In December 1824, Frederick County, Maryland, had the honor of hosting a figure of monumental historical significance: the Marquis de Lafayette. 

Let's take a look back at this visit as we approach the 200th anniversary! 


 

Lafayette's 1824 trip to Frederick was part of the Frenchman's grand tour of the United States, a journey that rekindled the spirit of the American Revolution and celebrated the enduring bond between France and the United States. The visit came just as the United States prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution

In December 1824, Frederick's streets, filled with the echoes of its colonial past, provided a welcoming backdrop for Lafayette's reception, encapsulating a moment when history and community pride intersected. 

The Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer, was a key ally to the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. His commitment to the cause of liberty and his instrumental role in securing French support for the American Revolution had already engraved his name in the American history books. 

 

Lafayette during the American RevolutionLafayette during the American Revolution - by Charles Peale (National Park Service) 

Yet, it was his return in 1824, at the age of 67, which reinvigorated the American public's admiration for the hero of their independence.

Lafayette's visit to Frederick, from December 29-31, 1824, was not just a fleeting moment. It was a mega event in the early 19th century that drew crowds from all over Frederick County and the surrounding region to the then humble streets of Frederick, eager to catch a glimpse of the man who had fought alongside George Washington in the American Revolution. 

 

Lafayette in 1825Lafayette in 1825 (National Portrait Gallery)

The town was abuzz with preparations to welcome the distinguished guest. Buildings were adorned with French and American flags, triumphal arches were built at the entrances to town to welcome the aging hero, while streets were lined with excited spectators. All demonstrated the deep affection and respect held for Lafayette.

 

JUG BRIDGE HISTORICAL LAFAYETTE MARKERHistorical marker for Lafayette's visit at Jug Bridge Park near the Frederick Municipal Airport 

On the day of his arrival, Frederick's citizens grandly presented themselves, showcasing the town's rich cultural heritage and its vibrant community spirit. The air was filled with the sound of music and cheers as Lafayette made his way through the town, as a crowd estimated at between 6-8,000 people cheered him on. His presence was a living bridge to the Revolutionary War, allowing a new generation to connect with their nation's formative struggles and triumphs.

During Lafayette’s time in Frederick, he stayed at the impressive home of Colonel John McPherson on Council Street. The impressive home survives today overlooking Frederick's City Hall. 

 

Sign in Downtown Frederick for Lafayette's visit

As part of his visit, Lafayette participated in a presentation at a Masonic lodge and at a public dinner at a tavern in Frederick, where Lafayette drank and enjoyed some of the region’s best-known specialties - Maryland rye whiskey

But the grand ball at the McPherson home on Courthouse Square on the night of December 30, 1824, is what is most remembered. 

From the History of Frederick County published in 1910:


 

"This ball was perhaps the most famous that ever took place in Frederick County. The Misses Creble, two fashionable milliners [dress makers].., were busy day and night for weeks making ball dresses for their customers. They had some French flowers which had been presented to them and which they cultivated with great care... These were worked into headdresses." 

"The costumes... 'were of the gayest yet of the most republican character, the music was soul inspiring, the dancing was good, and refreshments seem to have been ample... all the delicacies that the palate could crave or the appetite enjoy, were served at intervals in great profusion." 

 


The significance of Lafayette's visit to Frederick extended beyond the ceremonial. It served as a reminder of the international bonds that had been crucial to America's birth. 

Lafayette's journey through the United States, with Frederick being a key stop, underscored the enduring friendships that had been formed in the crucible of war. It also highlighted the role of communities like Frederick in the broader narrative of American independence and identity.

 

Lafayette in 1826Lafayette in 1826 (Commissioned by the City of New York) 

The Frenchman and his small party departed Frederick, Maryland on December 31, 1824, and traveled by horse-drawn coach to the nation’s capital at Washington, DC. 

Of his visit to Frederick, Lafayette had this to say: 


 

“The local tranquility which has blessed your delightful valley did not prevent its inhabitants taking a spirited part in the revolutionary and in the last war [War of 1812] and becoming fully entitled to all the advantages of Republican freedom. 

I thank… the good people of Frederick for the gratifying sentiments you have been pleased so kindly to express and for your honorable and affectionate welcome. I rejoice with you on the great improvements in this city and county and beg you all to accept my most grateful respect and patriotic wishes.” 

 


In remembering Lafayette's visit, Frederick County not only pays homage to a pivotal figure in American and French history but also celebrates its role in the storied past of the United States. The memory of December 1824 continues to inspire residents and visitors alike, connecting past and present in a narrative of courage, liberty, and enduring alliances.

As we walk the same streets that Lafayette briefly strolled in December 1824, we're reminded of the deep roots of our shared history and the timeless values that continue to unite us. Frederick, with its rich historical landscape, serves as a caretaker of these memories, inviting all to explore and appreciate the layers of stories that have shaped not just our city and county, but a nation.


 

Visit these sites connected to Lafayette’s 1824 trip to Frederick

 


 

Explore More History in Frederick County