Setting criteria for objects was daunting. Not only did final selections have to represent four centuries, but they also had to offer different perspectives on Annapolis’ history. A few, however, were easy picks.
Local historian Will Mumford was haunted by the legend: was the house at the bottom of Cornhill Street site of America’s first mint? Ten years ago when the house changed ownership, Mumford went on a “one man dig” and carted ten truckloads of dirt from the basement to a friend’s backyard. There, he uncovered the Chalmers coins. His painstaking efforts confirmed that local silversmith John Chalmers minted the coins there in 1783. Produced years before any federal currency system, the coins are believed to be the very first made in the United States.
The Sedan Chair
Maryland’s last royal Governor, Robert Eden, who presided from 1769–1776, lived in a mansion on what is now the parking lot in front of the Naval Academy’s Dahlgren Hall. Because Eden required a regal traverse ’cross the rough roads of town, the sedan chair was constructed. Borne on the shoulders of servants, the chair resembles a small wooden box on poles, upholstered inside, painted and gilded on the outside. Stored at a facility in Baltimore, it needs further restoration before joining the exhibit.
Carvel Hall Memorabilia
Catering to Annapolis from 1903 to 1965 on the site of what is now the William Paca House and gardens, this landmark hotel offers a growing collection of items certain to evoke memories. One such item, the painted Tap Room sign, fuels the story of Marcellus Hall, the much heralded, hotel bell captain, beloved by scores of townsfolk, politicians, Navy admirals, and midshipmen. Named by Governor Tawes as an “Admiral of the Chesapeake,” Hall drafted one of Annapolis’ first guide books, also an item for display.
For more than 200 years it stood atop the State House Dome and cupola, the highest structure on the building, until it was replaced with a new acorn in 1996. The acorn, long a symbol of strength and character, prompts stories of engineering, craftsmanship, and political will. It encased the “Franklin” lightning rod, constructed and grounded in the late 1780s with strict adherence to Benjamin Franklin’s design. Currently stored in the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory in St. Mary’s County, the five-foot-eight-inch-tall structure is expected to go on display at 99 Main Street, in easy view of the current acorn on the State House.