What I learned from keeping an eighteenth-century correspondence in the twenty-first century

I understand that to many of our readers, the idea of writing handwritten letters to a friend is not so much a fun challenge as it is a (very recently) outmoded form of communication. But as someone who grew up in the computer age and spends most of her work hours reading and transcribing Martha Washington’s letters, I was inspired to write some of my own.

Lettuce Enjoy the Lettis Tart

During my search for documents and letters relating to Martha Washington, I’ve stumbled upon numerous interesting articles. One of the most attention-grabbing pieces was a short recipe for “lettis tart.” To begin, I had to wonder – what exactly is “lettis”? I assumed it simply was “lettuce” misspelled, but when I googled “lettis” to confirm my hunch, I found a blog post about a modern attempt at the recipe. It identified “lettis” as iceberg lettuce. Though a little research suggests that iceberg didn’t exist in Martha’s time, the post was all I had to go on, and by this time curiosity had gotten the best of me, so I added the ingredients to my grocery list.

“Went to Church at Alexandria”: George Washington and Christ Church

As the Washington Papers editor headquartered at Mount Vernon, I live and work in the community where George Washington spent his happiest times as an adult. Along with physically being on Washington’s estate during the week, I also serve as a docent at Christ Church in Old Town Alexandria on some weekends.1 Originally part of the Church of England (the Anglican Church), today Christ Church is part of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (formed after the American Revolution).

To Make a Great Cake

Martha Washington’s “Great Cake” recipe is a sweet document, written in a careful hand by her granddaughter on a piece of folded scrap paper. Its instructions are incredible to the 21st century eye. It asks for forty eggs, four pounds each of sugar and butter, five pounds of fruit and flour, a pint of wine, an ounce of nutmeg and mace, and plenty of French brandy.

Three-Dimensional Insights at George Washington’s Boyhood Home

Having shepherded “George Washington, Day-By-Day, 22 February 1732-14 December 1799” into existence, I very much looked forward to visiting Washington’s childhood home bordering the Rappahannock River directly across from Fredericksburg, Virginia. This visit finally occurred on Monday, November 9.

George Washington’s Advice to his Grandson

While Washington Custis’s letters to his grandfather during his first months away at school have not survived, George Washington’s letters to his grandson provide insight into his role as father figure to the young man. Both the president and the grandson lost their fathers at an early age: George Washington at eleven, and George Washington Parke Custis at only six months. By writing these letters of advice the father of our country was imparting wisdom similar to what he might have received from his own parent.

Holiday Cooking with Washington

By Caitlin Conley December 5, 2014 Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team. 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 […]