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Archive for the ‘Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon’ Category

November 7, 2013

Busted! The Reading Room at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington

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Photograph by Mark Finkenstaedt

Enter the Karen Buchwald Wright Reading Room, at the heart of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, and you will be welcomed by busts of George Washington and five of his compatriots, custom-created by StudioEIS for Mount Vernon. Alongside George Washington are his colleagues, and sometimes rivals, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Each man is depicted as he appeared in the mid-1780s, a pivotal time in the establishment of the new republic.

The bust of Washington sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon, as well as other portraiture available to Mount Vernon staff, served as the reference points for the Reading Room’s Washington bust. He is sculpted wearing the simple, American-made, civilian clothing that he wore throughout the majority of his presidency.

Houdon busts of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin also offered rich reference material; however, creating the likeness of John Adams proved a greater challenge as images of him from the 1780s are small in number. To depict a younger Adams, Mount Vernon looked to a Mather Brown painting at the Boston Athenaeum and a John Singleton Copley painting at the Harvard University Portrait Collection to guide the project. Similarly, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, who were just 28 and 34 years of age at the time, proved difficult to render at such young ages.

Reading Room

The busts of the six founders in the Karen Buchwald Wright Reading Room at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington

By design, Hamilton is placed directly next to Washington as a testament to their close relationship, while Franklin, the eldest of the six men, is placed on the left end as if to watch over his younger compatriots. George Washington is purposefully not a spotlight figure, but instead placed among his peers, and tilting his head toward the entrance of the Library to welcome scholars into the space.

Corby O’Connor
Fred W. Smith National Library

Continue reading Busted! The Reading Room at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington »

Category: Classroom Connections, Collections, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon

September 13, 2013

Sneak Peek: Take Note! George Washington the Reader

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There’s a new exhibit opening at Mount Vernon on September 27!

Have you ever thought about what George Washington read? Bookstore and library shelves are filled with books about Washington, but only a handful look at the books that influenced him as a young man, as General of the Continental Army, and as President of the United States.

Inspired by the grand opening of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, our curators researched the library of the first president for our newest exhibit, Take Note!

As a reader, Washington was an avid note taker; however, he rarely wrote in his books. Instead, he chose to record his thoughts in notebooks. Today, almost 900 pages of his reading notes survive. What types of books inspired Washington’s thoughts?

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George Washington’s Notes, ca. 1786- 1787 copied from James Madison’s “Notes on Ancient and Modern Confederacies”.
Courtesy of Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

His personal library was filled with books meant to help him become a better soldier, farmer, and statesman. He had books exploring the global issues of the 18th century, the newest research about farming, and even works of fiction. Controversial pamphlets about politics and slavery also made it onto Washington’s library shelves. One of the more interesting documents in his library is a Native American vocabulary list compiled as a special project for Catherine the Great of Russia.

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Richard Butler, English-Shawnee-Delaware Vocabulary, November 30, 1787. Courtesy of Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Take Note! will bring visitors back into the 18th century world of print, ideas, and stories; allow them to read the words Washington read; and with the help of modern technology, to flip through the pages of Washington’s own books. The exhibit will also showcase more than 80 books, letters, manuscripts, and objects – many of which have not been together since the sale of Washington’s library in the early 19th century. As a special treat, examples of Washington’s handwritten notes will be on display as well as three of the six known books that Washington did write notes in. We hope, like us, you’ll be amazed by these humble, but powerful vehicles that carried revolutionary ideas across thousands of miles and connected diverse individuals around the world.

Take Note! will be on view from September 27, 2013 to January 12, 2014 in the F.M Kirby Gallery of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center at Mount Vernon.

Amanda Isaac
Associate Curator
Department of Historic Preservation and Collections

Continue reading Sneak Peek: Take Note! George Washington the Reader »

Category: Classroom Connections, Collections, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon

March 11, 2013

Behind-The-Scenes: The Acts of Congress Tour

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After being on exhibit at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s copy of the Acts of Congress has begun a 13 site tour at the National Archives’ Presidential Libraries. On a cold February morning the Acts of Congress left Mount Vernon and traveled 2,715 miles across the country to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. From there it will crisscross the United States traveling over 12,000 miles before returning to Mount Vernon and its new home at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington this fall. The Acts of Congress tour is an opportunity for people to view a piece of George Washington history who would be otherwise unable to visit Mount Vernon.

Many of the libraries will highlight pieces from their own collections in conjunction with the Acts of Congress. The Reagan Library is displaying:

  • An 1823 Stone Copy of the Declaration of Independence
  • A July 13, 1796 letter written by President George Washington to his Secretary of War, James McHenry, in which President Washington complains of pirate activity along the Barbary Coast
  • A memorandum from King George III, showing the King’s reluctance to acknowledge the independence of the 13 American Colonies from Great Britain (on loan from the Huntington Library)

If you look closely at the photo below you can see a small silver box in the back right corner of the exhibit case. This box contains silica gel which stabilizes the humidity and helps maintain the same environment the book is accustomed to at Mount Vernon.

Washington's Acts of Congress on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

Washington’s Acts of Congress on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

At the Reagan Library, the Acts of Congress is open to pages 8 & 9 as seen in the images below. Visitors will be able to see where Washington marked a variety of responsibilities which he labeled “President,” “Powers,” and “Required.”

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The book was welcomed with an opening reception and a ribbon cutting to kick off the 13 site tour.

You can see Washington’s Acts of Congress at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum through March 19, 2013. For more information about the Acts of Congress at the Reagan Library, click here.

To find out when Washington’s Acts of Congress will be near you, see the National Archives Acts of Congress Tour Schedule.

Danie Schallom
Coordinator of Education Outreach and Leadership Programming

**A special thank you goes out to Michele Lee, Special Collections Librarian, for her help with this post**

Continue reading Behind-The-Scenes: The Acts of Congress Tour »

Category: Classroom Connections, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Object Spotlight

June 27, 2012

Mount Vernon Acquires George Washington’s Acts of Congress

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George Washington’s original copy of the Acts of Congress is returning to Mount Vernon. On June 22, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association secured the prized volume for the shelves of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. The acquisition ranks among the most significant in the history of the association.

Emblazoned with Washington’s bookplate and featuring his handwritten notes penciled in the margins, the 106-page book contains Washington’s personal copy of the U.S. Constitution, a draft of the Bill of Rights, and other documents recording the early acts of the new Congress. Washington received the book in 1789, his first year in office as U.S. president, and brought it with him to Mount Vernon upon his retirement from public office in 1797.

“Washington himself once wrote, ‘The Constitution is our guide, which I will never abandon.’ By acquiring this book– his personal copy of the Constitution– we are taking him quite literally,” said Ann Bookout, Regent, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. “It is extremely rare to see a book of such significance change hands, and we felt that it was essential to muster our resources to bring this extraordinary document home to Mount Vernon.”

The volume will be a centerpiece for the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Currently under construction near the main entrance to the estate, the library will serve as a place to safeguard Washington’s documents as well as a gathering place for leaders and scholars. The association has currently raised more than $85 million of the $100 million needed for the construction of the library and its initial slate of programming.

“We hope that other patriotic Americans will be inspired by our decision to secure this most important and unique document and cornerstone of our nation’s history and step up to lend their support to our cause,” added Bookout.

For more information about the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of Mount Vernon, visit MountVernon.org/WashingtonLibrary.

Rebecca Aloisi

Category: Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, George Washington, Mount Vernon, Object Spotlight, Research/Lectures

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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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