A historic interpreter on an adventurous journey.
If you see a tall, distinguished looking gentleman in a tri-corner hat walking around the Old State House on The Green, be sure to stop and greet Col. Allen McLane, one of Delaware’s unsung patriot heroes. He’ll be happy to talk to you.
It won’t actually be McLane of course -- he died in 1829 -- but instead, it will be his alter-ego, historic interpreter Tom Welch. He’s researched so much about McLane, you might as well be talking to the man himself.
“Since 2007 when I was hired as a historical interpreter at the Old State House, I have been on an adventurous journey,” he said.
Armed with a degree in history, the Tennessee native began his career teaching civics and eventually worked his way into counseling and administrative duties at schools including Dover High School and Wesley College. The last 13 years of his career was spent as a financial advisor, but all along the way, he retained his love -- his passion -- for things historical.
In his work, he was afforded the opportunity to read about great Americans, travel to historic sites and do research in museums, archives and at historic societies.
From that background, he’s developed programs presented at the Old State House and other venues including “Founding Fathers and Mothers,” which concluded in April. The series examined the relationships between Revolutionary War figures and their spouses.
McLane’s life and career has particular fascination for Welch: the Smyrna resident kept the Continental Army supplied with food, served as a scout and raider, sometimes in disguise, and even suspected Benedict Arnold’s treachery.
He and several others have collaborated in a 2014 book, “Allen McLane - Patriot, Soldier, Spy, Port Collector.”
Why have you dedicated so much time to the McLane saga and other areas of historic interest?
There’s my desire to bring history with all of its lessons of the past and its many applications to learning about our modern-day national situation. There is so much from our history that could help us as a nation to better deal with our problems of today. “The Founding Fathers and Mothers” has pointed out so many parallels from the founding period that provide lessons on how to deal with the modern era.
You’ve said you want to help Americans recover from what you call “an epidemic of historical illiteracy.” How can that be done?
There are trends that encourage me: the availability of a wide variety of documents online that can bring early writings into our living rooms, the number of biographies and the unbelievable impact the musical “Hamilton” has had on the national awareness - not only of Alexander Hamilton but the founding period and history in general.
You’ve read many books about historic figures. What was the biggest challenge in writing one?
Deciding what to leave out. Whenever I thought I’d found that last bit of information, I’d uncover another nugget. McLane was so multi-faceted, it was overwhelming.