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Posts Tagged ‘George Washington’

May 15, 2013

Encyclopedia Entry: New York, NY



“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

November 30, 2012

A Camel for Christmas?


Based on diaries, letters and cash accounts we know that George and Martha Washington played host to numerous guests throughout the year. In addition to human guests, there is also an all too cryptic reference to the brief visit of a particularly interesting animal: “By the man who brot. a Camel from Alexa. for a show….0.18.0″[1] These few words are the only documentation of a visit to Mount Vernon by a very rare exotic animal for 18th century America.

From a variety of sources, we know that George Washington had quite an interest in animals, both domestic and rare, and often paid to see them. Over the years, Washington and various members of his household were able to learn something about the world outside Virginia from the itinerant entertainers who traveled along the eastern seaboard and would have been drawn to large gatherings of people at events such as fairs. Many of these individuals seem to have worked with exotic or specially-trained animals. For example, in some of the earliest references to this sort of thing, Washington recorded paying 10 shillings to see a “Lyoness” in June of 1766 and three years later spent 3 shillings and 1 1/2 pence to see a “Tyger.”

There is nothing in the surviving records to indicate how the camel ended up at Mount Vernon, but we know that in 1787 a camel was brought to the estate for the enjoyment of Washington’s Christmas guests.

In keeping with history, Mount Vernon still brings a camel to the estate during our special Christmas programming for the enjoyment of our guests. You can meet Aladdin on the field in front of the Mansion during Christmas at Mount Vernon, our daytime Christmas program running through January 6. Find out more information about daytime events and Candlelight tours at

Jennifer McCreery

Category: George Washington, Mount Vernon Animals

November 12, 2012

George Washington’s Prayer for His Country


On this Veterans Day, we would like to humbly thank all the men and women of the armed forces who so bravely and selflessly serve this great nation. We thought it fitting to post George Washington’s prayer for his country that was directed to the governors and states of the new nation. Huzzah!

George Washington’s Prayer for His Country
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would include the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the Unites States at large, particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that he would most graciously be please to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Devine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Amen.

Prayer adapted from Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, which he wrote on June 8, 1783 as the commander in chief, at his headquarters in Newburgh, New York. This circular was directed to the governors and states of the new nation. His reference to them has been replaced by the words “the United States.” Otherwise, the words and the spellings are those of General George Washington of the Continental Army.

*Pictures featured in this post are from an a Veterans Day commemorative wreathlaying ceremony at Mount Vernon featuring Army representatives from Fort Belvoir.

Jennifer McCreery

Category: George Washington, On This Day

November 8, 2012

What’s Blooming in the Garden?


In 1917, renowned botanist Charles Sprague Sargent was called upon to examine the multiple trees growing on the Mount Vernon estate. Sargent bestowed great praise upon the estate’s trees, and claimed “no trees planted by man have the human interest of the Mount Vernon trees. They belong to the nation and are one of its precious possessions.” Almost a hundred years later, Mount Vernon’s historic trees continue to receive recognition and numerous efforts are undertaken each year to ensure their survival.

Two very important members of Mount Vernon’s historic tree community are the swamp chestnut oak and the tulip poplar, both of which were planted by George Washington. The swamp chestnut oak, which is located in front of the mansion on its eastern side, was planted sometime prior to 1771. Although this tree is, unfortunately, now in decline, one can almost imagine Washington watching it grow from a sapling into a hearty tree from the comfort of his piazza. The tulip poplar–planted in 1785–currently fares much better and stands an impressive 145 feet tall. In 1976 this tree was formally declared the “Independence Tree” by Parade Magazine, which resulted in a nation-wide clamor for seeds from this very special tulip poplar. If you visit the estate, be sure to look for this famous tree directly outside the gate to the kitchen garden.

Another important tree associated with George Washington is the Cedar of Lebanon located near Washington’s Tomb. This tree was planted on December 15, 1899 in commemoration of the centennial of General Washington’s death. The sapling itself was obtained from the United States Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. and delivered by a Masonic delegation on December 14. The planting ceremony was overseen by the Regent and Vice-Regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

The last historic tree featured in the slideshow above is the American elm, which is located on the Northeast corner of the east lawn. Although this is the most recently planted tree discussed in this blog, circa 1900, it is nonetheless very unique. As an elm, this tree is susceptible to the devastating effects of Dutch elm disease. However, this particular American elm has not yet succumbed to this fungal disease, in part because the gardeners at Mount Vernon administer annual treatments to protect it. The Horticulture Department here at Mount Vernon has also implemented another rather ingenious way to protect this elm and other large trees on the estate. Because large trees–like tall buildings–are useful conductors for lightning, all trees over a certain height are outfitted with lightning rods. If you look carefully at the last image in the slideshow, you can see the green lightning rod cables wrapping around the trunk of the American elm. Another fun fact: the very first lightning rods placed on the trees at Mount Vernon were installed under the direction of Thomas Edison!

The historic trees at Mount Vernon are truly “precious possessions.” Thanks to the copious efforts made by the Horticulture Department, you can marvel at these four trees–as well as a multitude of others–during your visit to Mount Vernon.

Brittany Higgs

Category: What's Blooming at Mount Vernon?

November 1, 2012

What’s New in the Archaeology Lab?


The small brass plate pictured above is essentially the 18th century equivalent of modern a luggage tag; however, in this instance the parcel in question would have been a wooden trunk, not a cloth suitcase. Perhaps the most important–and exciting–characteristic of this trunk plate is its inscription to a certain “Genl Washington.” This piece was discovered in a trash deposit known as the South Grove Midden, which is located approximately 80-feet south of the Mount Vernon Mansion. For this reason, we believe this brass plate refers to the one and only George Washington!

Like our modern suitcases, trunks in the 18th century were all-purpose storage and traveling equipment. Records show that Washington ordered many trunks throughout his lifetime, and that he specifically requested the addition of identification on several of them. In 1767, for instance, Washington sent an invoice to his agent in London asking for:

“2 Trunks exactly of the following Dimns–one of them two feet 6 Inchs long–1 foot wide–& 10 Inchs deep–The other to be 2 feet 6 Inches long–18 Inchs wide–& of the same depth–both to be made of Sealskin or strong Leather, to have strg Locks, be well secured with Straps, brass Plates, & Nails & GW markd in the middle”

It is unclear if Washington desired the “GW markd in the middle” to be embedded in the wood or engraved on a metal plate. However, in 1783 Washington asked a fellow named Daniel Parker to procure six trunks for him and explicitly stated “I should be glad to have a label (in brass or Copper) containing my name, and the year on each.” Because Washington intended to use these trunks to transport potentially important papers and records, it was indeed wise of him to request that they include some form of permanent identification.

Interestingly, the plate described here is almost identical to one of the plates currently in the Mount Vernon collection, which is from a trunk Washington purchased during the American Revolution. Given the similarity between these two plates, we can safely theorize that the one from the Midden may also have once adorned a trunk traveling with Washington during the American Revolution.

So perhaps your seemingly ordinary luggage tag is more than just a means for you to find your suitcase at an airport, maybe in the future it will help researchers identify you!

Part of the current research in the Preservation Department is the re-analysis of the archaeological collection form the South Grove Midden, a mid-18th century trash deposit near the mansion. Artifacts from the midden provide valuable information about George Washington and his family and friends, supporting the historical documents that detail how the South Grove was transformed from an area where trash was deposited into a pleasure grove during Washington’s life. To find out more about the South Grove Midden, visit:

Brittany Higgs

Category: Archaeology at Mount Vernon: Digging History


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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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