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This stereoview card in Mount Vernon's collection depicts the Old Tomb, ca. 1880.

The Old Tomb

George Washington’s older half-brother Lawrence left instructions in his will for this tomb to be constructed on the banks of the Potomac. Although George and Martha Washington’s bodies were transferred to the New Tomb after it was completed in 1831, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association made it a priority to repair the Old Tomb. Extensive repairs were necessary. The Ladies reported:

Every thing is so neglected, and so shockingly careless, the Old Tomb is being carried away piece meal, we want a railing around it, and a guard who will permit no further pillage.

The fencing that appears in this image was replaced with wrought-iron railing around 1886.

About Stereoviews

Stereoview cards featured two photographs printed side by side, one for the left eye, and one for the right. When looking through a stereoscope, the two flat pictures blend into a single image giving the illusion of depth.

This photographic technique originated in the 1840s and was popular until the 1930s, when movies and other modern media took center stage. In the late 19th century, looking at stereoviews of famous and faraway landmarks was a popular pastime.

The Image
Stereoscopic view of the Old Tomb at Mount Vernon with two unidentified men. Mounted on orange board. The publisher's imprint on the front of the stereograph mount reads; N. G. Johnson, Photographer, 309 9th St., Washington, D.C. Only Authorized Publisher of Mount Vernon Views. (MVLA)

Raising Funds

As the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association pursued costly preservation projects such as the Old Tomb restoration, they relied on income from photography royalties. Popular at the time, stereoview cards proved an important source of revenue.

Historic 3-D Images of Mount Vernon

In 2015, Mount Vernon partnered with the Center for Civil War Photography to scan 20 historic stereoview cards (including this one) and convert them into modern 3-D images, which can be viewed using 3-D glasses.

See this Stereograph, and others, in 3-D