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Archive for the ‘MV Mailbox’ Category

May 21, 2013

MV Mailbox: Greetings from 1908

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The postcard of Mount Vernon's Banquet Hall sent by Anne Elliot to her friend Josie Colehower in 1908.

The postcard of Mount Vernon’s Banquet Hall sent by Anne Elliot to her friend Josie Colehower in 1908.

On December 30, 1908 Anne Elliott mailed a postcard of Mount Vernon’s Banquet Hall (now called the Large Dining Room or New Room) to her friend Josie Colehower in Watsonville, CA. Her message was one simple sentence:

“To see this is only to believe it.”

This postcard was made in Germany by a New York company, Foster & Reynolds and features a postmark from “Mount Vernon on the Potomac, VA” dated “Dec. 30, 1908 P.M.” A 1 cent Benjamin Franklin stamp was affixed, upside down, on the postcard.

Zerah Jakub
Manager of Education Outreach and Leadership Programs
Education Department

The postcards featured in the MV Mailbox series are part of a collection of postcards, numbering in the hundreds, owned by Mount Vernon. Though they range greatly in age and subject matter, they have one underlying commonality: George Washington

Category: MV Mailbox

November 26, 2012

MV Mailbox: Greetings from 1789

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Happy Thanksgiving month! In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a national thanksgiving day to be held on November 26th so that Americans could be publically grateful for the new nation and conclusion of the war. No doubt Washington’s personal celebrations involved lots of food which brings us to the postcard above, a picture of the Mount Vernon kitchen.

While the food served at Mount Vernon was relatively plain, the abundance of guests at the estate made the kitchen quite the scene. In order to prepare for a full dinner like the one possibly served on November 26th, 1789, the two enslaved cooks, Nathan and Lucy, and the housekeeper Mrs. Forbes would begin the day at 4 a.m. Stoking the fire and hauling and heating water were the first order of business. Breakfast was served at 7 a.m. and after the table was cleared preparations for the big dinner would commence. Martha Washington was an important part of the dinner process, consulting with the cooks and inspecting the food. Lucy and Nathan might have a short break around noon but the duration of the morning and early afternoon was spent cutting vegetables, getting meat ready, and baking various confections. Dinner was served promptly at 3 p.m.; the general being a stickler for punctual meals and meal attendance. Guests at Mount Vernon recall eating pork, lamb, roasted fowl, mutton, cabbage, potatoes, hominy, peas, artichokes, boiled beef, fried tripe, pickles, puddings, tarts, mince pies, and cheese, among other things. While family and visitors ate in one of the dining rooms, Lucy, Nathan, and Mrs. Forbes supped in the kitchen before getting ready for the next meal: tea.

The Washingtons were known for their gracious hospitality and surely the Thanksgiving celebration was no exception. But none of their elegant yet simple dinners would be possible without the hard work of Lucy, Nathan, Mrs. Forbes and the other members of the kitchen. This November, as think about our stomachs and our blessings, let’s not forget the oftentimes hidden yet essential members of Mount Vernon life!

The postcards featured in the MV Mailbox series and hundreds others are part of Mount Vernon’s postcard collection. They range vastly in age and subject matter, but have one underlying commonality: George Washington’s estate.

Abby Cliff

Category: MV Mailbox

October 16, 2012

MV Mailbox: Greetings from 1908

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Before the George Washington Memorial Parkway was constructed in the 1930s, visitors to Mount Vernon took a trolley or electric train to the estate. The author of this week’s postcard wrote to Ada Hudson of 934 22nd NW, Washington D.C. to describe her visit Mount Vernon, including the trolley ride. She writes, “You should take the children, or your friends to Mt. Vernon. It is beautiful at this season, and is a dandy trolley ride through historic Alexandria, where you see the old church George Washington attended.” According to another visitor who made the trek to Mount Vernon in 1907, visitors could also reach the estate by boat and the adventurous traveler could brave the Mount Vernon Pike, a pitted, soggy, muddy roadway, in a car. He describes the Pike’s condition as being “so unspeakable as to be literally a disgrace to the state in which it exists, the country which holds the state, and the people who live in the country.”

This month’s post card also features a view of the east front of the Mansion. On the top of the piazza you will notice a balustrade erected by George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod Washington, in the nineteenth-century and removed in the twentieth-century. The small porch to the left of the house in the photograph was also a nineteenth-century addition removed for authenticity’s sake. Bushrod Washington constructed these embellishments, in part, to maintain and improve the property for the many visitors that poured through the estate during his residency at Mount Vernon.

Although the George Washington Memorial Parkway provides an easy and convenient route to the estate, a ride on the “shrieking, whizzing trolley-line,” as one visitor described it, does sound exciting.

The postcards featured in the MV Mailbox series and hundreds others are part of Mount Vernon’s postcard collection. They range vastly in age and subject matter, but have one underlying commonality: George Washington’s estate.

Abby Cliff

Category: MV Mailbox

September 20, 2012

MV Mailbox: Greetings from 1919

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One M.H. Taylor wrote to Miss Eleanor Pendleton on September, 16, 1919 from Mount Vernon with an interesting question; “How would you like to have to climb in your bed every night-with steps.” The mysterious author is referring to Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis’ bed which, according to the description on the back of the card, could only be reached by “carpeted steps.” Nelly Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, lived with her grandparents from childhood into the early part of her marriage to George Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis. In this bedroom, she gave birth to her first child, Francis Parke Lewis. She was confined to her bedroom for a few weeks following her daughter’s birth during which time George Washington unexpectedly took ill and died. First referred to as the Nelly Custis room in an 1876 guidebook, this room was completed in 1759 by George Washington. In the 1919 postcard, the room appears quite ornate but at the time of Nelly Custis’ residency the furnishings of the room remained simple. The 1799 inventory notes that the room held a “bedstead with curtains, curtains for two windows, a carpet and a close chair” as well as a “large looking glass and five prints.” The room that visitors see today also includes the crib given to Nelly by her grandmother.

It is unclear how Nelly felt about having to climb into bed using steps as the postcard author mentions, but we do know that she dearly loved Mount Vernon and imagine she spent many a happy moment on its grounds.

The postcards featured in the MV Mailbox series and hundreds others are part of Mount Vernon’s postcard collection. They range vastly in age and subject matter, but have one underlying commonality: George Washington’s estate.

By Abby Cliff

Category: MV Mailbox

September 20, 2012

MV Mailbox: Greetings from 1919

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One M.H. Taylor wrote to Miss Eleanor Pendleton on September, 16, 1919 from Mount Vernon with an interesting question; “How would you like to have to climb in your bed every night-with steps.” The mysterious author is referring to Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis’ bed which, according to the description on the back of the card, could only be reached by “carpeted steps.” Nelly Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, lived with her grandparents from childhood into the early part of her marriage to George Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis. In this bedroom, she gave birth to her first child, Francis Parke Lewis. She was confined to her bedroom for a few weeks following her daughter’s birth during which time George Washington unexpectedly took ill and died. First referred to as the Nelly Custis room in an 1876 guidebook, this room was completed in 1759 by George Washington. In the 1919 postcard, the room appears quite ornate but at the time of Nelly Custis’ residency the furnishings of the room remained simple. The 1799 inventory notes that the room held a “bedstead with curtains, curtains for two windows, a carpet and a close chair” as well as a “large looking glass and five prints.” The room that visitors see today also includes the crib given to Nelly by her grandmother.

It is unclear how Nelly felt about having to climb into bed using steps as the postcard author mentions, but we do know that she dearly loved Mount Vernon and imagine she spent many a happy moment on its grounds.

The postcards featured in the MV Mailbox series and hundreds others are part of Mount Vernon’s postcard collection. They range vastly in age and subject matter, but have one underlying commonality: George Washington’s estate.

By Abby Cliff

Category: MV Mailbox

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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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