Suits of mourning clothes with appropriate buttons were purchased almost immediately for Lawrence Lewis, and George Washington Parke Custis, who were both away from home. Thomas Law, Eliza Parke Custis' husband, sent his servant into Alexandria for mourning clothes two days after Washington's death.1
In keeping with mourning customs of the time period, a number of the Mount Vernon slaves and hired servants were outfitted with mourning clothes after George Washington's death. Two days after Washington passed away, farm manager James Anderson went to Alexandria "to get a number of things preparatory for the funeral." At the same time, mourning was ordered "for the Family Domestics and Overseers."2
Additional details concerning what was purchased can be found in surviving bills submitted after the funeral. One manuscript, dated December 23, from Jonathan and James Scott, indicates that "In respect to the memory of Genl George Washington, it was thought necessary that the family should all ware mourning, that is the Manager , Overseers & servants about the House." In addition to family members, Washington's secretary Albin Rawlins, overseer Roger Ferrell, and gardener William Spence received suits of mourning. Overseer Moses Dowdal was given a coat and vest, and suits were made for several of the Mansion slaves. In addition, a suit was made for Davy, a fifty-six year old slave, who was the overseer at Washington's Muddy Hole Farm.3
There is a second bill from the same date from William Bowie that indicates that suits, presumably of mourning, were made for Tobias Lear, overseer George Rawlins, two slaves, and a pair of breeches for Moses Dowdal. Three other slaves received mourning clothes, the butler Frank Lee, Washington's valet Christopher Sheels, and Marcus, a teenage waiter who worked in the mansion, all individuals whose jobs ensured that they would have been quite visible during the funeral.4
1. "Estate of Genl George Washington Decd [To] Jnn & Jas Scott, 23 December 1799" (transcript, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association); Quoted in "Thomas Law's Description of the Last Illness and Death of George Washington," Annual Report 1972 (Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 1973), 30.
2. Quoted in Tobias Lear, Letters and Recollections of George Washington (New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1906), 138.
3. "Estate of Genl George Washington Decd [To] Jnn & Jas Scott, 23 December 1799" (transcript, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association); James Anderson, "Account of Hires, and other expences. . .1800 to Jan 1 1801" (transcript, PS-4, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association); "The Estate of Genl. Geo. Washington Deceased to Smith Keith, 18 December 1799" (manuscript, RM-215/MS-2689, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association); The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), Vol. 36, 154, 177; Vol. 37, 357-8, 376.
4. "Estate of Genl George Washington Decd to William Bowie, 23 December 1799" (manuscript, RM-215/MS-2688, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association).