Conjectural timeline based on 18th-century documentation

Media Gallery Image Quote Text Video

4:00 AM

The Washingtons’ enslaved cooks, Nathan and Lucy, wake up.

Lucy’s mother, Doll who was also enslaved, had been the Washingtons’ cook for many years.

Read More
Learn more about Doll

4:30 AM

Nathan and Lucy revive the fire in the kitchen, and draw and heat water. Enslaved butler Frank Lee or hired housekeeper Eleanor Forbes sets the table for breakfast.

(The house bell system enabled the Washingtons to call enslaved workers and servants to various rooms of the mansion when needed.)

Read More

6:00 AM

Nathan and Lucy make hoecakes (cornmeal pancakes), coffee, tea, and drinking chocolate for breakfast.

Read More

6:30 AM

Martha Washington visits the kitchen to ensure that breakfast is underway.

Read More

7:00 AM

The bell rings to announce that breakfast is served in the dining room. The Washington family and their guests sit down to eat.

Read More

7:30 AM

The enslaved gardener, George, stops by the kitchen with ripe fruits and vegetables.

Read More
Learn More About George

8:00 AM

Frank Lee and enslaved waiter Marcus clear the dining room table. Lucy and her assistant, possibly her daughter Patty, clean pots and pans. Martha Washington discusses the dinner menu with the cooks. She and Nathan select a turkey for dinner.

Read More
Learn More About Frank Lee

9:00 AM

Nathan and Lucy begin preparing the turkey and washing and chopping vegetables.

Read More

9:45 AM

Nathan makes a portable lunch for George Washington, who is about to leave on his daily rounds of the plantation.

Read More

12:00 PM

Lucy takes a few minutes to sit down. Picking up her knitting, she resumes work on a pair of stockings. 

Read More

2:00 PM

Lucy bakes bread while Nathan tends the pots on the hearth. Martha Washington visits the kitchen to oversee dinner preparations.

Read More

2:45 PM

The plantation bell rings to alert the Washingtons and their guests that dinner is ready. Frank Lee, Nathan, and Lucy transfer foods into serving dishes. Waiters carry the dishes to the dining room.

Read More

3:00 PM

The Washingtons and their guests enjoy dinner. Nathan and Lucy eat dinner in the kitchen.

Read More

4:30 PM

Frank Lee and the waiters clear the table and clean the dining room. The cooks’ assistant washes dishes. 

Read More

5:00 PM

Nathan replaced the Washingtons’ cook Hercules after he escaped to freedom in 1797.

Read More
Learn More about Hercules

6:00 PM

Nathan and Lucy brew tea and slice bread and leftover cold meat for tea.

Read More

6:30 PM

Frank Lee and Christopher Sheels serve tea to the Washingtons.

Read More
Learn More About Christopher Sheels

7:00 PM

Martha Washington oversees as Lucy measures ingredients and mixes bread dough and hoecake batter for the next day.

Read More

8:00 PM

Nathan and Lucy clean the kitchen and bank the fire for the night. They return to their quarters to see their families, tend to their personal gardens, and rest.

Read More
Learn More About Their Housing
Loading Timeline


The standard rations Washington allotted enslaved people were cornmeal and salted fish—almost all harvested by slaves themselves.

Learn More

The content on this page was adapted from Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, an exhibition on view in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center from 2016–2020.

Buy Tickets Activities Calendar Shop Restaurant Give Membership
Estate Hours

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

iconDirections & Parking
buy tickets online & save