In honor of Presidents Day, the Chester County History Center will host a special exhibit from Tuesday, Feb. 15 to Saturday, Feb. 19 that will include the “Lincoln Chair” — an item that has never before been on public display — and a “Washington Letter” written on Sept. 11, 1777, the day of the Battle of the Brandywine.
“We are proud to celebrate Presidents Day this year by displaying two unique pieces from our collection,” said Conor Hepp, President of the Chester County History Center. “Each represents the rich history of Chester County and our nation at two very tumultuous times, while celebrating the lives of two incredible Presidents.”
Pennsbury Township native William Marshall Swayne (1828-1918) was a clerk for the United States Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. In 1864, he was asked to contribute “a series of bas-relief heads of the President and the Heads of Departments” to a fair to be held in Washington. Abraham Lincoln sat in this chair while posing for Swayne.
This commission led to such critical acclaim that he was invited to be the last person to view Lincoln before his casket was closed. After his return from Washington, Swayne continued to work for the government. He also worked as a sculptor until his death. Among his projects was to complete portrait busts of the officials of the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the first official World’s Fair held in the U.S.
George Washington’s letter, written the morning of Sept. 11, 1777 to Colonel Theodorick Bland, reads:
I earnestly entreat a continuance of your vigilant attention to the movements of the enemy and the earliest report, not only of their movements, but of their number, & the course they are pursuing. In particular manner, I wish you to gain satisfactory information of a body confidently reported to have gone up to a ford seven or eight miles above this. It is said the fact is certain. You will send up an intelligent sensible officer immediately with a party to find out the truth — what number it consists of and the road they are now on. Be particular in these matters.
I am sir,
Your humble servant,
The Chester County History Center serves as a hub for cultural enrichment, experiential learning, and stewardship of collections, manuscripts, photographs, and other invaluable archival materials. It preserves and shares Chester County’s diverse, noteworthy, and captivating stories with a wide range of audiences.
CCHC’s mission is to enhance community vitality and build historical literacy — the pillars of robust civic culture — through curated programming and resources that span hundreds of years.