Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Magna Carta at Fraunces Tavern Museum, New York City

Fraunces Tavern Museum is located at 54 Pearl Street, in lower Manhattan. The building, which dates back to 1719, was the place where George Washington bid farewell to his officers upon retiring his command of the Continental Army after the American Revolutionary War on December 4. 1783. After the war, when New York was the nation’s first capital, the tavern was rented to the new government to house the offices of the Departments of War, Treasury and Foreign Affairs. It presently holds both restaurants and a museum.

When the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, announced that one of the four original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, would be displayed from September 15 through December 15, 2009 at the historic Fraunces Tavern Museum, as part of an exhibit called the "Magna Carta and the Foundations of Freedom," I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to view one of the most important documents ever written and I visited the exhibit on Tuesday to see it.
One of four copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, the document traveled from its location in Lincoln Cathedral, which is located in Lincoln, in the middle of Lincolnshire in the East of England. The Magna Carta has played a significant role in framing legal and democratic structures, including helping to shape the Constitution of the United States of America.
In 1215, in the fields of Runnymede, English barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which is Latin for "Great Charter," to limit the monarch's power after a series of abuses. It resulted in this wide-ranging document that set lasting precedents such as trial by jury, representative government, and freedom of the church, and became the basis of human rights law and, eventually, of the U.S. government. A wonderful in depth analysis of the influence the Magna Carta had on our founding fathers can be read at this National Achieve link. An English translation from the original Latin can be read at this link.


There was no photography allowed in the museum, but a view of one of the copies of the Magna Carta documents on exhibit at The National Archives in Washington. DC can be seen at this link. The Magna Carta was displayed in a new, $70,000 vacuum-sealed display case similar to the one in the photograph above. An interesting story about how it was transported to the United States for this exhibit can be read on this New York Times page.

A major part of the Fraunces Tavern Museum collection is from the Revolutionary War period, and includes weapons, documents, and historic relics such as a lock of Washington's hair and one of his false teeth. The Long Room in the museum, as seen in the historical placard above, is the location where George Washington gave his emotional speech to his officers before retiring to his home in Virginia.

As part of the "Foundations of Freedom" component of the Magna Carta, in an exhibit in the Mesick Gallery, there is a display of great documents of American history which are also very inspiring to see. Among them are:
  1. General George Washington's last minute orders as he leaves for Yorktown

  2. A page of Thomas Newall' war diary of the Battle Of Bunker Hill

  3. Emma Lazarus handwritten ode to the Statue of Liberty entitled "The New Colossus," a portion of which is inscribed on a plaque on the base of the statue

  4. John Hancock's "No Taxation Without Representation" circular protest letter.
  5. A copy of the Declaration of Independence and other documents

The Magna Carta was exhibited briefly in New York at the World’s Fair in 1939, after which it remained safely stored at Fort Knox during World War II. It returned to Lincoln in 1947, and has since visited America for the 1976 Bicentennial, and once again during the 1980’s.

It is now a perfect opportunity to see it again before it returns to England, and I hope if you are a New Yorker, or visiting New York, that you will plan a visit to Frances Tavern to see this historic document that changed the world! Check the museum's web site on how to order tickets.


M.Kate said...

Thanks Pat for letting me have a peek of this important history. happy weekend/hugs.......M

Gracie said...

I was fortunate enough to see one of the four copies in England, 5 years ago, in the Chapter House at Salisbury Cathedral as you might read about it here

dede said...


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful walk through history. Thank you for the post!!
I was looking at the building as I love archetecture.... WOW... it is amazing. The 12 over 12 windows & all the brick work....

CatHerder said...

now THAT is a place i would definately like to visit..i love ANYTHING during colonial times..i marvel at your posts every time..i can not even fathom how many learning opportunities there are so close to my home...we usually trek up to new england for that...even the town i live in is rich in history from those days, we still have a few places still standing that do tours..i need to check it out...thanks PAT!!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'll have to get down there before it leaves. Thanks for letting us know.

staging professionals Toronto said...

Hi. Interesting reading, I wish to be in NYC and have the possibility to see the Magna Carta at Frainces Tavern Museum. I'm little bit fanatic to American history but I haven't been to this museum yet. It's a pity that the photography is not allowed. Anyway, great post.

Good luck,

Vee said...

It's okay that I'll not see've shared it so well with me. How cool for that museum to have so many wonderful treasures. The Magna Carta? Simply amazing and wonderful that it was shared.

Melissa Miller said...

What an interesting place! Loved the tour Pat.

Thanks so much for your sweet visit. It's always good to hear from you. I'm feeling so much better these days I can hardly believe it. I'm grateful.

Many Blessings & Happy Fall!
~Melissa :)

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Love the history lesson Pat! You should write a NYC tour guide book!
Have a great weekend! :)

Jenny said...

Love that architecture. It's so wonderful that you are reminding us that New York is not just slick and hi-rise. I would definitely love to go there.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Visiting you is always so educational! Thanks for a great tour....and a wonderful walk into the past.

Rue said...

Hi Pat :)

How interesting! I wish I could get to NY to see it and YOU.

Thank you for being so understanding about my visiting as of late (or lack there of). There are issues here that I can't get into on my blog, but I do miss coming by. Let's just say it has to do with an ex-wife and her meddling.


Joanne Kennedy said...

Very interesting. I would love to have been able to see it. You are very lucky.

Well, just living in NY is being lucky in my eyes!


Julie said...

Hi, Pat! Thanks for visiting me just a bit ago--I love meeting new people! I love your blog! I've never been to NYC, if you can believe it--love to someday. I have been to Italy, however, and though I'm not married to an Italian, we both have a deep love for all things Italian. I love history, as well, and loved your post about the Tavern and the Magna Carta, which I SO wish I could see--so glad you wrote about it and thanks for the links. I'll be back often to see your vision of New York--thanks again!

Sue said...

Pat, I always feel as if I have learned so much after reading one of your posts! I read your last three today- that's how far behind I am in catching up w/friends. I had no idea that this famous document was in NY at this time! How very lucky for you to have been able to visit the tavern museum to see it. Loved your post on Chelsea and the High Line- now that is very amazing that it has been turned into such a fantastic park area for visitors and NY'ers alike. No wonder NY'ers are so proud of the city. So much to see and do.
hugs, Sue

Sea Witch said...

Pat, thank you for taking us along on this wonderful opportunity to see this glorious document. As children we were first introduced to this amazing document and to have the opportunity to see is a lifetime memory. Sea Witch

Oliag said...

Another great tour! Thanks!

Working on the Dreamer said...

I could quite possibly fall in love with your blog! I am new to the whole blogging thing, but I am so happy that I have started.
I have come across some pretty interesting people and places through this virtual journal, and you are definitely one of those people.
I am so in love with NY and yet, I have only had the fortune of visiting once. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I now can live vicariously through your pictures and words. . .until one day, when I can visit some of these great places myself.

Claudia said...

Remember the Tavern well. How wonderful to have the Magna Carta there. All so wonderfully fitting!

Fifi Flowers said...

I took pictures of the tavern and pictures in front of the tavern... but I've never been in... hmmmm... maybe next trip!

Lorrie said...

Pat I'm so glad you had this unique opportunity to see such an important piece of history. You are alway so good with your photos and explanations--you sure you aren't a school teacher?

Donna said...

Wow, how interesting. I would love to be in NY to see it.


jeanne said...

Hi Pat, thanks for your comment today. I just spent quite some time looking at your High Line post as well as the great story of the museum and the viewing of the Magna Carta. I love you historic posts so much. I hope I will be able to visit these places one day. I loved the one visit my sister's and I took to NY. Enjoy your picnic.

Have a wonderful week.

Hugs xoxo, Jeanne

Tracy @ Comfort and Luxury said...

We saw the Magna Carta exhibit at the Reagan library here in So Cal early this past summer. Very interesting but not nearly as auspicious as viewing it in the same building where George Washington addressed his troops. Wow. Everything here on the west coast is so new by comparison... it hurts my head to think that you walk around amongst all that history every day. Great post, Pat!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that you saw it. There is a copy in Hereford Cathedral. They also have a chained library and the Mappa Mundi.

Thanks for sharing. The document was so needed after the Norman Richard used Britain like his own person piggy bank to raid.

Anonymous said...

My husband was out of town when I discovered your blog, so I sent him the link. He has spend much time in NYC. He sent back this e-mail: I used to be a regular patron of the Fraunces Restaurant on Pearl. It was less of a museum then and mostly restaurant and tavern. I believe it closed for awhile and then reopened. It's about 1 1/2 blocks from NYSE and in those days always busy.

I had no idea.

Now you have two new fans. :)