Thomas Mahony was an Irish indentured house carpenter and joiner who worked at Mount Vernon from 1784 until 1792. Mahony was one of twenty-four Irish servants who arrived in Alexandria on August 2, 1784 on the ships Angelica and Washington. Mahony was indentured to George Washington for two years, but after his indenture was completed he agreed to continue working at Mount Vernon.
In a surviving work agreement dated August 1786, Mahony's salary was set at thirty pounds per year plus board, washing, lodging, an allowance of "spirit," four shirts and two pairs of overalls, and upkeep of shoes and clothing. In addition, George Washington would pay Mahony's taxes and county and parish levies.
A second agreement between Washington and Mahony dated April 15, 1788 stipulated that Mahony take a lower salary (twenty-four pounds/year), in exchange for more clothing and shoes. Washington believed that Mahony had a drinking problem, leading Washington to withhold one quarter of his pay until work was completed.1
Mahony was literate. He wrote to Washington in the spring of 1788 to try to negotiate a better salary, writing: "I woud esteem it as a great Favour if you have considered that Affair of my working with your (Honour) I am willing to Engage for the Year at Twenty Six pounds with all other Articles wch was made mention'd of your Honour's Answer I Humbleley waite for."2
Washington's secretary Tobias Lear responded to the request, though in the negative: "The General has received your letter of yesterday and desires me to inform you that he [will] not give you any more than twenty four pounds per year and the making of Clothes Shoes &c. as he mentioned to you here. He thinks this sum is fully equal if not better than the wages which he gave you when you worked for him last year, as every article of produce &c. by which wages should be regulated is much cheaper now then [sic] at that time."3
In May of 1788, Mahony assisted Thomas Green in framing the door to the new barn, and in 1792, he was "about the Births in the last appartment in the Quarter now the Doors and windows are then to be done to make a Finishing." Mahony left Mount Vernon in May of 1792.4
1. Mesick, Cohen and Waite, "Building Trades," Mount Vernon: Historic Structure Report (unpublished report, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 2-37.
2. "Thomas Mahony to George Washington, 3 April 1788," The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, Vol. 6, 194
3. "Tobias Lear to Thomas Mahony, 4 April 1788," The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, Vol. 6, 194n.
4. Mesick, Cohen and Waite, 2-37.