Learn more about some of the fascinating objects and manuscripts featured recently in in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon.

Side Chair

Made by John Aitken
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1797

Shortly before he retired from the presidency in 1797, George Washington purchased two dozen chairs from Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Aitken and had them shipped directly to Mount Vernon. They graced his newest and most public room, the two-story New Room, which he had adorned with fashionable neoclassical architectural motifs.

Purchase, 1998 [W-2820]

Conservation courtesy of Mrs. John F. Bookout, III, Vice Regent for Texas, in honor of Mrs. Richard W. Call, former Vice Regent for California

King George III, Diplomatic Commission to Phineas Bond, January 18, 1796

Seal Box
Made by Paul Storr
England, ca. 1796

George III gives Britain’s consul in Philadelphia “full powers” to negotiate any “necessary and convenient” additions to the Jay Treaty. Signed on November 19, 1794, the treaty aimed to resolve lingering political and commercial tensions between Great Britain and the United States. The attached wax seal is encased in a silver box, or skippet, made by renowned English silversmith Paul Storr and affixed to the document with a decorative cord of red silk and gold metallic thread.

Courtesy of Brian and Barbara Hendelson

George Washington

Painted by Anson Dickinson, after Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1830
Watercolor and gouache on ivory

In an age before photography, portrait miniatures provided a ready means to recall or share the likeness of a friend or loved one. George Washington Parke Custis commissioned this likeness of his step-grandfather from prolific miniaturist Anson Dickinson. Charles Willson Peale’s 1772 portrait of Washington in his uniform as a Virginia militia colonel served as the source.

Gift of Elizabeth and Stanley DeForest Scott, 2013 [M-5334]

The Printing Process

In 18th-century book publishing, illustrations and text were printed separately and then bound together into a finished volume. This engraved copper plate was used to generate the portrait of George Washington on the title page of William Winterbotham’s four-volume treatise, An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States of America (1796). Engraver William Rollinson based his design on a 1794 watercolor-on-ivory portrait miniature of the president.

Printing Plate

Made by William Rollinson
New York, 1796

Purchased with funds donated by Jeanie Kilroy Wilson and Wallace S. Wilson in honor of John Bookout and Ann Bookout, Vice Regent for Texas, 2014 [M-5340]

The Artistic Education of Nelly Custis

George Washington purchased this paint box for his step-granddaughter, Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis, while the family was living in Philadelphia. The well-equipped watercolor set included 40 cakes of paint, ivory and ceramic mixing palettes, an ivory brush holder, and glass bowls for blending colors. As an elite young woman, Nelly’s education included drawing and painting lessons. The engraved illustrations of this natural history book, which Nelly delicately embellished using watercolors, are a testament to her artistic skill.

Learn More about Nelly Custis

Nelly Custis’s Paint Box

Made by Thomas Reeves & Son
London, England, ca. 1790-1797
Mahogany box with watercolor paint cakes

Gift: Jess and Grace Pavey Fund, 2013 [W-5326]

Nelly Custis’s copy of A Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales

By John White
Watercolored by Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis
London: J. Debrett, 1790

Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

George Washington’s Plans for a Barn, ca. May 1795

Washington provides a precise “Calculation of the number of Bricks wanting for the Barn at [River] farm,” a total amounting to 139,980. The opposite page features Washington’s sketch of the barn and its surrounding area, including two stables, a gated stable yard, dung repositories, yards for livestock, and lots for growing grass and grain.

Gift of Dr. Sol Feinstone, The David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, 1980 [MS-4063]

George Washington to the President of Congress, May 17, 1781

Washington describes an attack at the strategically important Pines Bridge Pass on the Croton River in Westchester County, New York. About 260 British soldiers surprised the 1st Rhode Island regiment and mortally wounded their commander, Colonel Christopher Greene. “The enemy attempted to carry him off,” Washington writes, “but he died upon the Road.”

Courtesy of the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Sketch of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale

Sketch of George Washington

Drawn by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1856
Graphite on tracing paper

Descendants of Rembrandt Peale identified this sketch as a device used by the artist in creating scale replicas of his 1823 Patriae Pater portrait, often called the “Porthole portrait.” The sketch would have helped Peale achieve uniformity across the dozens of copies and engravings that he made of his most famous work.

Purchased by the A. Alfred Taubman Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2013 [M-5306]

Learn more about the Patriae Pater portrait

Declaration of Independence

William J. Stone
Engraving. Washington, D.C., 1823

In 1823, Congress commissioned the noted engraver William J. Stone to create a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. Two hundred copies of this broadside were distributed to surviving signers of the original document, government officials, and selected universities and colleges. Despite such wide distribution, only about 30 copies of the facsimile survive, including this example.

The Gilder Lehrman Collection, courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, NY

Courtesy National Archives

Courtesy National Archives

George Washington to Edmund Randolph, October 10, 1791

Washington asks his Attorney General to investigate how the Executive Branch could restrict western settlers from illegally usurping Native American land. The president feared that, “unless adequate penalties are provided…this Country will be constantly embroiled with, & appear faithless in the eyes not only of the Indians but of the neighbouring powers also.

Courtesy of the National Archives, Washington, D.C

The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center

View the fascinating array of Mount Vernon artifacts and learn more about George Washington.

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