David Gymburch Staff Writer
The Oneida Indian Nation today announced a $10 million donation to support construction of The Museum of the American Revolution, to be built in Philadelphia’s historic district with a projected opening in late 2015. The Oneidas supported American colonists during the Revolutionary War.
The donation was presented in Washington, D.C. by Nation Representative Ray Halbritter to H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, chairman of the American Revolution Center which is raising money to build the 110,000-square-foot museum, and Michael C. Quinn, president and CEO of the center.
The center, a nonprofit and non-partisan group, seeks to raise $150 million overall for the museum, said the Associated Press. Lenfest, a Philadelphia media magnate, said last month that if the museum can raise $40 million he would match it.
The Oneida Nation’s gift was made "in part to recognize the little known, but extraordinary role the Oneidas played in the Revolutionary War," according to a Nation announcement. The Oneidas were among the few American Indian nations to join forces with the Continental Army.
"The contributions and tremendous sacrifices of the Oneida people as America’s first ally in the Revolutionary War resulted in an ongoing friendship and treaty relationship between the Oneida Nation and the United States for more than two centuries," Halbritter said in a statement. "Our commitment to the American Revolution Center furthers that friendship and ensures that the resilience displayed together by America’s founding fathers and the Oneida people continue to serve as inspiration to everyone who wishes to understand the shared history of the Oneida Nation and America."
Lenfest, who said the Oneida Nation is being acknowledged as a founder of the museum, remarked that the donation announcement will "expand Americans’ awareness of the ethnic and religious diversity of those who were part of establishing our nation during the American Revolution." Quinn said the Nation has "again stepped forward to support the the spirit of the American Revolution" as it did more than 200 years ago, adding that the $10 million donation "will help match Gerry Lenfest’s $40 million challenge" to construct the museum.
To be built at 3rd and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia, the museum will house original artifacts, manuscripts, rare books and works of art owned by The American Revolution Center. It will "tell the full story of the American Revolution and explore its ongoing legacy, providing context to the many regional museums that present elements of our nation’s founding era," said the Nation. The museum’s future home is located steps from the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Carpenter’s Hall, the AP said.
Among about 3,000 artifacts, said the AP, are various muskets and rifles, textiles, cups and canteens, plus art, books, periodicals and manuscripts. The item that began the collection will be a highlight of the museum: Gen. George Washington’s sleeping and office tent. The 20-foot-long canvas marquee — a little like an outdoor Oval Office — was purchased in 1909 from Mary Custis Lee, Martha Washington’s great-great-granddaughter.
The collection was started by the Rev. W. Herbert Burk, an Episcopal minister and George Washington enthusiast who founded the Valley Forge Historical Society in the early 1900s, the predecessor of the American Revolution Center.