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Distinguished Speakers Series

About the Series

The Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the second season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2015 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to American history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests and answer questions from the audience. All programs will be held at South Carolina Society Hall.

Spring Series

February through
April at 6:30pm.

Fall Series

September through
November at 6:30pm.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.
The 2015 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.
Francis Marion Hotel


For more information about Drayton Hall’s Distinguished Speakers Series, including
sponsorship opportunities, please contact Tara White, development events coordinator,
at 843-769-2627 or twhite@draytonhall.org


Join us! Become a member
of Drayton Hall now.

Spring 2015 Speakers

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February 19, 2015

Charles H. Drayton, III

Charles H. Drayton, III

George W. McDaniel, Ph. D.,
Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

Memories and Meanings: Reflections on Drayton Hall
by Charles H. Drayton, III, and Other Descendants

In 1974 Charles and Frank Drayton momentously decided to sell Drayton Hall to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and State of South Carolina after seven succeeding generations of ownership by the Drayton family. What prompted them to do so? What are Charles Drayton’s present thoughts about that fateful decision? What are the thoughts of other descendants, both from the Drayton family and from the African American community whose ancestors had also lived there for generations? How does its preservation factor into their family’s lives today? What does Drayton Hall mean to younger generations? This session will help answer such questions by featuring Charles Drayton, now 96 years old, three of his grandchildren, Charles Heyward Drayton, Greg Osteen Joseph, and Shelby Nelson, and his nephew, Frank B. Drayton. Joining them will be descendants, Rebecca Brown Campbell, Catherine Brown Braxton, and Annie Brown Meyers, whose ancestors, according to their family’s oral history, came to the Carolina colony as slaves with the Draytons from Barbados in the 1670s. Together, these descendants represent over three centuries of Charleston’s history, enabling this session to connect the past and the present.

Moderated by George W. McDaniel, president and executive director of Drayton Hall, the session will feature a brief video of oral histories with descendants, filmed by Emmy-Award-winning videographer and volunteer, Jay Millard, a part-time Charleston resident. The session will also provide ample opportunities for the audience to ask questions of the descendants and hear what memories they have of Drayton Hall and what its preservation means to them.

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March 26, 2015

Libby O'Connell, Ph.D.

Libby O’Connell, Ph.D.,
The History Channel and A&E Networks

From the Charleston Table to the American Plate:
Looking at Foodways, South and North

Libby O’Connell is an Emmy-award winning producer, preservationist, and cultural historian. She serves as the Chief Historian for HISTORY and Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for A+E Networks, overseeing corporate and educational outreach for networks including HISTORY, A&E, H2, and FYI. She is also the executive-producer of on-site films for organizations such as the Smithsonian, Ellis Island, and Gettysburg. She has received three EMMYS for her work in television, and appears on national TV as a guest commentator. Dr. O’Connell received her M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from the University of Virginia after graduating from Tufts University magna cum laude. She serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, National History Day, as well as being a White House appointed commissioner with the United States World War I Centennial Commission. ​ Dr. O’Connell also has a strong affinity for Drayton Hall, as she secured support from HISTORY to produce the award-winning interactive DVD tour of Drayton Hall’s landscape, The Voices of Drayton Hall, and served as its executive producer.

Published in 2014, Dr. O’Connell’s most recent book, The American Plate: A History of the United States in 100 Bites, examines American history from the perspective of its food traditions. In her presentation, Dr. O’Connell will draw from this book and examine the interrelationships between Charleston and American cuisine, while highlighting their changes over time. To illustrate her message, she will utilize historical recipes and images from around the country, including materials from Drayton Hall’s archives.

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April 16, 2015

S. Max Edelson

Brian Jordan, Ph.D.,
Gettysburg College

Marching Home: Union and Confederate
Veterans and Their Unending Civil War

Lecturer of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College, Brian Matthew Jordan is a cultural historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction. His work considers the manifestation of the Civil War in the lives of its veterans, post war. Dr. Jordan holds a Ph.D. in History from Yale University, and his dissertation earned both the George Washington Egleston Prize and the John Addison Porter Prize. The author of numerous articles, essays, and reviews in scholarly journals and popular magazines, his most recent book is Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War (Liveright/W.W. Norton). Dr. Jordan serves as Book Review Editor for The Civil War Monitor. His next work focuses on the life of Benjamin Butler, the architect of Union emancipation policies and an important advocate for African-American civil rights during Reconstruction.

Dr. Jordan’s presentation compares the experiences of Union and Confederate veterans after the Civil War, revealing startling conclusions. For the men who fought it, the Civil War did not end at Appomattox. Through his research, Dr. Jordan explores how Union and Confederate veterans returned to civilian life, while wrestling with the meaning of their participation in the nation’s defining conflict for the rest of their lives. An interesting component of his presentation will be a discussion of the beliefs and actions of Drayton family members, before and after the war, and the mysteries still lingering today.

Fall 2015 Speakers

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September 17, 2015

Stephen Wood

Stephen Wood

Carter C. Hudgins, Ph.D.,
Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

Preserving the Past, Preparing the Future:
Celebrating Ten Years of Wood Family Fellows
at Drayton Hall

One of the most significant contributions to the initiatives of Drayton Hall has been the establishment of the Wood Family Fellowship. Created by Anthony C. Wood in 2005 in honor of his parents Leonard and Tanya Wood, and in memory his brother Stephen Wood, the Wood Family Fellowship has dramatically increased the scholarship and stewardship of Drayton Hall and associated resources. By design, the Fellowship is intended to foster the care and research of Drayton Hall while providing guidance and inspiration to rising scholars in the fields of history, historic preservation, archaeology, anthropology, decorative arts, and architectural history. Such an experience continues to lend to the advancement of Drayton Hall as past Fellows Carter C. Hudgins, Sarah Stroud Clarke, and Trish Smith presently serve as the site's Deputy Director, Archaeologist and Curator of Collections, and Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, respectively. These three former Fellows will join Drayton Hall Preservation Trust Board Member Anthony C. Wood to celebrate ten years of success with an eye towards the future of the program.

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October 15, 2015

Suzanne F. Hood

Suzanne F. Hood,
Colonial Williamsburg

China of the Most Fashionable Sort:
Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

Suzanne Findlen Hood is the curator of ceramics and glass at Colonial Williamsburg. Ms. Hood holds a B.A. in history from Wheaton College in Massachusetts and an M.A. from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and the University of Delaware. Prior to her arrival at Colonial Williamsburg in 2002, Ms. Hood was employed at The Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her research focuses on ceramics owned and used in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America with a particular emphasis on archaeological ceramics, Chinese export porcelain, salt-glazed stoneware, and British pottery. Ms. Hood is co-author with Janine Skerry of Salt-Glazed Stoneware in Early America, winner of the American Ceramic Circle Book Award for 2009. Her most recent exhibition, China of the Most Fashionable Sort: Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America, is currently on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg.

Ms. Hood’s presentation of the same title will show how a decorative arts perspective broadens the stories archaeology can tell by highlighting one of the largest groups of artifacts recovered from Colonial America archaeological sites: Chinese Export Porcelain. First crossing the Atlantic with the settlers at Jamestown, this porcelain was a valuable commodity that served not only as a symbol of the society the settlers had left behind, but of the wealth and status of those who owned them. Ms. Hood will extrapolate archaeological evidence to bring complexity and nuance to the curatorial understanding of the Chinese porcelain that was present in the Colonial South. Within this context, she will include Charlestonian examples of pre-Drayton and Drayton owned pieces, which are now housed in the Drayton Hall Museum Collections as well as private collections.

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November 19, 2015

Cary Carson

Cary Carson, Ph.D., Colonial Williamsburg, retired

All Dressed Up, But No Place To Go

Cary Carson served as the Vice President for Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation until his retirement in 2006. He received his professional training in early modern British and colonial American history from Harvard University and in American decorative arts, architecture, and material culture from the Winterthur Museum Program at the University of Delaware. As Colonial Williamsburg’s chief historian from 1976 to 2006, he was the principal author of three interpretive master plans and was deeply involved in the Foundation’s many restorations, reconstructions, exhibitions, and publications. Among the latter, Mr. Carson contributed to and co-edited The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg. His written work focuses on the social history of colonial America and early modern Britain, Americans' addiction to consumer goods, and the role that history museums play—or should play—in public education. He has served for many years on the National Historic Landmarks advisory board. Currently Mr. Carson divides his life between Williamsburg, Virginia, and The Hague, Netherlands.

Dr. Carson’s presentation will examine the extraordinary archaeological discovery of three of Colonial Virginia’s most lavish structures: Green Spring (ca. 1660), Fairfield (1694), and Corotoman (1726). Respectively built by a trio of the colony’s highest grandees, Sir William Berkeley, Lewis Burwell II, and Robert “King” Carter, scholars concluded that these buildings were over-the-top, eye-popping, plantation houses, similar to the colonial stature of Drayton Hall (ca. 1738). However, none of these Virginian elites resided in their grandiose mansions, choosing rather to live in the smaller houses they had been occupying for decades. This fact then begs the question: was there a different purpose for these extravagant, brand-new structures? Dr. Carson answers the mystery through the introduction of the FFV’s amazing FPPs, the First Families of Virginia’s newly re-discovered, heretofore unsuspected, but indisputably Fabulous Pleasure Palaces.


The mission of The Chipstone Foundation is to promote and enhance appreciation and knowledge of American material culture (emphasizing the decorative arts) by scholars, students and the general public. For more information, visit www.chipstone.org.

Location & Directions

all programs will be held at

South Carolina Society Hall

72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Ample on-street parking available; please click here for directions.

south carolina society hall was designed by Gabriel Manigault and built between 1799 and 1804; its portico, designed by Frederick Wesner, was added in 1825. Read more about its history and purpose.

Distinguished Speakers Series Archive

2014 Speakers

Click on the images below to watch videos of each Distinguished Speaker’s presentation.

  • February 20, 2014

    Michael Jarvis

    Shaftesbury, Bermuda, and the Settlement
    of Carolina, or the Other Important
    B-island in South Carolina’s History

  • March 20, 2014

    Mary Beth Norton

    Beyond Boston: The Fate of the
    Seven Tea Ships of 1773

  • April 17, 2014

    S. Max Edelson

    Mapping Carolina: Cartography and the
    Quest for Empire in the Colonial Southeast

  • September 18, 2014

    Ronald L. Hurst

    A Rich and Varied Culture:
    The Material World of the Early South

  • October 16, 2014

    Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy

    The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire

  • November 20, 2014

    Jill M. Lord

    Improvement of the Americas: The Architecture of Colonial American Libraries

Drayton Hall, view from portico, black and white

About Drayton Hall

Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Through archaeological investigations and ongoing research and study, Drayton Hall has developed a significant collection of 18th- and 19th-century decorative arts and artifacts that is awaiting future facilities. Included is the most significant piece of furniture in Drayton Hall’s collection: a rare, British-made bureau-bookcase, c. 1745. Considered one of the finest examples of furniture to survive from colonial America, it is now on exhibit along with 26 other Drayton Hall collections objects at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg.

Learn more about becoming a member on the Friends of Drayton Hall.

Drayton Hall bureau bookcase, black and white