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During his exciting and well-traveled lifetime, the Father of Our Country slept in a great number of beds, and today, historic sites from Maine to Georgia proudly proclaim that “George Washington Slept Here.” Join leading historians, curators, and academics for an enlightening look at the wide variety of places where Washington lived or visited, including his early years on the frontier, the tropical island of Barbados, his war-time headquarters in Massachusetts, and the nearby capitol city of Annapolis. We will also explore his collection of maps and surveys, learn about his adventurous journey to the southern states in 1791, and examine many of the actual beds he slept on.

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Dates and Times


$200 for General Public
$175 for Members and Donors


Robert H. and Clarice Smith Auditorium
George Washington's Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy.
Mount Vernon, VA 22121

George Washington Slept Here: Travel, Rest, and Memory of the First President

I not being so good a Woodsman as the rest of my Company striped my self very orderly and went in to the Bed as they call'd it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw—Matted together [and] without Sheets or anything else but only one Thread Bear blanket with double its Weight in Vermin such as Lice and Fleas &c.   -   George Washington, diary entry (age 16), 15 March, 1748

The Bed Chamber of Washington, by John Gadsby Chapman, 1835. Purchased with Funds Provided by Lucy S. Rhame and an Anonymous Donor, 2017.
The Bed Chamber of Washington, by John Gadsby Chapman, 1835. Purchased with Funds Provided by Lucy S. Rhame and an Anonymous Donor, 2017.
Friday, November 3

2:30 pm

Symposium Registration, Vaughan Lobby

3:00 pm 

Welcome and Opening Remarks

3:15 pm

Where George Washington Slept: The Early Years

Philip Levy

Washington's formative years have long sat under clouds of uncertainty. A lack of documents and an abundance of questionable stories have often left more confusion than certainty. But recent research at his Westmoreland County birthplace and at his childhood home near Fredericksburg, Virginia have told us more about these significant childhood years and places than anyone has known since Washington's day. Both of these sites boast their own reconstructed homes, and these homes each tell very different stories of Washington and of his upbringing. Washington himself may not have slept within these actual walls, but exploring these sites, buildings, and their stories reveals much about how Americans have understood Washington and connected with his life.   

Philip Levy teaches early American history and archaeology, public history, and historical theory at the University of South Florida. He is the author of Where the Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington’s Boyhood Home, and George Washington Written Upon the Land: Nature Memory, Myth, & Landscape. He is also a former Washington Library research fellow. 

4:15 pm 

Refreshment Break

4:30 pm

Soldier and Surveyor: George Washington on Virginia's Frontier

John Maass

Although from a tidewater gentry family, George Washington spent much of his early years on Virginia's frontier as a soldier and surveyor. Beginning at age sixteen, he surveyed hundreds of tracts primarily for Lord Fairfax, proprietor of the Northern Neck, in the Shenandoah and Potomac River Valleys. In 1754, Washington began his military service on Virginia's frontier in the French and Indian War, serving until late 1758. This presentation will highlight various lands, forts, fords, and skirmishes associated with Washington's years on the frontier. 

John Maass received a Ph.D. in early American history from the Ohio State University. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1988 to 1993. He is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. His publications include North Carolina and the French and Indian War: The Spreading Flames of War; Defending a New Nation, 1783-1811; The Road to Yorktown: Jefferson, Lafayette and the British Invasion of Virginia; and, most recently, George Washington's Virginia.

5:30 pm

Reception and Mansion Tours

6:30 pm 

Dinner, Mount Vernon Inn

8:00 pm 

Evening Entertainment

Saturday, November 4

8:00 am 

Continental Breakfast with Historic Document and Object Viewing, Washington Library

9:15 am 

Opening Remarks

9:30 am 

George Washington's Manuscript Maps and Surveys, 1747-1799

Ed Redmond

Most Americans are familiar with George Washington’s activities as the “Father of Our Country,” either as leader of the Continental Army or as first President of the United States, but just as many Americans may be unaware of Washington’s lifelong association with geography and cartography. This talk will illustrate three phases of that relationship - Washington’s professional land surveying activities, his personal land speculation activities, and his land speculation on behalf of others – by examining maps that he actually created and used. In addition to his surveying activities, Washington recognized the need for and appointed the first Geographer of the Continental Army and, later, the United States. 

Ed Redmond is the Vault Collections Curator in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress where he has worked since 1989. He specializes in maps related to the District of Columbia, Virginia, and, most importantly, those maps produced by George Washington. Over the last twenty-seven years, Redmond has worked extensively with Washington’s maps, including Mount Vernon’s own “Washington’s World,” and is recognized as the international expert on George Washington’s cartographic career.

10:15 am

Washington's World Interactive Map

Joseph Stoltz

This new electronic online resource highlights the many locations important to George Washington’s life, including where he slept. Joe Stoltz will demonstrate the map’s many features and discuss the Library’s plans for future updates and how you can be involved.

Joseph F. Stoltz III is the Washington Library’s Digital Historian and specializes in digital public history projects. He is the author of A Bloodless Victory: The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory, available December 2017.

10:45 am


11:00 am

The People and Places of George Washington's Southern Tour

Warren Bingham

The Southern Tour of 1791 was the finale of President George Washington’s journey to visit the original thirteen states. After 226 years, Southerners still celebrate Washington’s visit to their communities. Historical markers inform passersby of where the great man danced, dined, and slept. Reenactments and heritage days heartily engage the public to keep alive the memory of the historic journey. Who did Washington see on the Southern Tour? What did he see? Where did he sleep? What buildings remain? Inhale the choking dust, swat the horse flies, and hear the music of the 18th century as we consider Washington’s passage through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

A student of North Carolina and the South and of national heroes General George C. Marshall and President George Washington, Warren Bingham is a lively writer, speaker, and radio broadcaster from Raleigh. His book, George Washington’s 1791 Southern Tour, takes readers on the president’s three-month, 1,900-mile journey. His radio vignettes, Carolina Color, stem from a life spent observing and reveling in the history and lore of his native North Carolina. 

12:00 pm

Lunch, Mount Vernon Inn

1:30 pm

Battlefield to Bed Chamber: Exploring George Washington's Beds

Natalie Larson

Mount Vernon is fortunate to have on display three known Washington bedsteads and good documentation about several others. This lecture will explore Washington’s beds and their textiles and compare them to similar ones used during the same period. While these beds look elegant to us today, they served as protection from the cold and kept out bothersome pests. Using historical references, we can surmise that a good night’s sleep wasn’t always possible – even for our founding fathers.

Natalie Larson is an independent historian and fabricator of reproduction furnishing textiles. A graduate of the University of Maine with a degree in Anthropology, she worked for 24 years at Colonial Williamsburg in the archaeology and textile departments. Concurrently, she started a consulting business and has worked at more than ninety museums from Maine to Key West and has provided bed hangings for over 140 historic beds. She has lectured at many museums and is currently researching a book on American furnishing textiles.

2:15 pm

"Hospitality and a Genteel behaviour is shown to every gentleman stranger": George Washington's Impressions of Barbados and Barbadians in 1751

Karl Watson

Barbados was the only place Washington ever visited outside of continental North America. In 1751 he accompanied his ailing brother, Lawrence, to the West Indian island. His experiences and impressions are recorded in the journal he kept during his six-week stay. This journal is the major source used for this talk, which is set in the context of the socio-economic history of the small island of Barbados where the astounding success of sugar cultivation and processing using the labor largely of enslaved West Africans had created what contemporaries described as the “jewel in the Crown” and the "richest spote of ground in the worlde." 

Karl Watson is Barbadian-born and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida. He was a member of the group that restored the George Washington House on Barbados and is deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of that historic property. He is the author of several books, including Barbados the Civilised Island; Barbados: A Social History, 1750 to 1816; Barbados First: The Years of Change, 1920 to 1970; and The White Minority in the Caribbean (with Howard Johnson).

3:00 pm


3:15 pm

General Washington's First Headquarters and What He Learned There

J.L. Bell

George Washington took command of the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1775. Soon he moved into a mansion that served as his headquarters for nine months – longer than any other site until Newburgh, New York. This talk explores why the general chose that house, now a National Park Service site; how he used it; and what he learned about leading the Continental cause while inside those walls. It will also discuss how later owners – the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family – helped to preserve the public memory of the Revolution and Mount Vernon in particular.

J.L. Bell is proprietor of the website and author of The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannons Ignited the Revolutionary War. He is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and an honorary member of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati. Bell’s contribution to this symposium is drawn from a book-length study of Washington’s Cambridge headquarters that he wrote for the National Park Service.

4:00 pm

"Got into Annapolis between five & Six Oclock": George Washington among Maryland's Architectural Trendsetters

Thomas Reinhart

Annapolis, Maryland’s capital, was a center of culture, politics, and social activity during the middle of the 18th century. Wealthy families competed for power and status by expressing their affluence and taste through architecture, and the city became one of the most important places for architectural design and the building arts in British North America. During this flowering of architectural expression, George Washington was a frequent visitor to the nearby city and the homes of its prominent families. The influence of Annapolis on Washington can be distinguished in the architecture of Mount Vernon, making the house in some ways more tied to Maryland than Virginia.

Thomas Reinhart is the Director of Architecture at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. He earned his Master’s degrees in Classical Archaeology from Florida State University and in American architectural history from George Washington University. For fourteen years he worked at the Maryland Historical Trust, principally as the Administrator of Architectural Research. At Mount Vernon, he has directed restorations of the New Room, the Chintz Room, and the recently-completed Blue Room, as well as the stabilization of the iconic cupola and the 1758 main staircase.

4:45 pm

Symposium Concludes