Why The Hermitage Wants President Trump To See A Candle When He Visits

Mar 14, 2017

Curators at the Hermitage hope they'll have time to show President Donald Trump around Andrew Jackson's home when he visits on Wednesday. There's at least one artifact they'd like for him to see: a 230-year-old candle.

Trump has welcomed the comparisons to the populist seventh president, who defied party politics of the day. The president rehung Jackson's portrait, by painter Ralph Earl, in the Oval Office. In fact, Earl was a close friend of Jackson's and was buried at the Hermitage.

Hermitage CEO Howard Kittell says he wants to make sure Trump sees Earl's grave. But he also wants to showcase the relics that were most sentimental to Jackson. One is a candle that President George Washington gave to an officer after the Battle of Yorktown. The gift was passed down to Jackson.

"We have Washington objects that were given to Andrew Jackson because he was seen as the next George Washington," Kittell says. "The candle is probably one of the most humble objects we have. But it was very meaningful to Jackson because it had this Washington connection and it illustrates Jackson's military skills in defeating the British at the Battle of New Orleans."

Kittell also wants to lead Trump through Jackson's library, which became a gathering place of political leaders during his presidency and afterward.

Trump is expected to lay a wreath on Jackson's tomb and make brief remarks to invited guests, who include state legislators and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who made the point in a statement that Trump did not invite her.

A Celebration, Rescheduled

Wednesday is Andrew Jackson's 250th birthday, and the Hermitage planned to premier a new mini-documentary that guests will watch as they arrive. The film includes commentary from NPR's Steve Inskeep, who recently wrote a book on Jackson, and Nashville resident Jon Meacham, whose book on Jackson was published in 2008.

The updated introductory movie was intended to more directly address Jackson's controversial legacy, like owning slaves and signing the Indian Removal Act.

Reporters previewed the film on Tuesday. Guests will start seeing it on Thursday, when the site reopens to the public.