kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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Tall Ships and History

So the Tall Ships came to Philadelphia last week. One of them was a French ship named L'Hermione which is a recreation of one of the ships that belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette, who, if you remember your American History, arrived in the colonies in 1777 and proceeded to save our bacon from the English with all his tactics and genius. He was 19 years old at the time and wildly popular with ... everybody. L'Hermione (the recreation of it) took 17 years to build, with the express purpose of sailing from France to America to deliver us Lafayette -- or at least someone playing Lafayette.

trillian_stars who is in on the ground floor of these things, told me that her friend, John Lopes, who plays General Washington was taking Layafette out for dinner after the arrived in Philly and they did their thing on the tall ships. SWEET BARKING CHEESE! HOW DO WE INVITE OURSELVES TO THIS?!? I wanted to know. I seriously wanted to be a fly on the wall of conversations between learned scholars who spent their lives figuring out what Washington and Layafette would have said to one another.

And, since Washington and Elizabeth Powel were BFF's (According to historian Richard Beeman: "there was certainly no one in Philadelphia… whose company Washington enjoyed more" than Elizabeth Powel") and I knew Eliza Powel (or at least the woman who plays her on TV) I thought it would be nice to get them all over to the Powel house (which still exists as a museum) and photograph something that might have happened right around this time in 1777 and then, you know, casually suggest that since we had such a good time taking photos that I should get to go along for dinner..... Which left convincing the Powel House that they should let us in for 20 minutes after hours and that I'd be really fast and that I wouldn't break anything and that I'd send them copies of the photos after. (One of the big lessons I learned from Mary Ellen Mark is that photography isn't about f-stops and shutter speeds, it's about being able to talk to people. It doesn't matter how great a camera you have if you can't talk a historical landmark into staying open late so you can bring some people in costume in to use their museum as a set.) The Powel house was super nice about it and they sent someone to let us in and we did some quick photos. The best part was that they all talked like they would have talked had they been in that situation, so the Marquis told a very funny story about Marie Antoinette and how she stopped a ball to point and laugh at him because he couldn't dance very well and everybody laughed and I, for a brief moment found myself peering through a hole in time to something that might have happened in that very spot.

(Photo Geekery: I shot this with a Leica M9 and a 35mm f1.7 lens using all available light, plus the skills that I picked up from Mary Ellen.)

Then we all went out to National Mechanics and met some of the crew of L'Hermione who didn't speak English (but Layafette did of course) and had a splendid time.

That was our Friday. How was yours?

Layafette plots with General Washingon. Mrs. Powel enters the room.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette,
The 19 year old Major General with no troops or battle experience, won over not just
General Washington, but Hamilton, Jefferson, and all of Philadelphia society.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Layafette, Elizabeth Powel and General Washington.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

The Powel's ballroom, which celebrated all of Philadelphia society, exists as it did in 1777.
Something very much like this probably actually happened.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Spying on the Chew family who lived next door.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Behind the scenes photo by Mickey Herr from Philadelphia Landmarks
who was kind enough to let us into the museum.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

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