This state of the art exhibit venue features rare and significant objects owned by or related to the Madisons, works of fine art, historical documents, and archaeological artifacts from Montpelier’s permanent collection as well as items on loan from museums and private collections. Significant pieces, such as Dolley Madison’s engagement ring and James Madison’s walking stick, are displayed in the climate- and light-controlled gallery. Recent rotating exhibits have featured artistic depictions of Montpelier, items associated with Montpelier’s enslaved community, and rare porcelain.
Queen of Hearts: Dolley Madison in Popular Culture
Located inside the Grills Gallery inside the David M. Rubenstein Visitor's Center
Inspired by Holly Cowan Shulman’s generous donation of her extensive collection of Dolley Madison advertising ephemera and her insights into Dolley’s role in pop culture.
During her lifetime Dolley Madison was called a “queen of hearts” for her engaging manners and animated conversation. Only a quarter century after her death, Dolley’s name and image began to appear on cigar boxes, milk bottles, and packaging for cakes, ice cream, and household products. How and why did America's first First Lady become an advertising icon?
As the heroine of the War of 1812 who saved a portrait of George Washington and was instrumental in creating Washington, D.C.’s social and political culture, Dolley Madison represented the ideal woman in her lifetime and later became a unifying symbol of national identity in post-Civil War America.
Advertisers branded their products with Dolley’s image as a gracious hostess in an elegant bygone world. “Queen of Hearts: Dolley Madison in Popular Culture” tracks Dolley’s image in popular culture through time, showing how America’s association with her as a historic figure faded, and gradually turned her into an abstract symbol of American womanhood.
This exhibit explores the many guises of Dolley in popular culture,and the ways advertisers used her image in an evolving consumer culture.
Explore the everyday world of the enslaved community of Montpelier. The cellars are where meals were prepared and daily chores were completed.
On June 17, 2017, we will open a new exhibition in the cellars, The Mere Distinction of Color, a groundbreaking exhibit on slavery.