Seals came into use on wine bottles in the seventeenth century. The bottle seals served as symbols of status and wealth, as they were a sign that the owner could afford bottled wine instead of just relying on casks or barrels. The symbols on the seals found at Mount Vernon show several of the important personal relationships Washington made over the course of his life.
The “AW” seal stands for Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father. He passed away when Washington was only eleven years old. As the oldest son from his father’s second marriage, Washington inherited some of his father’s property, including 10 enslaved individuals.
The Fairfax seal, represents the Fairfax family of Belvoir. They were a very wealthy family who lived nearby as Washington grew up. Washington’s older half-brother, Lawrence, married one of the daughters, Anne Fairfax, and her father served as a mentor to Washington in his early career as a surveyor. Through his surveying career, Washington gained knowledge of western lands of Virginia and Ohio, making him very valuable to the British Army during the French and Indian War.
“John Posey,” was another wealthy neighbor of Washington’s, who would later sell Washington much of his property, including an enslaved man Hercules. Hercules became widely admired for his cooking skills at Mount Vernon. Washington appreciated his skills in the kitchen so much that he brought Hercules from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia to live and work in the presidential household. Hercules, however, later ran away and is one of the few examples of a member of Mount Vernon’s enslaved community successfully escaping during Washington's lifetime.
“D.P. Custis” represents Daniel Parke Custis, the first husband of Martha Dandridge, whose wealth and property Martha gained after his death. Once Martha and George were married, George Washington became the holder of that wealth and property, which included both land and enslaved workers.