Papers of George Washington, a.k.a., Hollywood

By Caitlin Conley

We hope that you’ve liked our videos so far, because we have more coming your way! In January and February we’ll be posting four new videos featuring George’s animals, specifically his sheep, cattle, hogs, and mules. While they’re aimed towards younger viewers and will hopefully be of use in elementary school classrooms, they’ll be interesting to anyone curious about George’s favorite job: being a farmer.

The videos will feature voiceovers from George’s letters, with our editors giving cameo readings of fellows such as the fiery Arthur Young and the jovial Gouverner Morris. As an additional treat, Mount Vernon kindly gave us permission to film their beautiful heritage animals, including their Hog Island Sheep, Milking Devon Cows, and Ossabaw Island Hogs. For more about Mount Vernon’s animals, see their page “Animals at Mount Vernon”.

I’d been having uncomfortable visions of shouting my lines as narrator over a howling gale, but luckily, it was a lovely day last Saturday, which was when we trooped up to Mount Vernon to get our footage. In addition to me as narrator and writer, we had Claire Romaine, a first year at U.Va. and a new member of our social media team, who recorded sound and directed; Eva Lucy Alvarado, a first year in the film club at U.Va., who set up shots and filmed; and Spencer Park, also a first year at U.Va., who helped with setting up equipment and keeping track of what scene we were on.

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It was quite an adventure, and we had a great time exploring Mount Vernon to find places to film. Our biggest obstacle to getting the footage we wanted was planes flying overhead and ruining the sound. I would be halfway through my line about manure, thinking that I was sounding pretty awesome, and then Claire would sigh and say “Stop! Plane!”

The other obstacle was the sheep. The first time we tried to film them, they sauntered away over a hill, one by one, so that there weren’t any left in the shot. The second time, they sat so still that we might as well have been filming statues. Fortunately, some kids passing by volunteered to baaaaaa at them and the sheep at last looked at the camera.

The sheep could have learned something from the cows, who were the opposite of camera shy. All four of us were enormously excited when some Mount Vernon staff members arrived in a red pickup truck to toss the cows their evening hay. We were probably quite a sight, jumping up and down and fumbling to set up the cameras while the cows peacefully munched away:

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The scenery at Mount Vernon is breathtaking, which is, of course, a major reason why Mount Vernon was built there in the first place. We filmed in front of barns, forests, and fields. Our last scenes of the day were in front of the Potomac River:

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Eventually, we realized that we were filming these videos the day before George’s death, 215 years ago. It was a little spooky walking around his grounds the rest of that day, and it made our trip feel extra special.

We hope you’ll enjoy watching the videos as much as we’re enjoying making them for you!


Holiday Cooking with Washington

By Caitlin Conley

What’s the best thing about the holidays? The food, of course! In our 1999 inaugural newsletter, we celebrated holiday food by talking about one of George’s favorites: the Yorkshire Christmas pie.

Martha would have seen the recipe for the pie in her cookbook: Mrs. Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery. It was published originally in England in 1747 and went through several editions, being one of the most popular cookbooks in both England and America. Take a look at Martha’s edition, which dates from the early 1770’s:


“Hannah Glasse, The art of cookery, made plain and easy: which far exceeds anything of the kind ever yet published,” in Martha Washington, Item #67, (accessed December 4, 2014).

And here’s the recipe that she would have used–do you think you could make this dish?

“To Make a Yorkshire Christmas Pie”

“FIRST make a good standing crust, let the wall and bottom be very thick; bone  turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pigeon. Season them all very well, take half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, and half an ounce of black pepper, all beat fine together, two large spoonfuls of salt, and then mix them together. Open the fowls all down the back, and bone them; first the pigeon, then the partridge, cover them; then the fowl, then the goose, and then the turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the curst, so as it will look only like a whole turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean cloth. Cut it to pieces; that is, joint it; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one side; on the other side woodcocks, moor game, and what sort of wild fowl you can get. Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four pounds of butter into the pie, then lay on your lid, which must be a very thick one, and let it be well baked. It must have a very hot oven, and will take at least four hours.”

And we all think that a turducken is a lot of protein! The Yorkshire pie was a lot of food even for George. He wrote to his friend David Humphreys on the day after Christmas in 1786 about Humphreys not being able to spend the holiday at Mount Vernon: “Although I lament the effect, I am pleased at the cause which has deprived us of your aid in the attack of Christmas Pyes. We had one yesterday on which all the company (and pretty numerous it was) were hardly able to make an impression” (see the Confederation Series 4:477-81 of the Papers of George Washington).

Happy holidays!



New Financial Papers Project Video

Interested in learning more about the Financial Papers Project?  This video details the importance of studying George Washington and his detailed financial records, as well as the work happening now to create a digital resources for educators, students, historians, businesspeople, and those generally interested in the life of Washington. The Financial Papers Project is funded in part by a grant from the NHPRC.

You can watch the video on YouTube or Vimeo, or on our Videos page!

To learn more about the Financial Papers Project, see our Financial Papers Project page.


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‘Meet the Papers of George Washington’ Video

Documentary editing involves George Washington’s vast repository of rich documents, a deep understanding of history, and a keen determination to persevere through even the worst handwriting. But what are the challenges involved? What kinds of discoveries can be made? What is involved in the editing process? This introductory video will allow you to learn the answers to these questions, find out more about our far-reaching projects, and meet the editors who accomplish this work—and you might even meet Washington himself.  Ready to watch?  Click here!

Attending the Bibliography Project Presentation

By Caitlin Conley

We came to a halt in front of the black-barred gates that protect the brand new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Ed, who drove Bill Ferraro and I up from our Charlottesville headquarters, rolled down his window and leaned towards the intercom.

“Hi, I’m Ed Lengel, Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of George Washington, and we’re here to attend the Bibliography Project presentation.”

The congenial guard opened the gates and we drove up the winding road to the library.

The Bibliography Project is one of The Papers of George Washington’s many endeavors to expand scholarship on and awareness of George Washington. It seeks to find and annotate every English-language book written on Washington.

Yes, every book. You’ll be able to find entries for novels, histories, juvenile books, biographies, pamphlets…the list goes on. And, as we all know, our George is a pretty popular guy—there are, currently, around 10,000 books in the Bibliography Project database!

Last year, Lynn Price, a doctoral student at George Mason University and manager of the Bibliography Project, led the way to finding and annotating the children’s books about George Washington. This year, as we were about to hear, she would talk about the progress made on annotating adult books primarily about Washington, such as biographies.

Ed, Bill, and I joined the audience in the Rubenstein Leadership Hall for Lynn’s presentation. We loitered near the food, in my case near the sumptuous chocolate cake, talking and laughing. It was a great crowd, replete with interested Mount Vernon staff. Ed and Bill told me later how happy they were to have so many people there to learn more about the project.

Soon Lynn began her presentation.

“So, who is the targeted audience for this project?” she asked. “The answer is: everyone!”

And she did mean everyone: K-12 teachers and students, professors, college students, the general public, Senators, and pretty much anyone else you can think of can benefit from this resource.

Lynn went on to explain that each entry in the database includes both a very short 3-5 sentence summary concerning the book’s content, as well as basic data about the book, including its publishers, type of edition, author, year published, and number of pages.

And, another plus, any element of this information will be searchable.

“If you wanted to find all the books with black and white illustrations published in 1842, written for ages 10 and under, you could!” Lynn joked.

She also outlined the project’s future endeavors, explaining that the third phase, scheduled to be completed in August 2015, would examine books in which Washington is a strong presence, such as a book about American presidents.

At the end of the talk, everyone seemed to be excited about the project’s potential. One person suggested, for instance, that the project also cover images of George Washington. Another asked if the project would also document journal articles and chapters of books. Lynn excitedly told us that all of that, and more, was possible in the future.

As she answered questions, I reflected on the idea that this bibliography was going to, if you’ll pardon the pun, revolutionize the way George Washington is studied and thought of. How could this resource impact your research?

The Quest for Truth: editor Ed Lengel advises on a spurious Washington quote

By Stephanie Kingsley

As you know, here at the Papers of George Washington, as well as at Mount Vernon, we are dedicated to preserving Washington’s writings. What did he really say? By referring to his papers, we can often find the answers. Just last week, our editor-in-chief, Ed Lengel, was consulted by Columbian reporters on the veracity of the quote on the Bend veterans’ monument, located outside the Deschutes County Courthouse in Bend, Oregon. The monument reads:

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.

According to Lengel, there is no evidence Washington ever said these words.  What this means is that after reading thousands of Washington’s papers—many now searchable in the digital edition at Founders Online—these words have never appeared. Before quoting a figure such as Washington, researchers should always refer to the original documents when available; and researchers everywhere should know that in the case of Washington, these resources do indeed exist.

See the full article for Lengel’s comments on spurious Washington quotes and myths. We will also be starting a series of posts on quotations attributed to Washington, so stay tuned as we continue our quest for historical truth here at the Papers of George Washington.

Financial Papers Survey

The Financial Papers Project at the Papers of George Washington seeks to create a free-access Internet database containing accurate transcriptions of Washington’s financial documents, including ledgers, account books, receipts and other items. In order to make this web-based resource as user-friendly as possible, we welcome you to participate in our Financial Papers Survey.

You can take the survey here:


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