Slide 1


The "Lansdowne Portrait"

As more and more portraits were painted of him, GW became increasingly reluctant to sit for them. This portrait is clearly supposed to feature Washington in his role as leader of the new country. Some art historians and historians interpret the message as GW as "president," but others regard the pose as more monarchical. In either case, it was part of the debate over the appropriate public image for the new American presidency. GW's pose is reminiscent of portraits of European monarchs. Stuart had spent eighteen years in England and Ireland and was very familiar with traditions in portraiture there.

As for symbols within the painting, the rainbow can be a sign of a fresh start for the country with GW's presidency, the books feature topics related to the new country, and the furniture bears the insignia of the United States.

Some art historians have criticized the anatomical proportion of GW in the Lansdowne portrait, which was "corrected" in later versions.

For more information, see:

Miles, Ellen G., with a preface by Edmund S. Morgan. George and Martha Washington: Portraits from the Presidential Years. Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery Washington, DC, in association with the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London, 1999.

Rasmussen, William M.S., and Robert Tilton. George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 1999.

See other Washington portraits in our Maps & Portraits section of The Papers of George Washington web site.

The Smithsonian Institution

The National Portrait Gallery

Slide 2


GW Underground: New Archaeological Finds in Philadelphia

Dating from the Revolution, the fight for the location of the national capital was long and contentious. The New England, or "eastern" states, finally agreed to a site on the Potomac in return for the southern states' acceptance of Hamilton's plan for the federal government to assume state debts. Representatives from the largely anti-federalist southern states were threatened by this consolidation of power of the federal government and wanted states to retain control over their finances. Also, vying for the permanent capital, Pennsylvania representatives agreed to the compromise when Philadelphia was chosen as the interim capital for the intervening decade.

Students can compare their drawings by clicking on the symbol at the bottom of the page, which will take them to an article on the ice house on our site.

This letter is a nice example of the important links between history and archaeology. The Morris letter provides clues on how to recognize the ice house—the dimensions, design and materials used. The letter is of further value to both historians and archaeologists because it explains how the ice house was used.

For more information, see:

Bowling, Kenneth R. The Creation of Washington, DC: The Idea and the Location of the American Capital. Fairfax, Virginia: George Mason University Press, 1991.

Slide 3


Then and Now: Bugs on the Farm

This letter is not in GW's hand, but was recopied by one of Washington's clerks into a "letterbook" of correspondence.

Morgan sent GW seeds for "yellow-bearded wheat," which was thought to resist the Hessian fly.

If you have time and inclination, students can read the linked Washington Post article from March 28. Possible answers: each is thought to have originated with an import from another country—the economy was "global" two hundred years ago. Researchers in GW's time, like Morgan and Peters, concluded that the fly injured the wheat plant, but not any grain that was made from it. The same is true for the livestock infected with foot-and-mouth. While the meat is still edible, the animals are destroyed so that they won't spread the disease. Each scourge has also been the source of bans on imports. The impact of the two organisms is far different, however. The movement of the Hessian fly was very gradual, while foot-and-mouth has spread incredibly quickly, attributable in part to advances in transportation and the number of people traveling.