History of the Collection
Since opening on July 6, 1909, Fort Ticonderoga has amassed one of the largest and most diverse collections of military material culture in North America. The founders of Fort Ticonderoga intended to create, “the finest military museum in America” and sought military and related artifacts of the Colonial and Revolutionary period, at a time when few other institutions were collecting such material.
Fort Ticonderoga’s current holdings represent over a century of targeted development. It is a major collection of objects related to the military culture of the Atlantic World over the “long 18th century” (roughly 1609-1815). The collection is not limited to one nation, theatre, or battle, but broadly documents the early modern military experience with an emphasis on the campaigns in North America.
The collections can be broken into a number of discrete areas by recovery or media:
Fort Ticonderoga maintains one of the richest collections of material related to warfare in northeastern North America in the second half of the 18th century. The manuscript collection is an important source for studying the conflicts that shaped the political and cultural geography of the continent and consists of loose documents, such as letters, receipts, returns, muster rolls, and memoranda as well as bound diaries, journals, orderly and account books. These documents shed light on the daily experiences of soldiers and civilians from France, Great Britain, the United States, and Canada as well as interactions with the language and martial cultures of Native Americans in the wars of the late 18th century.
Fort Ticonderoga’s Library holds a significant collection of rare books related to the art of war and military science ranging from the late 16th century through the mid-19th century from most major printing centers of Europe and America. These titles reflect the broad theoretical underpinning of military operations and production on both sides of the Atlantic. Within the collection are some of the most important works of the era such as Vauban’s Attack and Defense of Fortified Places, Saxe’s Reveries, and Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.
The restoration of Fort Ticonderoga in the early 20th century uncovered thousands of artifacts dating to the military occupation of the site between 1755 and 1781. Professional archaeological excavations through the 20th and 21st centuries have added to the collection. Archaeological materials range from pins and needles to full-sized cannon, from prehistoric Native American tools to Chinese ceramics. Tools, weapons, pottery, glass, cooking equipment, buttons, buckles, and even textile fragments provide a glimpse into the wide range of activities undertaken here by Native American, French, British, German, and American soldiers and civilians in the 18th century.
Clothing and Textiles
Fort Ticonderoga preserves the largest collection of late 18th- and early 19th-century military dress in North America, ranging in date from the 1770s through the 1850s. This includes important garments and accessories worn by regular and militia soldiers from the US, Great Britain, France, and Canada. Additionally, textiles such as flags, knapsacks, blankets, and sashes represent amongst the rarest textiles extant from the 18th century.
From edged weapons to firearms, to artillery, Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of weapons is amongst the largest of its kind on the continent. Representing France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Germany, the United States, and Canada, these weapons track the military history of North America, from Native American stone points to European firearms. The collection not only illustrates changes in weaponry, but also the development of technologies and industrial systems that were used to develop millions of weapons for the wars of the 18th century.
The fine arts collection is a significant holding representing 18th-century military portraits and images by Allan Ramsey, Charles Wilson Peale, Charles Peale Polk, and other notable artists. Important representations of the region include the oldest known painting of Lake George as well as the earliest signed and dated Thomas Cole landscape. The museum also holds a significant collection of paintings owned by the Pell family, who began the preservation of Ticonderoga in the 19th century and founded the museum in the 20th century.
This category includes a wide range of artifacts classified as personal effects that represent the objects that sustained soldiers’ lives from Colonial conflicts through the War of 1812. These include canteens, cartridge pouches, bags, belts, scabbards, and powder horns. Nearly 100 engraved powder horns make this one of the largest public collections of this rare and important form of American folk art.
The museum’s decorative arts collection includes jewelry, including a mourning pendant bearing the hair of George Augustus Viscount Howe, who was killed at Ticonderoga in 1758, as well as Native American jewelry, trade silver, pottery, and beadwork. Commemorative medals and other artifacts memorializemilitary actions and events throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The Pavilion Collection
Built by William Ferris Pell as a summer home in 1826, The Pavilion served as a hotel from much of the 19th century, visited by such guests as Robert Todd Lincoln and Francis Parkman. Stephen and Sarah Pell revived the structure as a private residence in the early 20th century as they began the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga. As director of Fort Ticonderoga, their son John and his wife Pyrma, occupied the house through 1987. The contents of the home constitute a wide-ranging collection of decorative arts from Europe and America from an old American family.
Augmenting the historic material in the museum’s collection is a nearly 25,000 volume research library of secondary and published primary materials. From campaign histories to material culture, periodicals to rare imprints the library is an important resource to contextualize the artifacts and primary material in the rest of the collection.