George Washington rode a white horse to address a crowd at the National Constitution Center and recalled how many things have changed since he was last in Philadelphia.
The Father of Our Country noticed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as he rode his horse to the June 30 luncheon.
“I could have used that on Dec. 25, 1776,” he said, noting the famous crossing of the Delaware River to capture 1,000 Hessians in Trenton.
This George Washington was an impersonator, actor John Lopes, hired to promote the opening of Discover the Real George Washington: New Views From Mount Vernon.
The 6,500-square-foot exhibit opened July 1 — Washington cut the ceremonial ribbon — and will continue through Sept. 5 at the National Constitution Center.
Washington and his Continental Army regiments were in town during the holiday weekend, “just in case the British decide to attack us again.”
The exhibit takes a look at Philadelphia’s role in the life of Washington, who led the victory in the American Revolution, chaired the Constitutional Convention and was elected in 1789 as the nation’s first president. He served two terms.
Washington slept, dined, spoke, met and planned his adventures in houses, inns, apartments, tents and farms throughout the city and surrounding countryside.
The 11 sections of the exhibit also include comprehensive information on Washington’s life, from his youth to military career to the presidency and to farming. He died in 1799 at age 67.
Philadelphia is the fourth stop on a nine-city tour. The exhibit was most recently in St. Paul, Minn., and will travel next to Fort Worth, Texas.
The Mount Vernon Ladies Association organized the exhibit, which is funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded in 1954 and named in memory of the media entrepreneur.
The exhibit features almost 100 objects from the historic Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens in Virginia. There are three full-scale figures of Washington, architectural models, decorative and fine art items, maps, manuscripts and paintings.
Among the highlights are an original set of Washington’s dentures, Gilbert Stuart’s classical Washington portrait, the Washington family Bible and original pieces of Martha Washington’s jewelry.
Guests can watch a series of History Channel videos and use interactive touch screens to bring stories to life.
In addition, the center is hosting The President’s House: Their Untold Stories in Quilts. The collection of art quilts celebrates the nine slaves owned by George and Martha.
Among those at the ceremony launching the exhibit were David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center; James Rees, president and CEO of the Mount Vernon property; Michelle Flamer, curator of The President’s House: Their Untold Stories in Quilts; and Adam Joseph, a meteorologist at 6ABC, which is the exhibit’s media sponsor.
Guests saw how the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation is promoting the exhibit. There is a television commercial calling Washington a “real American idol” and a billboard proclaiming, “Dad’s home.”
Rees is hopeful that young people learn a lot while visiting the exhibit. He cited a recent Wall Street Journal article in which historian David McCullough said young Americans are “historically illiterate.”
Rees blames schools, citing a survey that showed seven in 10 youngsters falsely believe that Illinois, California and Texas were among the 13 original colonies.
“We’ve been short-shrifting American history for decades,” he said.
For locals who don’t know, Philadelphia temporarily became the U.S. capital in 1790.
Eisner said families will be “saving a pocketful of Washingtons” by bringing kids age 12 and under to the exhibit for free. The youngsters will learn about the connection between the city and the war hero who helped lay the framework for the new government and later became its first president.
“Philadelphia is the epicenter of the George Washington experience,” he said. ••
For more information, call 215-409-6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org/summerofwashington
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org