The Museum of the American Revolution, home to George Washington’s restored field tent and many other war artifacts, has received approximately $50 million from the estate of its founding chairman, HF Lenfest, who was known as Gerry.
The museum announced the donation Tuesday, marking the fifth anniversary of the museum’s opening and the 247th anniversary of the “shot around the world heard” in Concord, Massachusetts, which kicked off the revolution. The funds will be allocated to the museum’s endowment, which was previously worth $47 million.
Lenfest, the museum’s founder, died in 2018. R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s president and chief executive, said in a statement that the museum is “deeply grateful” to the Lenfest family.
“Gerry understood the critical role that strong endowment plays in the financial stability of a nonprofit like ours,” Stephenson said. “As we celebrate our fifth anniversary and look forward to the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding in 2026, this extraordinary gift will strengthen our ability to ensure the promise of the American Revolution lasts.”
The $50 million is the largest gift in the history of the museum, although Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite Lenfest, donated more than $60 million to the museum during his lifetime. The museum building was dedicated to the couple in 2016 and is named after them.
The museum is located in historic Philadelphia, a few blocks from Independence Hall (where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were discussed and passed) and across the street from Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States. Opened in 2017, it was built with over $150 million in mostly private donations.
About 500 objects — many from the Valley Forge Historical Society — are on display, including bronze reliefs of Washington crossing Delaware and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as well as what is believed to be the only known wartime depiction of Washington’s tent by a witness. (That person happened to be Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Washington’s future planner.)
While the museum holds on to some of the ancient heroic story, it also recognizes the imperfect history surrounding the nation’s founding.
For example, the museum’s ability to play the part of the common man has been noted, as in a live-action film in which a mob takes down an equestrian statue of King George III (which once stood on Bowling Green in lower Manhattan).
Tableaux and galleries, too, make it clear that “freedom” did not mean the same to everyone – including enslaved African Americans, Native Americans, and other marginalized people.
The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, founded by Lenfest in 2016, announced Tuesday that it would also receive approximately $50 million from Lenfest’s estate. That funding will help “build a viable future for local, public journalism in Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania, and across the country.”