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Wealthy Virginians were known to celebrate special occasions with punch, a festive drink made from a mixture of spirits, lemon or lime juice, sugar, nutmeg, and other spices. Its presentation was enhanced by the often eye-catching punch bowls from which it was served. This punch bowl was likely brought to Mount Vernon by Martha Washington from her first marriage. 

As mentioned above, one of the main ingredients of the punches served at Mount Vernon was sugar. Sugar was not grown at Mount Vernon, it was imported from the Caribbean. This demand for sugar fueled the slave trade. A wildly popular product in 18th-century Britain and its colonies, sugar was used to sweeten hot beverages and make rum and molasses. On plantations in the Caribbean, enslaved Africans worked up to 18-hour days in dangerous conditions to harvest and purify sugar cane. Each year, slave traders imported thousands of newly captured African people to expand the operations. In 1766, after an attempt at running away, Washington sold an enslaved foreman named Tom to St. Kitts in the West Indies. He probably ended up on sugar plantation. 

The day to day care for this punch bowl and the making of the punch recipes would have been carried out by the enslaved household staff at Mount Vernon, like butler Frank Lee and cook Doll. 


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