For over half a century The Friends of John Dickinson Mansion have provided support for the State of Delaware's efforts to preserve and maintain the boyhood home of John Dickinson, "The Penman of the Revolution." The house was built by Dickinson's father Samuel in 1740 and remained in the family until the twentieth century when it passed through a series of owners. In 1952 the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Delaware purchased the Mansion and gave it to the State. Realizing the amount of work that would be involved in restoring the house, members of the Colonial Dames and other concerned individuals organized the Friends to lend continuing support to the restoration effort.
The objectives of The Friends as summarized in their Certificate of Incorporation are:
- to furnish financial and advisory assistance to the State of Delaware. . . with respect to the acquisition, repair, restoration, maintenance and utilization of the Mansion, and the collection and dissemination of data and information pertaining to the Mansion and to John Dickinson
- to perpetuate interest in John Dickinson, a founding father and a signer of the Constitution of the United States, and in the Dickinson Mansion located in Kent County, Delaware through the collection and dissemination of information.
Over the years the Friends have undertaken many projects to achieve these goals. In the 1950’s Mr. Henry Francis du Pont, the founder of Winterthur Museum and a member of the Friends, headed the committee that furnished the Mansion. Since that time the Friends have continued to help the State obtain silver and other Dickinson family items for the house. Fortunately, the Friends have often been able to arrange the loan or donation of such pieces.
The financial assistance the Friends have provided has also included funding for additional acreage and landscaping around the Mansion.
The Friends have funded and commissioned research for publications about Dickinson including:
- Milton Flower’s biography, John Dickinson, Conservative Revolutionary (1983)
- Jane E. Calvert's book, Quaker Constitutionalism and the Political Thought of John Dickinson (2009)
- a collection of essays entitled Delaware's John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty (2018)
- a film entitled Peaceful Rebel shown as part of the tour of the Plantation (1989)
- a video/resource packet for distribution to schools for classroom use (1995) and an expanded version viewed on PBS stations (2011)
Each fall the Friends commemorate John Dickinson’s birthday and gather to place a wreath on his grave at the Wilmington Friends Meeting House.
At Christmas they decorate the Mansion for holiday visitors and hold a members’ party.
In June the annual meeting is held at the Mansion with a dinner in Dover, following.
The Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion encourage junior (under 18) as well as adult memberships in the group.
Members of the Friends receive firsthand information about historical, archaeological, and architectural research being carried on in Delaware while
at the same time they are supporting the State’s efforts to preserve one of our National Historic Landmarks.