On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the American Revolution, the marquis de Lafayette embarked on a tour of the United States, returning for a final time to the country he helped establish and whose republican form of government he saw as a model for the rest of the world. In August 1824, Lafayette sailed into New York Harbor, beginning a thirteen-month tour of the United States that took the Frenchman to all twenty-four states of the union and the federal city of Washington. He was celebrated in each city and town, and the routes along the way, with processions, banquets and receptions, worship services, and visits to important sites—along with a flood of souvenirs that met the intense demand for a memento of the French hero.

Lafayette is back! The marquis was seen recently in Washington, D.C., commenting on how his adopted country has changed. See what he thinks in this short video (02:26).

Lafayette’s farewell tour highlighted the country’s revolutionary ideals and origins for a new generation. To Americans in the 1820s, Lafayette represented the French alliance that helped to win American independence and the soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War, providing a personal link to George Washington and other founders of the nation. His farewell tour revived an interest in and appreciation for the Revolution, its ideals and its veterans in popular American culture. It celebrated the United States’ ongoing experiment in democracy, while exposing ways in which the ideals of the Declaration of Independence had not been fully applied in America, as Lafayette argued for an end to slavery and an expansion of civil rights for all citizens. Two hundred years after he last set foot in the United States, Lafayette remains a symbol of French-American friendship, universal liberty and patriotic service.

Through more than fifty objects, Fete Lafayette explores Lafayette’s farewell tour of the United States in 1824-1825, how it highlighted the Frenchman’s contributions to its creation and vision for its future, and the tour’s role in highlighting the country’s revolutionary ideals for a new era. Drawn from the collections of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati and of several important lenders, highlights of the exhibition include a mezzotint engraving of Lafayette by the noted American artist Charles Willson Peale; letters between Lafayette, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other notable figures in the United States and France; first-hand accounts of Lafayette’s farewell tour and ceramics, silver, medals and other artifacts used to celebrate it; and sculpture, textiles and other objects showing Lafayette’s legacy since his death in 1834.


Special thanks to the top supporters of this exhibition:


Americana Corner  •  Kate W. Carr  •  Hannah C. Cox  •  Randall Alan Hammond and Andrew James Thomas  •  Jennifer B. London, Ph.D.  •  Lucy S. Rhame  •  Mrs. William H. Savage  •  The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire


Anonymous Donor  •  Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Georgia

View the full list of supporters here.

Related Programs

Join us for a series of lectures, object talks, and other programs exploring Lafayette’s life and legacy and the importance of his 1824-1825 farewell tour.

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This exhibition is only possible through the support of generous philanthrophy. To support this museum exhibition, please click below to make a tax-deductible donation to the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, Inc.

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