Recent Posts

Categories

Archive

More >

Recent Comments

  • Mount Vernon Contributor: “Lori, You can explore Washington’s Library on LibraryThing! Here’s the...”
  • rohrbachlibrary.wordpress.com: “Good day! Would youu mind if I share your blog with my myyspace group?...”
  • F. Leeper: “Didn’t he read from the Bible often?”
  • Diana Welsh: “So neat! I wish I could have watched this being done.”
  • Lori Gibson: “Do you have the list of books Washington read & referred to ? At least the four in the picture?”

Archive for December, 2012

December 27, 2012

Object Spotlight, Party Edition: Drinking Punch with the Washingtons

by

Christmas was an especially busy and festive time in the Mount Vernon household. George and Martha Washington welcomed dozens of visitors into their home in December, serving elaborate dinners and a variety of cheerful libations to celebrate the season.

One staple of eighteenth-century social gatherings was punch, a drink commonly made from a mixture of spirits, lemon or lime juice, sugar, nutmeg, and other spices. Typical recipes used rum or arrack, a raw liquor imported from Batavia. Punch was not usually served at formal dinners, but rather in more casual settings between or after meals, enlivening conversations in the parlor and surely fueling many heated games of cards.

The preparation and drinking of punch had a specific set of equipment associated with it. The beverage was typically served in large decorated vessels such as the one pictured above, which is made of Chinese export porcelain and adorned with an eye-catching “tobacco-leaf” pattern, characterized by colorful oversized leaves, bouquets, and pink peonies. Probably dating from between 1750 and 1757, this punch bowl was likely brought to Mount Vernon by Martha Washington from her first marriage with Daniel Parke Custis. Lest anyone worry that a Mount Vernon guest went thirsty, fear not–this enormous vessel held five gallons of punch!

Making punch also required a strainer, which neatly removed remnants of spices and fruit pulp from the potent mixture. This delicate silver strainer was probably ordered from England by Martha Washington’s son, John Parke Custis, when he married Eleanor Calvert in 1774.

A silver ladle and small glass cups with round handles completed the accoutrements associated with punch consumption. A scene with all of these items can be seen in Mount Vernon’s traveling exhibition, Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon, which is currently on view at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.

So as you enjoy a festive cocktail over the holiday season, remember that you are carrying on a great Mount Vernon tradition!

Jessie MacLeod, Assistant Curator

Punch Bowl: Bequest of Ella Mackubin, 1956 [W-1452]

Strainer: Gift of Mary Lee Bowman and Robert E. Lee IV, 1981 [W-2527]

Ladle: Gift of Richard Hayward, 2002 [2002.008]

Punch Glasses: Gift of the Estate of Mary Hurt Irby, 1999 [M-4124, M-4125, M-4126]

Category: George Washington, Martha Washington, Mount Vernon, Object Spotlight

December 20, 2012

Encyclopedia Entry: George Washington and Religion

by

George Washington and Religion

The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington is a new digital history project that allows users to interact and explore primary source materials and objects from the Mount Vernon collection. Entries focus on the totality of Washington’s life and experiences, while also covering the Mount Vernon Estate, its history, and preservation. The encyclopedia includes entries written by Mount Vernon staff and experts, as well as a team of more than thirty outside scholars of history and related fields. Periodically, encyclopedia entries will be highlighted on this blog.

“When studying the religious beliefs of George Washington, it is difficult to make absolute, concrete conclusions,” argues George Tsakiridis, Instructor in Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State. Despite this challenge, Dr. Tsakiridis traces what is known regarding Washington’s relationship to religion. Tsakiridis explains that “In regard to personal spirituality, Washington was generally private about his religious life…. more so than with other aspects of his life.” Further, evidence points to the idea that “Washington was also tolerant of different religious beliefs.” Find out more about this complex and frequently debated issue, read Dr. Tsakiridis’ entry summarizing Washington and religion.

Find out more, by reading the full encyclopedia entry.

Adam D. Shprintzen, Ph.D.
Editor, Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington

Category: Digital Encyclopedia, George Washington

December 6, 2012

Christmas at Mount Vernon

by

Christmas season is well underway here at Mount Vernon and the estate is decked out with a variety of holiday regalia! As you can see from the slideshow above, Christmas trees and poinsettias currently create a festive atmosphere in the Reynolds Museum and Education Center. However, it is interesting to note that neither of these holiday staples would have been featured among George Washington’s Christmas decorations. Read on to find out how Christmas trees and poinsettias became such iconic emblems of the holiday, and to discover one special, historically accurate decoration on display in the Mansion.

Christmas trees currently populate Mount Vernon’s gift shop and various other areas of the Museum and Education Center. Although we now consider these evergreens synonymous with the holiday season, they were not used widely in America until the 19th century. The Christmas tree tradition has its roots in 16th century Germany, and Martin Luther is often credited with the decision to decorate trees with candles. However, most 17th and 18th century Americans considered Christmas trees odd, or even viewed them pagan symbols and thus excluded them from holiday festivities. In fact, the celebration of Christmas in any capacity other than religious devotion was entirely banned by the Puritans in New England.

Poinsettias also would have been absent from the Washington’s Christmas festivities because they were not introduced in the United States until the 19th century. Interestingly, the poinsettia’s famous red flower is not a flower at all, but a special type of leaf called a bract. Poinsettia bracts were extremely popular among the Aztecs, who used them for a variety of cosmetic and practical purposes. The plant derives its common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, who served as America’s first ambassador to Mexico and brought the plant to the United States with him in 1828. Today, the poinsettia’s association with Christmas is probably derived from its interpretation as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, or the celestial body that lead the three magi to the birthplace of Jesus.

Visitors wishing to escape modern holiday flare and instead immerse themselves in a festive 18th century atmosphere will delight in the boughs featured in the Mansion. Boughs of juniper and other evergreens were extremely popular in 18th century England and America, as they served as symbols of eternal life and the notion that a successful harvest would inevitably follow the cold winter. Boughs, such as the one featured in the image above, were also placed above windows and doors to keep out evil spirits and illness. Although there is no documented evidence that these decorations were used at Mount Vernon, it is entirely possible that the Washingtons adopted this tradition, especially given George Washington’s obvious love of the outdoors.

Be sure to check out these and other holiday decorations during your visit to Mount Vernon this holiday season. And don’t forget to stop by and say “Hi” to Aladdin the Christmas Camel!

Brittany Higgs

Category: George Washington

December 4, 2012

Encyclopedia Entry: Edward Everett

by

The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington is a new digital history project that allows users to interact and explore primary source materials and objects from the Mount Vernon collection. Entries focus on the totality of Washington’s life and experiences, while also covering the Mount Vernon Estate, its history, and preservation. The encyclopedia includes entries written by Mount Vernon staff and experts, as well as a team of more than thirty outside scholars of history and related fields. Periodically, encyclopedia entries will be highlighted on this blog.

Prominent abolitionist, governor of Massachusetts, president of Harvard, and the other person besides Abraham Lincoln to speak at Gettysburg; Edward Everett accomplished all of these important historical feats during his lifetime. Perhaps less known, however, is Everett’s key role in the early preservation efforts to save Mount Vernon. Today’s featured entry from the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington explains that through “his lectures and writings, Everett personally raised more than $69,000, greater than one-third of all the funds needed for the Ladies’ Association purchase Mount Vernon.” Equally as important, “Everett’s reputation and name recognition helped lend significant credibility to the fledgling campaign” to save Mount Vernon.

Find out more, by reading the full encyclopedia entry.

Adam D. Shprintzen, Ph.D.
Editor, Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington

Category: Digital Encyclopedia

Subscribe

Subscribe to GWW (What are feeds?)

Portraits in Schools

Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

The response was overwhelming: thousands of schools submitted letters! Along with the portrait, schools received curriculum materials to help explore our first president’s contributions.

Where has George Washington gone back to school? Click here to see!

Related Links