Archive for the ‘Washington, Martha’ Category

“A lock of the General’s hair”

On February 22, just in time for George Washington’s birthday, an article in the newspaper announced that an archivist at Union College (Schenectady, NY) library had found an uncatalogued volume, its brown pages frayed, on the shelves. A ho-hum moment you may think, but, upon closer examination, it seems that the book, an almanac from 1793, had belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, son of General Philip John Schuyler, a Revolutionary War hero and a founder of the College. Hidden inside the pages was an envelope with the words “Washington’s Hair”—indeed there was a lock of hair! Although we may view this type of souvenir as a bit odd today, in the 18th century, hair clippings were commonly taken as souvenirs to be placed in rings or lockets. They were tokens of friendship as well as remembrance.

When John Jay was named minister plenipotentiary to Spain in late September 1779, his wife Sarah Livingston Jay was determined to accompany him even though she would be leaving her family, her young son Peter Augustus, and her home, perhaps never to return. (Ocean travel, especially in time of war, was not for the faint of heart.) The Jays and George Washington were friends but Sarah may also have been showing her patriotic support when she wrote General Washington a letter requesting a lock of his hair. Washington had a good head of hair as can be seen in Gilbert Stuart’s portrait. He replied:

West-point Octobr 7th 1779General Washington presents his most respectful compliments to Mrs. Jay. Honoured in her request . . . he takes pleasure in presenting the inclosed,* with thanks for so polite a testimony of her approbation & esteem. He wishes most fervently, that prosperous gales an unruffled Sea & every Thing pleasing & desirable, may smooth the path she is about to walk in.

*Sarah noted on the letter, “A lock of the General’s hair.”

Sarah probably took the lock with her to Europe but we don’t know in what. In a frame, or even an almanac? John Jay had the lock of hair incorporated into a pin while in London in 1784.

The General was generous with gifts of his hair during his lifetime. When he retired from the presidency in 1797, Elizabeth Stoughton Wolcott, wife of U.S. Treasury Secretary Oliver Wolcott, requested a lock of his hair as a memento. The story is that Martha Washington took out a pair of scissors then and there and cut off not only a lock of her husband’s hair but also of her own to give Mrs. Wolcott.

From Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, Janet M. Wedge, Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005), p. 61. Pin with hair, John Jay Homestead, Katonah, N.Y. Lock of hair in a locket, at Mt. Vernon Collections, W-1150. Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), unfinished, 1796, Boston MFA.

posted March 12th, 2018 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fashion,Friendship,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Washington, George,Washington, Martha,Wolcott, Elizabeth Stoughton

Martha Washington’s Recipes

GEORGE and MARTHA WASHINGTON entertained a good deal—at the presidential residences in New York and Philadelphia and, of course, at Mount Vernon where they always welcomed a stream of visitors. Although Martha Washington undoubtedly owned several cookbooks only two survive. Her copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, first published in 1747, is at Mount Vernon. The other, a manuscript cookbook called Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, a collection of 16th and 17th recipes (known as receipts) which she acquired from the family of her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In 1981 it was published in an edited and annotated version by Karen Hess.

At the cookery section of Mount Vernon’s website you can peruse many recipes for dishes that were served at Washington dinners …. and make them yourself as they have been adapted for modern methods of preparation and cooking. I have chosen two suitable for this week’s holiday: one a dressing to serve with your bird, and another which is great for using those leftovers. Both are featured on the menu at the Mount Vernon restaurant.

Fruit Dressing for the Holiday Bird

Ingredients

2 cups chopped, unpeeled Jonathan apples
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped, seeded dates
2 cups chopped figs
2 cups mixed nuts (Brazil, walnuts, filberts and pecans)
1 cup grape juice
6 slices buttered toasted bread, cut into cubes
1 cup turkey drippings

Directions

Mix apples, celery, dates, figs, nutmeats and toasted bread cubes. Moisten with grape juice. Arrange ingredients in a 9×13-inch pyrex dish. Baste with turkey drippings. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Serves 14 to 16

Golden Turkey Pie

Ingredients

1 deep-dish 9-inch pie shell
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup diced, cooked turkey
2 tablespoons chopped pimento
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Paprika

Directions

Preheat empty cookie sheet in 375 degree oven. Add pie shell to hot cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. (This will make it crisp.) Cook celery in butter until tender; stir in turkey and pimento. Beat together eggs, milk, mayonnaise, mustard and salt. Stir in turkey mixture. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes, until silver knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Serves 4 to 6

Enjoy Thanksgiving Day with friends and family, and count your blessings.

posted November 21st, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Food,Mount Vernon,Recipes,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“I have lost a much valued Friend.”

MARTHA WASHINGTON and ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL did not have a great deal in common though they were fast friends and faithful correspondents. One thing that did bind them together was grief. They had both suffered losses: Martha of her first husband and her four children, and Powel of her husband (in September 1793 as a result of the yellow fever epidemic which had devastated Philadelphia) and her only offspring, two infant sons.

The sudden death of “the General” on Dec. 14, 1799 grieved both women. Ten days after the “late melancholy Event,” Elizabeth assured Martha that “tho’ the Season is far advanced, and the Roads bad, I would most certainly pay a Visit to your House of Mourning, could I afford to you the smallest consolation under this seemingly hard dispensation of Pro[v]idence; but I too well know that no Consolation can be effected by human Agency. . . . the healing Hand of Time, and pious resignation to the inscrutable decrees of God can alone tranquilize your Soul.” Concluding her letter she wrote: “I have lost a much valued Friend.”

Elizabeth Willing Powel never remarried, remaining a widow for thirty-six years. The portrait is of her in old age. As she had no direct heirs she formally adopted her nephew, John Powel Hare, the one for whom she had purchased Washington’s six coach horses. Hare changed his name to John Hare Powel. Elizabeth Willing Powel died on January 17, 1830 at the age of 87. She was by all accounts a truly extraordinary woman.

Portrait courtesy American Gallery. Mary V. Thompson, In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George Washington (Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2008); LETTER from Elizabeth Willing Powel to Martha Washington, Dec. 24, 1799, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. This LINK provides a self-guided very informative tour of the Powel House in Philadelphia.

posted October 9th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“My Heart is so sincerely afflicted. . . .”

ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL and George Washington exchanged letters in Philadelphia until he left for Mount Vernon in mid December 1798. Washington paid promptly for the articles that Powel had purchased for him. Clearly the two had a high regard for each other, certainly friendship and admiration, if not something more.

Tuesday 4th Decr 1798 My dear Madam,
Receive, I pray you, my best thanks for the Prints you had the goodness to send me; and my acknowledgments of your kind, and obliging offer to chuse some thing handsome, with which to present Miss Custis [Eleanor “Nelly ” Parke Custis]. The difference between thirty & Sixty (or more) dollars, is not so much a matter of consideration, as the appropriate thing.

I presume, she is provided with a Muff; of a tippet I am not so certain; but a handsome Muslin, or any thing else, that is not the whim of the day, cannot be amiss. The cost of which, when furnished, you will please to announce to me. Is there any thing—not of much cost—I could carry Mrs Washington as a memento that she has not been forgotten, in this City? . . . .

My present expectation is, that We shall close the business which brought me here, by Friday—Saturday at farthest; when my journey will commence. But before my departure I shall, most assuredly, have the honor of paying my respects to you. With the greatest respect & Affecte. I am always Yours
Go: Washington

Elizabeth Willing Powel sent Washington a bill post haste.

[Philadelphia] Friday Decr 7th 1798 My dear Sir
The amount of the Articles purchased you will find to be Seventy Four dols. & a half. . . .

My Heart is so sincerely afflicted and my Idea’s so confused that I can only express my predominant Wish—that God may take you into his holy keeping and preserve you safe both in Traveling and under all Circumstances, and that you may be happy here and hereafter is the ardent Prayer of Your affectionate afflicted Friend
Eliza. Powel

Pasted onto the manuscript is a notation, in Elizabeth Willing Powel’s hand, indicating that she paid $65 for a “Piece of Muslin,” $2.50 for “A Doll,” and $7 for a “Thread Case.” The doll was for Eliza Law, the child of Elizabeth Parke Custis, Martha’s eldest grandchild, and her husband John Law. The marriage was not a happy one and ended in divorce. The thread-case, it seems, was for Martha. Illustrated is a thread-case that belonged to Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha. George Washington replied to Powel immediately——sometimes these exchanges seem a lot like email today!

Philadelphia 7th Decr 1798 My dear Madam,
The articles you had the goodness to send me this forenoon (when it was not in my power to acknowledge the receipt of them) came very safe, and I pray you again, to accept my thanks for the trouble I have given you in this business.

Enclosed are Seventy five dollars, which is the nearest my present means will enable me to approach $74 50/100 the cost of them. . . .

For your kind and affectionate wishes, I feel a grateful sensibility, and reciprocate them with all the cordiality you could wish, being My dear Madam Your most Obedt & obliged Hble Servant
Go: Washington

“To George Washington from Elizabeth Willing Powel, 3 December 1798,” “From George Washington to Elizabeth Willing Powel, 4 December 1798,” “To George Washington from Elizabeth Willing Powel, 7 December 1798,” “From George Washington to Elizabeth Willing Powel, 7 December 1798,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/06-03-02-0164. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 3, 16 September 1798 – 19 April 1799, ed. W. W. Abbot and Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999, p. 242, 243–244, 246-47.]

posted October 5th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Custis, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke,Philadelphia,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“I had no love letters to lose”

The letter in this post is the response of George Washington to the previous one from ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL in which she informs him that she had found a bundle of letters in one of the drawers of his writing desk which she had purchased and was returning it to him with three wax seals to be certain it would not be tampered with. The letters turned out to have been from Martha Washington to George. He makes light of the incident although he is pleased that Powel had found the letters not someone more “inquisitive,” although the reader would have been disappointed because they contained more evidence of friendship than amorous love. Hmmm. Perhaps. But we cannot confirm this as the letters were destroyed either by Washington himself or by Martha after his death.

Mount Vernon 26th Mar. 1797My dear Madam,
A Mail of last week brought me the honor of your favor, begun the 11th, and ended the 13th of this instant.

Had it not been for one circumstance, which by the bye is a pretty material one—viz.—that I had no love letters to lose—the introductory without the explanatory part of your letter, would have caused a serious alarm; and might have tried how far my nerves were able to sustain the shock of having betrayed the confidence of a lady. But although I had nothing to apprehend on that score, I am not less surprized at my having left those of Mrs Washington in my writing desk; when as I supposed I had emptied all the drawers; mistaken in this however, I have to thank you for the delicacy with which they have been treated. But admitting that they had fallen into more inquisitive hands, the corrispondence would, I am persuaded, have been found to be more fraught with expressions of friendship, than of enamoured love, and, consequently, if the ideas of the possessor of them, with respect to the latter passion, should have been of the Romantic order to have given them the warmth, which was not inherent, they might have been committed to the flames.

As we shall not relinquish the hope of seeing you in Virginia whenever it may suit your inclination & convenience, I am about to fulfil the promise I made, of giving you an Account of the Stages on the Road. . . .

Washington concluded by giving Powel the promised detailed account of his trip through the south as president of the United States.

“From George Washington to Elizabeth Willing Powel, 26 March 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/06-01-02-0039. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1797 – 30 December 1797, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998, pp. 51–53.]

posted September 25th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

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