Back to All Events

Founder's Day Celebration at the Peale (Baltimore, MD)

Join the staff and celebrants of America's first purpose-built museum in celebrating 202 years! The Peale Museum, now called the Peale Museum for Baltimore History and Architecture, started as "the son" of America's first museum, the Peale Museum (in Philadelphia)

The Peale is the oldest museum building in the United States. It was built by Rembrandt Peale, a member of the first family of American artists. Through their explorations, scientific investigations, and museum displays, the Peale family also contributed greatly to the new nation’s understanding of natural history. Rembrandt commissioned architect Robert Cary Long to design the building—essentially a Federal Period townhouse, with a rear gallery extension.

The museum opened in August 1814. The following month, the British attacked Baltimore in the culmination of their Chesapeake campaign during the War of 1812. Afraid they would burn the city and with it his new museum, as they had the Capitol and the White House in Washington, D. C., Rembrandt, his pregnant wife and their seven children spent the night in the building during the Fort McHenry bombardment, hoping that the British would think it was their residence and spare it. Learn more about the Peales and what the city of Baltimore may have looked likewhen the Peale Museum opened.

The featured exhibit at the opening was the famous skeleton of the mastodon unearthed by Rembrandt’s father, Charles Willson Peale. Also displayed were military artifacts and stuffed birds, animals, and fish. Silhouette portraits were cut in the museum by use of a special face-tracing machine called a physiognotrace - the new portrait gadget of the era! 

In 1816, Rembrandt Peale illuminated one of his painting galleries with a “magic ring” of pearls of light—carbureted hydrogen gas. That same year he established, with a group of investors, the Gas Light Company of Baltimore. The first commercial gas light company in America, it grew into the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company and Constellation Energy, now Exelon. Learn about Baltimore in 1814-1815.

The Founder's Day event celebrates the founding of the Peale, opened as a Museum and Gallery of Fine Art by artist Rembrandt Peale on August 15, 1814, with 5 days of tours, talks, film, silhouette cutting, song, storytelling, poetry, garden parties, a makers’ market, food, drink and more from August 15-19, 2018. Celebration also includes on the restoration and recreation of the Peale’s historic ca. 1815 gas lights inside the Peale and on its grounds, by BGE gas light engineers and historians.

Silhouette portraiture will take place at 6pm, with your artist Lauren in full 1815 clothing, celebrating and discussing life (and silhouettes) in the early Baltimore.