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In September of 1751, George Washington and his older half-brother, Lawrence, sailed for the island of Barbados in the hopes that the warm climate would improve Lawrence's failing health. Arriving in December, they stayed only one month. Despite the wonder and excitement of his first and only travel outside of the country, the trip was also bittersweet for young Washington. It was one of the last occasions he saw his brother alive. This specimen of Gorgonia Ventalina, or "fan coral," was taken as a reminder of his trip and possibly served as a memorial to Lawrence.


Specimen of dried, purple-colored fan coral rooted to a square substrate made of coral, shells and limestone. Situated on the top right-hand portion of the base is the basal disk that forms a sprawling anchorage from which the polyps extended to form a fan shape. Spreading upwards from the central substructure are six major anastomose branches that support a network of reticulate "lace-like" webbing that spans between each extension.





Coral, shell, stone


Overall: 17 3/4 in. x 16 1/2 in. x 6 1/2 in. (45.09 cm x 41.91 cm x 16.51 cm)

Credit Line

Transferred to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through the generosity of John Augustine Washington III, 1860

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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