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New Video! “George Washington’s Unnumbered Hogs”

By Caitlin Conley
February 17, 2015

Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team.

Welcome to Part III of our series “George’s Farm Animals!” This video features GW’s hogs. Most of the references to his hogs in the Confederation and Retirement periods of his documents appear in his diaries, which are quite different in tone and character from his letters.
The diaries at first seem to be tedious, for they simply give the facts of what he did each day, rather than long reflections. In the introduction to the Papers of George Washington Diaries Series, Dorothy Twohig explains:

“…let us not be unfair to a man who had his own definition of a diary: “Where & How my Time is Spent.” The phrase runs the whole record through. He accounts for his time because, like his lands, his time is a usable resource. It can be tallied and its usefulness appraised. Perhaps it was more than mere convenience that caused Washington to set down his earliest diary entries in interleaved copies of an almanac, for an almanac, too, is an accounting of time.”

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Source: “The hog : a Treatise on the Breeds, Management, Feeding, and Medical Treatment of Swine” by William Youatt and W. C. L. Martin. New York: C.M. Saxon, 1856.

GW also carefully accounted for all of his animals in his diaries, listing them variously by name, number, and color. Hogs, because they were so difficult to keep penned, were the exception, for they ran free in the forest and could not be counted for much of the year. Read the full diary entries featured in the video here:

Diary Entry 15 November, 1785

Diary Entry 12 December, 1785

Diary Entry 13 December, 1785

In addition to the diaries, the video features a letter to David Stuart, a letter from Benjamin Fitzhugh Grymes, and a letter from Gouverneur Morris. The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition gives identifying information for each of these correspondents.
Dr. David Stuart (1753-c.1814) had intimate connections with GW. He had married the widow of GW’s stepson, John Parke Custis, in 1783, and taken over Custis’s business affairs in 1785. GW often turned to him to translate the letters in French that he received.  In the latter part of the decade, Stuart was a member of the Virginia Assembly and the Virginia ratifying Convention. Read the full letter featured in the video here: George Washington to David Stuart, 6 December, 1786.
There is less biographical information available for Benjamin Fitzhugh Grymes (died c.1803), who evidently was a more casual acquaintance of GW’s. He was a planter who lived in King George County, Virginia. Read the full letter featured in the video here: Benjamin Fitzhugh Grymes to George Washington, 14 March, 1787.
Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), on the other hand, was a prominent figure in the founding era and a longtime supporter and friend of GW. During the Confederation period, he was assistant to Robert Morris, the superintendent of finance. After leaving that position in 1785, he continued to have business deals with Morris and acted as an agent for him in Europe. Read the full letter featured in the video here: Gouverneur Morris to George Washington, 12 November, 1788.
In illustrating these documents, we were lucky to be able to feature Mount Vernon’s Ossabaw Island Hogs. This heritage breed is descended from hogs brought to the New World by Spanish explorers, and so gives an idea of what the animals George raised would have looked like. For more information on the breed, see the Livestock Conservancy site, and for more information on Mount Vernon’s hogs, see the page on their animals.
Watch this video, and the previous two installments, on our video page. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!