A Missing Lid

In the world of archaeology, every artifact has a story to tell.

Ahead of the Mansion Revitalization Project, Mount Vernon archaeologists excavated the area north of the Mansion. While examining a ceramic fragment excavated near the north end of the piazza, archaeological lab analysts Angela Bailey and Alice Keith identified it as a lid from the white and gold French porcelain service that George Washington acquired from the Comte de Moustier in 1790. Making this discovery even more intriguing was a distinctive feature on the fragment—a small purposeful notch in the side, clearly intended for a spoon. This identified the fragment as part of a lid from a mustard pot, one of four listed in Washington's invoice for the service.

A view of the underside of the porcelain fragment, identified as part of a lid to a mustard pot owned by the Washingtons. (MVLA)

A mustard pot preserved in Mount Vernon's Fine and Decorative Arts Collection is, notably, missing its lid. (MVLA)

A mustard pot preserved in Mount Vernon's Fine and Decorative Arts Collection is, notably, missing its lid. (MVLA)

Interestingly, the mustard pot preserved in Mount Vernon’s Fine and Decorative Arts Collection is missing its proper top. Could this be the missing lid, perhaps separated from its vessel during an afternoon repast on the piazza?

This discovery not only adds to the material record of George Washington's possessions but also invites us to imagine scenes from daily life at Mount Vernon. The mustard pot, with its ornate lid, would have added a touch of elegance to Washington’s table. It’s through these small fragments of the past that we piece together the larger narrative of history, bringing us closer to the lives and experiences of those who came before us.

Mansion Revitalization Blog

Follow along as we post updates and discoveries from the landmark Mansion Revitalization Project.

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