At the recommendation of his new farm manager, Scotsman James Anderson, George Washington began building a rye and corn whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon in 1797. In operation by Spring 1798, the distillery did a brisk business: the ledger records over 80 transactions in 1799, for a total sale of 10,942 gallons of whiskey valued at $7,674. A fishery, located half a mile from the distillery site, salted and barreled herring caught in the Potomac for sale and shipment, as well as to feed Mount Vernon’s enslaved community. The ledger provides a detailed chronicle of these little-known but highly important business ventures of Washington's last years.
Purchased with funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Best of Omaha, Nebraska, 1996 [MS-5468]
The Washingtons and their guests played games like chess in the parlor or outside on the piazza. This chess set and its painted storage box descended in the family of Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter. Family tradition holds that the set’s two wooden replacement pawns were carved by George Washington himself.
Courtesy of Walter Gibson Peter III
Small seed pearls imported from China and India and strung on horsehair or silk into earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and hair ornaments achieved great popularity in federal America. Their smooth white texture and color melded with the neoclassical aesthetic that harkened back to ancient Greece and Rome. During the presidency, Martha Washington purchased readily available seed pearl jewelry and ornaments that were imported or made by Philadelphia and New York jewelers. The American interest and fashion for seed pearl jewelry lasted after her death, and Mrs. Washington’s descendants continued to wear her jewelry, occasionally re-working her seed pearls into new pieces.
Given in memory of Lucy Ware Lewis McCormick, 1946 [W-1444/B-C]
This striped calico dress bodice is one of the few pieces of Martha Washington’s clothing to survive largely intact. Eliza Parke Custis Law, one of Martha’s granddaughters, inherited this gown and reused the skirt fabric in one of her own dresses. When the garment wore out, Law made small drawstring bags from the cloth and donated them to a charity fair as relics.
Purchase, 1949 [W-1525]
The embroidered “M. Washington” on these silk stockings identifies their owner as the mistress of Mount Vernon. Worn under layers of petticoats and held up by a garter, stockings completed the elegant ensemble of an 18th-century lady. The inscription may have been stitched by Martha herself, or by one of her enslaved maids.
Purchase, 1965 [W-2471/A-B]
In 1837, when George Washington’s remains were re-entombed in a new marble sarcophagus, pieces of the original mahogany coffin were saved as souvenirs and fashioned into memorial tributes. English businessman Jesse Hartley received a small fragment of the coffin as a gift and commissioned a replica of the sarcophagus to house the precious relic.
Purchased with funds donated by the Monica and Hermen Greenberg Foundation, 2000 [W-4149]
Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Mount Vernon
Throughout the Revolutionary War, George Washington patronized saddlers for trunks in which to store and transport his belongings. Most were of leather, fitted with reinforcement straps and studded with decorative brass nail heads. This trunk may have been used by Martha Washington to carry her clothes when she traveled to the Army’s winter headquarters each year.
Gift of Mrs. Charlotte Plater Rogers Smith Mustard, 1928 [W–368]
This heart-shaped waffle iron is one of two “Whorfling Irons” listed in the inventory taken at George Washington’s death. To make waffles, enslaved cooks filled the gridded interior with batter and—grasping the long handles—suspended the iron over hot coals, turning it to ensure even cooking.
Purchase MVLA, 1939 [W-1057]
Coffee was enjoyed regularly at Mount Vernon, and as early as 1758, George Washington was securing “best” Turkish coffee for himself and his household. In 1783, the general purchased this “Silver Coffee Pot,” paying an additional three dollars to have the Washington family coat of arms engraved on its side.
Gift of Mary Walker Lee Bowman and Robert E. Lee IV, 1981 [W–2517]
“A Box of China for Lady Washington” was among the goods that arrived in Philadelphia in 1796 with Dutch merchant Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest. The porcelain service features an inscription and visual symbols that celebrated the unification of the American colonies.
Purchased by the Connoisseur Society of Mount Vernon, 2013 [W-5308]
In this inventive version of the Declaration of Independence, a bust portrait of George Washington appears within Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words. The Great Seal of the United States—featuring a bald eagle—sits above the text, while 36 state seals—one for each state in 1865—appear to sprout from an encircling vine. The designer of this lithograph, William H. Pratt, also created calligraphy portraits of George Washington within the Constitution (see below) and Abraham Lincoln within the Emancipation Proclamation.
Purchased with funds provided by Richard Burrus, Albert Small, Ann West, and the Broyhill Family Foundation, 2012 [M-5273]
In this lithograph William H. Pratt squeezes the United States Constitution (more than 4,500 words) onto a single page, while strategically bolding, curving, and compressing letters to craft a bust portrait of George Washington within the text. Likely made in or shortly after 1865, this Constitution ends with the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Pratt also created calligraphy portraits of George Washington within the Declaration of Independence (see above) and Abraham Lincoln within the Emancipation Proclamation.
Purchased by the A. Alfred Taubman Fund, 2012 [M-5274]