Discover the stories behind America’s revolutionary past and how they relate to your experiences today by visiting the American Independence Museum.
A tour of the Ladd-Gilman House (c. 1721), a registered National Landmark
property, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Gilman Family
between 1720 and 1820.
Trace the lives of the Gilmans and the course of early
New Hampshire history through key events such as Colonial rebellion against
the British, the move of New Hampshire's capital to Exeter during the Revolution,
the colony's declaration of independence, and the founding of a new nation.
You'll also learn about the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire,
a fraternal civic organization founded in 1783 at our Folsom Tavern.
The highlights of the museum's collections are two original drafts of the
U.S. Constitution (Committee of Style and Committee of Detail) and the Dunlap
Broadside of the Declaration of Independence. Together, these documents are
compelling records of our fledgling country's political beliefs.
items in the collection include letters and documents by General George Washington,
General Henry Knox; and Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant; portraits of George
Washington and other statesmen; furnishings, tableware, silver and decorative
arts from the 18th and 19th centuries; and 18th century weapons and military
The Exhibit Rooms
Exhibit rooms focus on specific areas of interest related to the collections and are examples of period rooms as well as formal exhibits. All rooms in the Ladd-Gilman House honor an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire or their descendants.
- The Gookin Room
introduces visitors to 18th century Exeter, when the town was a bustling, dynamic seaport, and to the Ladd and Gilman families. Panels in the room reveal the history of the house. It is named for Lt. Daniel Gookin of North Hampton, NH who served from 1776 to 1782.
- The Treasury
explains the circumstances that led to the Revolution, including taxation without representation. The NH State Treasury moved to this house in 1775 and Nicholas Gilman Sr. served as State Treasurer during the Revolution when Exeter was the state capital. In subsequent years two of his sons, John and Nathaniel, also served as the State Treasurer.
- The Sullivan Room, named for Major General John Sullivan of Durham, NH, discusses the writing of the Declaration and a reproduction of our Dunlap Broadside is on exhibit. The room contains 18th century furniture and decorative arts. New Hampshire’s John Sullivan rose to the rank of Major General in the Continental Army. He was an aggressive and courageous officer and participated in many of the major battles. In retirement he served in political offices and the ratifying convention.
- The Cilley Room
explains New Hampshire's role in the war, its militia and the Northern Campaign of the Revolution are explored using prints, weaponry and military papers. Colonel Joseph Cilley came from Nottingham, NH, and served in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. General John Stark, who led the New Hampshire regiment to Bunker Hill and also won the Battle of Bennington, is also celebrated in this room. General Stark is most notable today for his words: "Live free or die, death is not the worst of evils."
- The Treat Room
focuses on the creation of the United States Constitution, and copies of our Drafts of the Constitution are on display. The history of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire is also explained and items belonging to original members are on display.
- The Gilman Bedroom
celebrates John Taylor Gilman who served as Governor of New Hampshire for a total of 14 years. See original documents from his terms as Governor and learn about his life as Governor in the home.
- The Webster Room
is used for educational purposes, and also showcases changing exhibitions at the Museum.
- The Jail
shows how the Ladd-Gilman House was furnished when the Society used the space as its clubhouse in the early 1900s, and is named for lore that the room once served as a Jail for the community of Exeter. "Shackles" remain on the floor to this day, but it is more likely they were used to tie down a safe than a person!
Nicholas Gilman, Jr. c. 1815, by Henry Williams Oil on wood Gift of Charles
A. Gilman, Elizabeth Gilman & Mary Gilman
Constitution of the United States
In the collection of the National Archives, Washington, D.C.