A gardener who worked at Mount Vernon from 1793 until 1796, John Gottleib Richter arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 1793, where he agreed to serve a three year indenture in exchange for his passage to America, which cost $59.80. On July 22 of that year, a number of items were purchased for Richter, including a spade, hoe knife, stockings, four shirts, two neckcloths, and sleeve buttons. The following day, $1.25 was spent to buy a pair of fustian trousers.
On July 26, Richter was given twenty-five cents to buy tobacco and was sent to Mount Vernon. In August, George Washington wrote to his nephew Howell Lewis, who was temporarily managing Mount Vernon, asking "Has the Gardener and his wife removed into their new house? Where does the other Dutch Gardener sleep? Is he diligent at work; and how does he behave in other respects?"1
From a letter written by Washington to his farm manager in 1793, it appears that Richter was expected to eat with hired garden Johann Christian Ehlers and his wife. Washington illuminated further about his arrangement with Richter, writing "I am very willing to allow them enough, and of such provisions day by day, as is wholesome and good, but no more, they have, each of them been allowed a bottle of Beer a day, and this must be continued to them, that is, a quart each, for when I am from home it will no longer be bottled, though it may be brewed as usual as the occasion requires."2
George Washington soon became frustrated with Richter's work. Washington wrote to his head gardener in December of 1793: "The last of whom, that is John, you may inform, has displeased me, by giving himself impudent airs, in saying he would not have this thing, nor he would not have that thing, because they were either not good enough, or not to his liking. You may tell him from me, that this is neither the way to make me his friend, or to get better things. The way to obtain them is to ask for what he wants modestly, without wch. he will not get them at all, or at least nothing more than what is absolutely necessary."3
Against Richter's account for 1794 were charges for: seven yards of linen for two shirts, three pairs of shoes, one short fustian coat and corresponding breeches, two shirts, two pocket handkerchiefs, four neck handkerchiefs, two pairs of stockings, a blue coat and red waistcoat, a pair of black breeches, one hat, a white shirt, one pair of buckles, a pair of corduroy breeches, and a cash advance of one pound, sixteen shillings.4
1. "George Washington to Howell Lewis, 25 August 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-13-02-0364.
2. "George Washington to William Pearce, 23 December 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-14-02-0377.
3. "George Washington to John Christian Ehlers, 23 December 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-14-02-0367.
4. See account for John G. Richter, Mount Vernon Farm Ledger, Jan. 1794-Dec. 1796 (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 47.