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Return to previous pagePast Exhibition

1812: A Nation Emerges

June 15, 2012 through January 27, 2013

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In January 1815 the news radiated across the country: Andrew Jackson had decisively defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans. In a war in which so much had gone wrong for the United States, in which the British had beaten them in almost every land battle and burned their capital, Americans now read and heard about Jackson’s brilliant victory. They reacted with euphoria, celebrating with parades and banquets.

To President James Madison and his contemporaries, the War of 1812 was a completion of what had begun in 1776; the Battle of New Orleans was the last battle of the Revolutionary War. The nation now viewed itself as standing on its own. Two of America’s most enduring national symbols, Uncle Sam and the Star-Spangled Banner, date from this conflict. The original flag which inspired Francis Scott Key during the defense of Baltimore in 1814 is on permanent view in the National Museum of American History.

Through portraits and objects the exhibition will narrate this pivotal event in American history and highlight individuals who influenced events, such as President James Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison, General Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and the powerful Indian leader, Tecumseh.

Beyond American history, this exhibition views the war in its international context and includes portraits of the major British generals who crossed the Atlantic to fight for king and country. The exhibition also follows the stories of slaves, pirates, sailors, artists, architects, Native Americans and women during this time. The exhibition curator is senior historian, Sidney Hart and assistant guest curator, Rachael Penman.

The “1812: A Nation Emerges” book and exhibition are made possible by the generous support of HISTORY® and TD Bank Group. Additional support provided by the Abraham and Virginia Weiss Charitable Trust, Amy and Marc Meadows, and Jack H. Watson Jr. Gifts in kind provided by Ben Zaricor.



Andrew Jackson | Charles Willson Peale (15 Apr 1741 - 22 Feb 1827) | Oil on canvas, 1819 | Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Battle of New Orleans | Dennis Malone Carter (1820 - 1881?) | Oil on canvas, 1856 | The Historic New Orleans Collection, acc. no. 1960.22


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