George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. John Adams was president and Abigail was first lady. Philadelphia was still the capital of the United States, with the city of Washington to have that honor in 1800. Abigail Adams wrote to her sister Mary Cranch on December 30 describing a gathering she had hosted the previous week.
Last frydays drawing Room was the most crowded of any I ever had. Upwards of a hundred Ladies, and near as many Gentlemen attended, all in mourning. The Ladies Grief did not deprive them of taste in
ornamenting their white dresses: 2 yds of Black mode in length, of the narrow kind pleated upon one shoulder, crossd the Back in the form of a Military sash tyed at the side, crosd the peticoat & hung to the bottom of it, were worn by many. Others wore black Epulets of Black silk trimd with fring[e] upon each shoulder, black Ribbon in points upon the Gown & coat some plain Ribbon, some black Snail*. Their caps were crape with black plumes or black flowers. Black Gloves & fans. The Gentlemen all in Black. The Ladies many of them wanted me to fix the time for wearing mourning, but I declined, and left them to Govern themselves by the periods prescribed by the Gentlemen. The assembly Room is burnt down, and they have not any place to display their gay attire but the drawing Room and private parties, and as they expect it will be the last winter they will have the opportunity, they intended shining.
* obsolete for chenille
Women in mourning at this time typically wore white.