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New at the Museum and Education Center

Summer 2014

Mount Vernon regularly rotates objects and manuscripts in the permanent galleries of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center. Learn more about some of the fascinating recent additions.

The Old Mount Vernon
Painted by Eastman Johnson, 1857
Oil on canvas

Rather than painting the grand east or west facades of the Mansion, Eastman Johnson chose to depict Mount Vernon from the north, a view familiar to the estate’s African-American residents, some of whom are seen here. A lone man sits in the doorway of the former servants’ hall, which from this angle appears as large as the main house.

Purchased with funds courtesy of an anonymous donor and the Mount Vernon Licensing Fund, 2009 (2009.015)

Martha Washington’s Needlework

This cushion is one of six in Mount Vernon's collection. Its yellow worsted wool case and portions of the multi-color, hand-knotted fringe and woven silk tape remain intact, providing a rare documented example of Martha Washington's needlework and original Mount Vernon upholstery. The cushion may have been placed in the Little Parlor on a Windsor chair like this one, which is original to Mount Vernon and descended in the family of George Washington’s enslaved manservant, Christopher Sheels.

Shell Cushion
Made by Martha Washington, 1766–1802
Wool, silk, linen

Purchase, 1960 [W-2173]

Windsor Chair
Probably made in Philadelphia, 1770–1800
Tulip poplar, maple, ash

Gift of Phoebe A. Hearst, Vice Regent for California, 1892 [W-198]

First in Peace. Representing the Arrival of General George Washington at the Battery, New York, April 30, 1789
Engraved by John C. McRae, after Henry Brueckner
Engraving. New York, 1867

This print imagines the grand and exuberant spectacle that greeted Washington as he entered New York for his first inauguration. Eyewitness accounts recalled the new president arriving on a barge rowed by thirteen men in white uniforms, surrounded by a crowd cheering wildly and ships firing thirteen-gun salutes.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Gibby, 1984 [WB-47/A1]

George Washington to William A. Washington, October 29, 1799

Writing to his nephew just over a month before his death, Washington reveals the success of his new distillery venture: “Two hundred gallons of Whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better, as the demand for this article (in these parts) is brisk.

Courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

The British Surrender Their Arms to General Washington After Their Defeat at Yorktown in Virginia, 1781
Engraved by Tanner, Vallance, Kearney & Co.
Engraving. Philadelphia, ca. 1819

This symbolic representation of the surrender at Yorktown depicts the major players on both the American and British sides, including George Washington and Lord Cornwallis. In the background, allegorical figures representing Peace, Justice, and Plenty flank a memorial urn, while Liberty hurls thunderbolts at figures in an overturned chariot.

Gift of Albert H. Small, 1995 [Print-4440/RP-656]

Washington’s copy of Official letters to the honorable American Congress, written, during the War between the United Colonies and Great Britain, by His Excellency, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces
Edited by John Carey
London: T. Cadell, 1795

Hoping to shed light on one of the most prominent figures of the American Revolution, editor John Carey embarked on a project to transcribe and make widely available Washington’s letters to Congress during the war. Unsure how Washington would receive the book, Carey sent him a personal copy which included a note about his editorial process.

Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland

Commissary List, August 7, 1776

This list from the summer of 1776 shows the commissary accounts of seven Continental Army officers including “Genl. Washington,” who ordered “1 box Claret, 1 Cag Brandy, 1 box Muscat Wine, 1 Basket Cordials, 1 Box Ratafia [a type of liqueur],” and “2 Cheeses—old—58 lb.”

Courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

The United States Mint and Early American Coins

On April 2, 1792, George Washington signed into law the Coinage Act establishing the United States Mint. This document names Philadelphia scientist and instrument-maker David Rittenhouse as the Mint’s director. Signed by President Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, the appointment declares “special Trust and Confidence in the Integrity and Abilities” of Rittenhouse to run the new coinage operation.

The first official currency produced by the federal government was the half disme (pronounced “deem”). Because the Mint building was not yet available, 1,500 of these coins were struck in the basement of a Philadelphia saw-maker’s shop. Valued at 5 cents (half a dime), the diminutive coin features a profile bust of the figure of Liberty on one side and an eagle in flight on the other. This particular example belonged to Mint director David Rittenhouse himself.

According to tradition, the Washingtons provided some of their own household silver to be melted down to strike the coins. Some observers have also suggested a resemblance between Martha Washington and Lady Liberty on the half disme.

Appointment of David Rittenhouse as Director of the U.S. Mint, April 14, 1792

Courtesy of Brian and Barbara Hendelson

Half Disme
Made in Philadelphia, 1792
Silver, copper

Courtesy of Brian and Barbara Hendelson

George Washington to George Augustine Washington, October 25, 1786

In this tender letter to his recently-married nephew, Washington declares his intention to give the young couple “between two and three thousand acres of land,” noting that it is “natural for those who have passed the meridian of life…to make arrangements for the disposal of the property of which they are possessed.

Courtesy of Ambassador and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman

George Washington to the President of Congress, March 18, 1783

Three days before writing this letter, General Washington delivered his famous Newburgh Address, defusing a crisis among his troops over a lack of compensation. Here, an impassioned Washington declares that if Congress does not adequately pay American veterans, “then shall I have learned what ingratitude is.

Courtesy of the National Archives, Washington, DC