Slide 1


G.I. George

Image: In discussing the original with students, you could have them point out that GW is the focal point of the scene, at the height and in the center of the painting. The area behind him is a lighter color and the general shape of the figures is a triangle, with GW at the highest point.

Document: This note to General Howe is not in GW's handwriting, but rather copied by a clerk into a book kept expressly for that purpose. GW's secretary during the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton, wrote this note.

For more information, see:

"General Howe's Dog" on the Papers of George Washington website

Valley Forge Historical Society website, with activities for kids

Stamping Out the British: Support for a Boycott, slide 5 in GW: Life & Times

Keeping the Troops in Line: General Orders from the Revolutionary War, slide 6 in GW: Life & Times

Guide to the American Revolutionary War

Slide 2


President George

Image: The image is one of Gilbert Stuart's many full-length poses of GW painted in the 1790s. GW is supposed to be addressing Congress. You might have students study the image, look very closely and point out the symbolic rainbow (just above his coat sleeve) in the background and the American red, white and blue insignia on the back of the chair.Versions of this painting circulated in Europe, and from it many had their first glimpse of a likeness of the first president of the young country. You could discuss how this painting helped foster the image of the presidency—what kind of figure was he supposed to be?

Document: According to newspaper and other primary accounts, the women of Trenton greeted GW wearing white dresses and singing under an archway of flowers constructed especially for the occasion. As volume 2 of the Papers of George Washington Presidential Series notes, "On the archway was printed the 1776 date for the liberation of Trenton and the words "The Defender of the Mothers will also Defend the Daughters." (108-9).

GW was so impressed by this reception at Trenton that he recorded the song in his letter-book, into which his secretaries copied his correspondence for record-keeping. The song, though, is clearly in GW's own hand. He wrote back to the ladies of Trenton:

Trenton April 21st 1789

General Washington cannot leave this place without expressing his acknowledgements, to the Matrons and Young Ladies who received him in so novel & grateful a manner at the Triumphal Arch in Trenton, for the exquisite sensation he experienced in that affecting moment. The astonishing contrast between his former and actual situation at the same spot—The elegant taste with which it was adorned for the present occasion—and the innocent appearance of the white-robed Choir who met him with gratulatory song, have made such impressions on his remembrance, as, he assures them, will never be effaced.

Transcription of the song and GW's reply printed in The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series,volume 2, W.W. Abbot, editor, Dorothy Twohig, volume editor, (University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville and London, 1999), 108-9.

Map of the U.S. in 1790 courtesy American Studies at the University of Virginia.

For more information, see:

The Lansdowne Portrait in GW in the News

Pushing the Boundaries: Address to the Senate on Native Americans, slide 8 in GW: Life & Times

Eight is Enough: The Farewell Address, slide 9 in GW: Life & Times

Slide 3


Uncle George

Image: Here, GW sits with Martha and their grandchildren, Nelly and Washy Custis. Note that GW is painted in his military uniform—symbolically uniting GW's official roles with his family life. Students might question the figure at the far right. This is William Lee, known as "Billy," who was Washington's personal servant for decades. You might ask students about the significance of the dramatic background and about the position of the family members, with GW resting his arm on his grandson's shoulder.

Document: Harriot Washington was 14 years old when she wrote this letter. While a direct answer from GW has not been found, we do have a letter written to him two years later in which she asks again for a guitar and another from 1793 in which she requests a "lutestring." GW did write her on October 30, 1792, advising her to behave with more restraint, especially since she had no real fortune of her own. He also wrote others about his concern for her education and her behavior, which he thought needed improvement.

Transcription of the Harriot Washington letter printed in The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series,volume 5, Dorothy Twohig, editor, Twohig, et al, volume editors, (University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville and London, 1999), 310-11.

For more information, see:

Family Man: A Letter to Martha, slide 4 in GW: Life and Times

Slide 4


Farmer George

Image: GI George lounges in front of the "Mansion House" at Mount Vernon.

Document: The three columns in the first chart are for three different recordings for the temperature each day— morning, noon and night. GW also recorded these three temperature readings in his diary.

Since River Farm has the most cattle, calves, sheep and lambs, it probably contains the most land. The legend, in GW's handwriting, shows that River Farm was the largest in acreage, at 1902 acres.

GW required his managers to account for how the slaves spent their 6 work days each week. In this chart, with 27 working slaves at River Farm and 6 days for work, the total number of "days" available for work during the week-long period of the report was 162, designated by the abbreviation "Dr." The descriptions after "Cr." account for how the "days" were spent. Note that the manager factors in the days when weather prevented outdoor work, when John is sick and when Agnes is having her baby, to arrive at the total of 162.

Also, if this is students' first encounter with 18th century documents, you'll want to point out that spelling discrepancies were common and grammar was not yet standardized.

For more information, see:

Mount Vernon

Master of Mount Vernon: The Farm Reports and Slavery, slide 10 in GW: Life and Times

Slide 5


Storybook George

Image: In Grant Wood's Cartoon for Parson Weems' Fable (1939), Parson Weems is depicted holding back the curtain to reveal the myth he created about George Washington. Washington's father holds the limb of the cherry tree and scolds "young" George. You might have students link to the original and discuss why "young" George is actually a miniature grown man in this painting.

Document: Washington's teeth were not wooden, but made of teeth (one of his own and cow's teeth) and ivory. "sower"=sour

The first document is the forgery. There are over 100 of this type of discharge letter written by Robert Spring in the mid 1800s. Spring's method was to contact relatives of Revolutionary War soldiers, claiming to have found a letter from Washington regarding their relative. He would then sell a forgery to the unsuspecting family.

Transcription of Greenwood letter printed in The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series,volume 3, Dorothy Twohig, editor, W.W. Abbot and Edward G. Lengel, volume editors, (University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville and London, 1999), 289-90.

For more information, see:

The Fable of George Washington and the Cherry Tree From The Life of Washington, by Mason Locke Weems, 1809, on the Papers of George Washington website