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Running through December, the fall exhibit in Skillman Library’s Special Collections Reading Room explores the ways in which Lafayette College has honored the legacy of the man for whom it is named.

The exhibit opens with the story of how this illustrious name was chosen for the College in December of 1824, while the Marquis de Lafayette was in the midst of his celebrated farewell tour of America. The question of whether Lafayette knew of the existence of his namesake college, which opened just two years before his death, is also explored. Some fairly strong pieces of evidence are presented to suggest that he did, including an original letter to the Marquis from Lafayette College students written in 1832, which has found its way back to the college under remarkable circumstances. Also covered is the reaction in Easton and on College Hill to Lafayette’s death in 1834.

The exhibit looks at the ways the College has used Lafayette’s image through the years, making a dramatic shift from the elder statesman of the farewell tour in the 19th century to the youthful Revolutionary War hero in the 20th. Also highlighted is the history of the College’s exceptional Marquis de Lafayette collections, which include rare books, manuscripts, prints, artifacts, paintings, and sculpture. From the first major collection of manuscripts and prints purchased for the College by New York alumni in 1926, to a Lafayette letter purchased as recently as September 2002, the College has continued to strengthen these holdings and make them available to students and scholars.

Finally, the exhibit takes note of the myriad occasions (centennials, exhibits, symposia) the College has used to celebrate the Marquis de Lafayette and the ways his name continues to live on at Lafayette in such institutions as the Marquis literary magazine, Marquis Scholarships, Marquis Society, and Gilbert’s CafĂ©.

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