Madison’s Montpelier, Somerset Plantation, Mayhurst Inn, and Woodley.
In honor of the 74th anniversary of Battleship’s victory at Aintree and the long legacy of the duPont family at Montpelier, a collection of additional notable duPont objects are now on display in the William duPont Gallery at the Montpelier Visitor Center.
One of the most oft-repeated yet ill-cited pieces of Madison lore suggests Dolley Madison instituted the famous Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. When the tale appeared in published monograph, it was often paired with such qualifying phrases as “according to tradition” or “as the story goes.”
In September 1821, Albert Picket Sr., Albert Picket Jr., and John W. Picket wrote James Madison requesting his opinion of female education, particularly in light of a planned female college in Maryland. The Pickets asserted, “If it be worthy of national concern, to educate young men well, in all that pertains to their morals & intellect, it is no less necessary to educate females in an equally solid, if not splendid degree.”1
In honor of African American History Month, objects once owned by Montpelier slave Catherine Taylor are currently on display in the Joe and Marge Grills Gallery, joining archaeological objects from the recent South Yard excavation.
James Madison’s most publicized friendship is undoubtedly with his colleague from neighboring Albemarle County, Thomas Jefferson. Madison also found a companion and mentor in another founding father—George Washington. Following their initial meeting in 1781, the two politicos collaborated during the next decade to shape the new nation and its government.1
In 1791, James Madison became friends with an unlikely companion, Italian sculptor Guiseppe Ceracchi (1751-1801) who moved to the new American capitol to carve a commemorative monument of the American Revolution. Madison, then a congressman from Virginia’s fifth district, lodged with Ceracchi at Mary House’s boardinghouse on the corner of Fifth and Market Streets.