We rarely know what 18th-century enslaved individuals looked like.

At the time of George Washington’s death, the Mount Vernon estate’s enslaved population consisted of 317 people. These silhouettes are meant to represent people in bondage at George Washington's Mount Vernon. The designs were based on physical descriptions (which survive for only a few) and each person’s age, gender, clothing, and work assignment.

Caesar

FIELD WORKER

In 1799, Caesar was about 50 years old. The only record of Caesar’s appearance comes from a runaway advertisement, placed by Washington’s farm manager, which describes Caesar as, “a black negro man about 45 or 50 years of age, and about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high; has a sharp aquiline nose, and some of his foreteeth stand out... his usual dress is home-spun black and white.”

Caesar was a field worker on Mount Vernon’s Union Farm. He is depicted holding a bible because he was literate and preached to the local black population.

Oney Judge

A description of Oney Judge appears in a 1796 runaway advertisement: “a light mulatto [mixed-race] girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy black hair, she is of middle stature, slender, and delicately formed.” The ad also noted that Judge has “many changes of good clothes, of all sorts.”

Judge is depicted holding a cloth and needle. As Martha Washington’s lady’s maid, Judge spent many hours sewing.

Female household workers like Oney Judge wore simpler versions of the gowns the Washington women wore, made of cheaper material. Their gowns were ankle-length for freedom of movement. If their work assignment was a public one, such as a maid or personal servant, they likely wore stays (a type of corset). They also wore aprons over their gowns, caps over their hair, stockings, and shoes with buckles.

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Christopher Sheels

In 1799, Christopher Sheels was about 23 years old. He worked in the Mansion House as George Washington’s valet, or personal manservant. There are no records of Sheels’s appearance.

Male household workers like Christopher Sheels wore custom-fitted, white-and-red livery suits, stockings, and shoes with buckles. Washington directed that they grow their hair long and pull it back in a queue (or ponytail), in the manner of 18th-century gentlemen.

Caroline Branham

HOUSEMAID / SEAMSTRESS

In 1799, Caroline Branham was about 35 years old. As a housemaid, she had to begin her workday before sunrise and finish after sundown, so she is depicted carrying a chamber stick and candle.

Female household workers like Branham wore simpler versions of the gowns the Washington women wore, made of cheaper material. Their gowns were ankle-length for freedom of movement. If their work assignment was a visible one, such as a maid or personal servant, they likely also wore stays (a type of corset). They wore aprons over their gowns, caps over their hair, stockings, and shoes with buckles.

Davy Gray

In 1799, Davy Gray was about 56 years old. Washington described him as “mulatto,” meaning that he was mixed race. He worked as an overseer on Mount Vernon’s outlying farms.

Because he supervised enslaved people working in the fields, he is depicted holding an agricultural tool.

Enslaved laborers like Davy Gray wore coarse linen shirts, breeches, stockings, and shoes without buckles. The clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting. Garments wore out quickly because they were worn nearly every day. As overseer, Gray sometimes received extra garments, like leather breeches.

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Doll

Cook

In 1799, Doll was about 78 years old. She worked as a cook in the Mansion, so she is depicted holding a preserving kettle. There are no records of Doll’s appearance.

As a cook, Doll likely wore simpler, cheaper versions of the gowns the Washington women wore, made of linen or calico rather than silk. Her gowns were ankle-length for freedom of movement. Like other female household workers, she likely wore an apron over her dress, a cap, stockings, and shoes with buckles.

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Frank Lee

In 1799, Frank Lee was about 45 years old. Washington described him as “mulatto,” meaning he was mixed race. In his memoirs, George Washington Parke Custis recalled that Frank was “portly,” though in the 18th century this could mean dignified or stately rather than rotund.

Male household workers like Frank Lee wore custom-fitted, white-and-red livery suits, stockings, and shoes with buckles. Washington directed that they grow their hair long and pull it back in a queue (or ponytail), in the manner of 18th-century gentlemen.

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George

In 1799, George was in his 40s. He was a gardener on the Mansion House Farm so he is depicted holding shears. There are no records of George’s appearance.

Male laborers like George wore coarse linen shirts, linen or wool breeches, and shoes without buckles. In the winter, they also wore a wool jacket. The clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting. Field workers were issued just one set of clothes per year, so the garments wore out quickly.

Giles

In 1791, the last year he appears in historical records, Giles was at least 40 years old. As a postilion, he wore a livery suit and a cap with tassels. He is shown carrying a riding crop, a tool used to control the horses pulling a carriage.

Male household workers like Giles wore custom-fitted white-and-red livery suits, stockings, and shoes with buckles. Washington directed that they grow their hair long and pull it back in a queue (or ponytail), in the manner of 18th-century gentlemen.

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Hercules

In 1797, Hercules was about 43 years old. In his 19th-century memoir, George Washington Parke Custis recalled the cook as “homely,” and “a dark-brown man, little, if any, above the usual size, yet possessed of such great muscular power as to entitle him to be compared with his namesake of fabulous history.”

Using money he made selling leftovers from the kitchen, Hercules furnished much of his own wardrobe, though at various times special clothing was bought for him. He was “something of a ‘dandy,’ dressing every evening in the height of fashion.” According to Custis, Hercules’s ensemble was comprised of a tailored “blue cloth coat with velvet collar and bright metal buttons,” silk waistcoat, fine white linen shirt, black silk knee breeches, and silk stockings, with a cocked hat. He wore polished shoes with large buckles and carried a watch with a long chain and a gold-headed cane.

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Kate

In 1799, Kate was likely in her 50s. There are no records of Kate’s appearance. She is depicted holding an infant because she served as a midwife to the enslaved community.

Female field workers like Kate wore coarse linen shifts—long, loose-fitting shirts—tucked into a skirt (linen in the summer and wool in the winter), with stockings and shoes without buckles. Their skirts were ankle-length for freedom of movement. In the winter, they also wore a wool jacket. The clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting.

Kitty

In 1799, Kitty was between 40 and 50 years old. She worked as a dairy maid and a spinner. There are no records of Kitty’s appearance.

Female laborers like Kitty wore coarse linen shifts—long, loose-fitting shirts— tucked into a skirt (linen in the summer and wool in the winter), with stockings and shoes without buckles. Their skirts were ankle-length for freedom of movement. In the winter, they also wore a wool jacket. Some women may have worn head wraps. The rationed clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting. Most laborers were issued just one suit of clothes per year. Garments wore out quickly because they were worn nearly every day.

Nancy Carter Quander

Nancy Carter Quander was about 47 years old in 1835, when she returned to Mount Vernon to assist with work on George Washington’s New Tomb. There are no records of Nancy’s appearance.

She is depicted wearing garment appropriate for the 1830s.

Priscilla and Penny

In 1799, Priscilla was 36 and her daughter Penny was about 11 years old. Priscilla worked in the fields at Dogue Run Farm. Penny did not yet have a formal work assignment.

Female field workers like Priscilla wore coarse linen shifts—long, loose-fitting shirts— under a skirt (linen in the summer and wool in the winter), with stockings and shoes without buckles. Their skirts were ankle-length for freedom of movement. In the winter, they also wore a wool jacket. The clothes were made in large quantities and not personalized, so they might have been ill-fitting. Field workers received just one set of clothes per year, so garments quickly became dirty and tattered. Women may have worn head wraps or kept hair short.

Often, enslaved children like Penny were not given shoes. Boys and girls received just a shift, until they were given a formal work assignment between ages 11 and 14.

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Sambo Anderson

In 1799, Sambo Anderson was likely about 40 years old. He worked as a carpenter, so he is shown carrying a hammer and a wooden plank. In January 1876, 30 years after Anderson’s death, an anonymous author described the former slave in the Alexandria Gazette: “He was of a bright mahogany color, with high cheek bones, and was stoutly made. His face was tattooed, and he wore in his ears rings which he informed me were made of real Guinea gold.”

Male laborers like Sambo Anderson wore coarse linen shirts, linen or wool breeches, stockings, and shoes without buckles. In the winter, they also wore wool jackets. The clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting. As a skilled craftsman, he may have received specialized garments like a leather apron.

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Tom

FOREMAN

Tom was a foreman in the fields at River Farm. When George Washington sold Tom to the West Indies, Washington described him as “Exceedingly healthy, strong, and good at the Hoe.” This is the only known physical description of Tom.

He is shown wearing shackles because Washington asked the ship captain transporting Tom to “keep him handcuffd till you get to Sea” so he would not try to escape.

Male field workers like Tom wore coarse linen shirts, linen or wool breeches, knitted stockings, and shoes without buckles. In the winter, they also wore wool jackets. The clothes were mass-produced and often ill-fitting.

William Lee

In 1780, William Lee was about 30 years old. George Washington described his valet, or personal manservant, as “mulatto,” meaning he was mixed race. Martha Washington’s grandson remembered Lee as a “stout active man,” with an “athletic form” and "a square muscular figure.” In 1804, artist Charles Willson Peale recalled that Lee was "a heavy man." A member of George Washington’s Life Guard recalled that Lee had “moved with great dignity" while serving as a waiter in Washington’s military headquarters. William Lee is depicted looking through Washington’s spyglass, which he carried for the general.

Male household workers like William Lee wore custom-fitted, white-and-red livery suits, stockings, and shoes with buckles. Washington directed that they grow their hair long and pull it back in a queue (or ponytail), in the manner of 18th-century gentlemen.

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Edmond Parker

Tomb Guard

Enslaved at Mount Vernon under John Augustine Washington III, Edmund Parker later returned to the estate as a paid employee. Parker joined a long line of African American men who stood sentry over Washington’s tomb. Though he had never known Washington, Parker spoke about the general’s life to the many tourists who flocked to the estate.

For his memoirs, Harrison Howell Dodge, Mount Vernon’s resident superintendent from 1885 to 1937, sketched Edmund Parker from firsthand memory.

Colonel Dodge depicted Parker sitting at his post guarding George Washington’s tomb. As an employee of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Parker wore a blue uniform with nickel-plated buttons and a silver badge.

George Washington and Slavery

George Washington had been a slave owner for fifty-six years, beginning at eleven years of age when he inherited ten slaves from his deceased father. His thoughts on slavery were contradictory and changed over time.

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