Lafayette Collection at Methodist University to Receive Significant Donation from Alumnus

On Monday, Aug. 15, Methodist University alumnus Gene Dillman will deliver more than $40,000 worth of artifacts to the Lafayette Collection at Methodist University. These Lafayette items date from 1792 to 1834, and a significant number relate to his 1824-1825 tour of the United States.

Gilbert du Motier Lafayette, better known as the Marquis de La Fayette or General Lafayette, arrived on American shores in 1777 as a 19-year-old French idealist eager to join the cause of liberty. He became a Revolutionary War hero as a major general and was like an adopted son to George Washington. Forty years later, President Monroe invited him to return as a "Guest of the Nation" and he was heartily welcomed on his Grand Tour of all the states in 1824-1825.

To capitalize on his American visit, craftsmen and manufacturers sold ceramic bowls and pitchers, cups, scarves, ribbons, and many other items bearing Lafayette’s image, much like the "merchandizing" of sports heroes and rock stars today. Having some of these items in the Lafayette Collection at Methodist University creates a tangible link from Lafayette to the city of Fayetteville – the first town in the United States named for him and the only namesake city that he ever visited.

Dillman, a dealer in political memorabilia, has been scouring the market for Lafayette items for years.

"Lafayette is an important personality in both American and French history," he said. "Methodist University decided long ago to create an environment to tell the Lafayette story. I knew I could help tell this story by finding and acquiring Lafayette artifacts made and used during his lifetime…(and) I found myself in an ideal position to acquire these artifacts. As a member of the ninth graduating class of Methodist University, I’m gratified to be able to give back in such a unique way."

This current donation follows Dillman’s 2014 gift of a smaller collection of period snuff boxes, tableware, and hat ribbons. Methodist University’s Lafayette Collection dates to 1967, when Margaret McMahan, a local Lafayette scholar, persuaded the school to purchase a collection of letters, monographs, and realia related to Lafayette.

"Methodist University is extremely excited about this most recent gift to the Lafayette Collection," said University President Dr. Ben Hancock. "This collection has grown into a significant resource for our campus and community, and it is through the generosity of Gene and other donors that we have developed this center of excellence."

This year’s donations from Dillman will be unveiled at the "Arias and Artifacts" program at Methodist University’s Davis Memorial Library as part of the annual Lafayette Birthday Celebration on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, starting at 5:30 p.m. This will be followed at 7 p.m. by a short concert of French music at Hensdale Chapel. The complete Lafayette collection is also open to the public by appointment. For more information contact Arleen Fields, Archives Librarian, at 910.630.7412 or afields@methodist.edu.

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