The Marquis de Lafayette, French nobleman and officer, was a major general in the Continental Army by the age of 19. When he returned for a comprehensive tour of the United States in 1824–1825, Lafayette was 67 and was the last man still living who had served at his rank in the Continental Army.
Americans loved the aging soldier for his role in the Revolutionary War and for his help after the war in smoothing diplomatic relations between the United States and France. Moreover, he was a living connection to his friend and mentor George Washington. The combination made him a celebrity who enjoyed a frenzied reception as he made his way through all 24 states.
Women, especially, poured forth affection for the marquis. In one beautifully lettered address, the “Young Ladies of the Lexington Female Academy” (Kentucky) showered their visitor with assurances that he was remembered by the new generation of Americans: “Even the youngest, gallant Warrior, know you; even the youngest have been taught to lisp your name.”
Lafayette’s visit inspired the production of souvenir merchandise embroidered, painted, or printed with his face and name. This napkin and glove are two examples of such products.
In his book Souvenir Nation: Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, William L. Bird Jr. reports that Lafayette was uncomfortable when he encountered ladies wearing these gloves—particularly because a gentleman was expected to kiss a lady’s hand upon first meeting. Bird writes:
When offered a gloved hand at a ball in Philadelphia, Lafayette “murmur[ed] a few graceful words to the effect that he did not care to kiss himself, he [then] made a very low bow, and the lady passed on.”
The Smithsonian will exhibit the Lafayette glove, along with other notable souvenirs (a piece of the Bastille and FDR’s 1934 birthday cake) in the National Museum of American History through August 2014.
TODAY IN SLATE
Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem
Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology.
I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough
So they added a little self-immolation.
Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
- ESPN Story Alleges Ravens, NFL Are Scapegoating Ray Rice in Coverup
- Dean of Islamic Studies at University of Karachi is Murdered Amid "Blasphemy" Allegations
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.