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Archive for the ‘Digital Encyclopedia’ Category

May 29, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: Thomas Jefferson

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Rossiter

Rossiter

George Washington had a complex, constantly evolving relationship with Thomas Jefferson, argues Mary Stockwell the author of today’s featured encyclopedia entry. Though Washington and Jefferson’s relationship grew to be somewhat contentious by the end of Washington’s life, the two were not always at odds personally and politically. Their dedication to the cause of the American Revolution by far proved to provide the most similarities; however, as Stockwell points out they were alike in even more ways. Both were “tall redhead[s] from the middling planter class,” “who raised their social and economic “status by marrying a wealthy widow.” Additionally, “Jefferson considered himself a farmer and spent his life improving his plantations… just as Washington cared for Mount Vernon.”

How and why did the relationship between the two men unravel to the point that Jefferson did not even attend a memorial service following Washington’s death? Stockwell explains that political disagreements over the American response to the French Revolution stood at the center of their ill will.

To learn more about Washington and Jefferson, visit the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

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

Category: Digital Encyclopedia

May 15, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: New York, NY

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GW NYC

“New York City played an important role in the public life of George Washington, spanning the final five decades of the eighteenth century,” argues Michael D. Hattem, doctoral candidate in history at Yale University. Interestingly, Washington both “suffered his worst military defeat and experienced some of his greatest personal triumphs in New York, including the Continental Army’s triumphant re-entry into the city and his inauguration as the first President of the United States.”

Washington’s first visit to New York City occurred in February 1756 when he was on his way to Boston to discuss his military commission with Britain’s military commander in the colonies and the push toward war with France. Seventeen years later, in 1773, Washington returned to New York City, this time to enroll his stepson Jacky at King’s College. En route to Boston once again, to accept his post as the new head of the Continental Army, Washington made his third visit to New York City in 1775.

New York remained a vitally important location of strategic importance throughout the Revolution and Washington suffered a series of significant military defeats that led to British control of the city. While “Washington longed to recapture New York City and avenge his humiliating defeat…he did not return until the British forces evacuated on November 25, 1783.”

To learn more about Washington and New York, visit the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

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

Category: Digital Encyclopedia

May 10, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: Wooden Teeth Myth

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False Teeth

False Teeth

The mythology of wooden teeth remains one of the most widely held misconceptions surrounding George Washington’s life. However, as pointed out by William Etter in today’s featured encyclopedia entry, “While Washington certainly suffered from dental problems and wore multiple sets of dentures composed of a variety of materials–including ivory, gold, and lead–wood was never used in Washington’s dentures nor was it commonly employed by dentists in his era.”

But how did the mythology about Washington’s false teeth become so ingrained within the public’s consciousness? As Etter points out, while the true origin of the myth is difficult to discern, “the standard, and most likely, explanation…is that the ivory employed in the dentures fabricated for Washington by dentist John Greenwood became stained over time, giving them a grained, wooden appearance that misled later observers.”

Etter further argues that the wooden teeth myth “does reflect elements of truth” and remains resonant because it “remains the only myth associated with a major Founder that calls attention to the individual’s physical frailty…serves as a reminder of the genuine struggles Washington experienced as he sacrificed his health in public service.”

To learn more about the Wooden Teeth Myth, visit the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

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

Continue reading Encyclopedia Entry: Wooden Teeth Myth »

Category: Classroom Connections, Digital Encyclopedia

May 1, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: Edward Savage

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Edward Savage’s career was defined by his relationship to George Washington, argues Lydia Mattice Brandt, assistant professor of art history at the University of South Carolina. Remarkably, Savage “painted at least seven portraits of Washington and two of Martha Washington,” including the famed 1798 portrait The Washington Family, the only contemporary painting that showed Washington at Mount Vernon.

Resting on the table in Savage's 1798 portrait of the Washington Family are Pierre Charles L'Enfants's plans for the new Federal City.

Resting on the table in Savage’s 1798 portrait of the Washington Family are Pierre Charles L’Enfants’s plans for the new Federal City.

As described by Brandt, “By depicting Washington dressed in his military uniform surrounded by his family and with his hand resting on evidence of his greatest presidential achievement, The Washington Family echoes the comparison between Washington and the Roman general Cincinnatus so familiar to late eighteenth-century Americans.” In addition to George Washington, the portrait also includes Martha Washington, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis, and George Washington “Washy” Parke Custis congregated around a table at Mount Vernon. Behind the family is an enslaved servant believed to be Washington’s valet, Christopher Sheels.

The East Front of Mount Vernon is one of two views of Mount Vernon that Savage painted between 1787-1792. In this view, The Dove of Peace weathervane is visible atop the mansion cupola.

The East Front of Mount Vernon is one of two views of Mount Vernon that Savage painted between 1787-1792. In this view, The Dove of Peace weathervane is visible atop the mansion cupola.

Savage also famously painted two small canvases of the east and west fronts of the Mount Vernon mansion. These canvases “are the earliest known images of the plantation, were widely exhibited during Savage’s lifetime, and most likely inspired a host of other early views.”

To learn more about Edward Savage, visit the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

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

Continue reading Encyclopedia Entry: Edward Savage »

Category: Digital Encyclopedia

April 25, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: Benjamin Franklin Bache

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Bache

The grandson of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin Bache served as the editor and publisher of the Philadelphia-based newspaper the General Advertiser, known popularly as the Aurora. As described in today’s featured digital encyclopedia entry by Frank Casale, Assistant Professor of History at Morgan State University, Bache was trained in the craft of printing by his famous grandfather. However, as Casale explains, “while Bache did enjoy modest success as a printer, it was as a newspaper man that he became famous.”

George Washington, who was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, was a constant target of Bache’s editorial scorn. As argued by Casale, Bache believed that Washington was “too ready to accept accolades, which lead Bache to fear Washington was assuming aristocratic airs of acting in a tyrannical manner.” In addition, Bache was a supporter of closer French-American relations and “criticized what he perceived as Washington’s hostility to French diplomacy and his overtures towards reconciliation with England.”

Read more about Benjamin Franklin Bache, by visiting the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

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

Category: Digital Encyclopedia

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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!

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