‘The first Oval Office’: Museum will showcase Washington’s Revolutionary War tent

General George Washington's Revolutionary War field tent on display at the Museum of the American Revolution (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution).

General George Washington’s Revolutionary War field tent on display at the Museum of the American Revolution (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution).

A stunning artifact from the Revolutionary War – General George Washington’s field tent – will go on display when the Museum of the American Revolution opens its doors in April.

Dubbed “the first Oval Office,” the canvas tent will be the cornerstone of the Philadelphia-based Museum’s collection of approximately 3,000 Revolutionary War-era artifacts.

The museum’s opening on April 19 will be the first time in decades that the tent has been on public display.

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An iconic piece of U.S. history, the tent was likely made in Reading, Pennsylvania in early 1778 when Washington was camped at Valley Forge, according to the Museum. Deployed as a mobile field headquarters, the tent was used during many of the Revolutionary War’s key moments, such as the Siege of Yorktown, the war’s last major battle.

The Museum told Fox News that it obtained the tent when it acquired the Burk collection of Revolutionary War artifacts in 2003. In 1909 the Reverend Herbert Burk, an Episcopal priest in Valley Forge, purchased the tent for $5,000 from Mary Custis Lee, a descendant of Martha Washington. Burk, who wanted to create a museum dedicated to the nation’s founding, raised the tent’s purchase price from ordinary Americans.

Preparing to display the tent was a major undertaking for the Museum, which wanted to make the structure appear as if it were pitched in a field, but without putting tension on the centuries-old fabric. To solve the problem, structural engineers Keast & Hood designed an umbrella-like aluminum and fabric structure to display the tent.

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To test the structure, the Museum brought in a team of tradespeople from Colonial Williamsburg to build a “stunt double” replica tent. “We used the replica tent on several separate occasions to test the structure, which took varying amounts of time,” explained a spokeswoman for the Museum, in an email to Fox News. “The installation of the actual tent took four days.”

Underlining the tent’s historical importance, the structure is situated in a dedicated 100-seat theater when the Museum opens to the public.

“A commander-in-chief needs a quiet place to think, and this tent was Washington’s only private space throughout much of the Revolutionary War,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, the Museum’s vice president of collections exhibitions, and programming, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “When I started to read about how Washington would use this tent, the images that popped into my head were very familiar ones: images of John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Bush after 9/11. Thinking about the hard decisions that leaders have to make — and the emotions they must feel —  confirmed to me that this tent really did fulfill the role of the ‘First Oval Office.’ The decisions he made there would change the course of history.”

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The tent was last displayed “several decades ago” at Valley Forge National Historical Park, according to the Museum of the American Revolution.

Other Revolutionary War artifacts that will be on show at the Museum include a rare bible from the battle of Bunker Hill. The King James Bible is inscribed by American soldier Francis Merrifield, who thanks God for sparing his life in the bloody 1775 battle.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers