Archive for the ‘Philadelphia’ Category

“clanse the House from the garret to the sellers”

MARTHA WASHINGTON certainly knew exactly what she wanted to have done at Mount Vernon before she and the President arrived in the summer of 1792. The following letter to FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON is full of instructions. The “Major” is George Augustine Washington, Fanny’s husband and the President’s nephew. He is obviously ill and, in fact, dies the next year, from tuberculosis it is thought. The couple have two children: Maria and Fayette. Martha’s spelling leaves a great deal to be desired but I expect readers will be able to grasp her meaning.

Philadelphia July the 1st 1792My Dear Fanny –

I am happy to hear of your letter of June the 25th that you and the children are well – and truly sorry you had not better accounts from the Major when you last heard from him – I hope in god that you have since had more favorable accounts from him – The President has fixed on the 12th to leave this place for Mount Vernon if nothing happens to prevent us – wish my dear Fanny that you would make Frank clanse the House from the garret to the sellers – have all the Beds aird and mended and the Bed cloths of every kind made very clean the Bed steads also well scalded – and the low bed steads put up to be ready to carry out of one room into another as you know they are often wanted. I have not a doubt but we shall have company all the time we are at home – I wish you to have all the chinia looked over, the closet clened and the glasses all washed and every thing in the closet as clean as can be than they will be ready when wanted with much less troable than to have them to look for when ever in hurry they may be wanted.

I do not wish to have the clouded cotten made into chear covers – nor the chares stuffed, or done anything to, till I come home as it is probable that the old covers will last as long as I shall stay home by a vessel that will live this in a day or two – I shall send several articles – that could not be had when we sent the last things round – I hope the major will not hurry him self back if he finds benefit from the mountain air it is of the greatest concequince that his health should be established and I hope he will be very careful in doing as the Doctors directs him – I shall be sorry not to see dear Little Maria if the jaunt is for her good – I must be content. I am glad that Fayette is recovered and hope I shall find you and the children quite well – impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nessary in the House keeping way as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country – I dare say you have made the table cloths as well as they can be done – as to the window curtain and bed curtain they may as well be put up – I shall send a carpit for our parlor so that it will be ready by the time I get there if the vessel lives this on tuesday as we expect

The President has given miss Harriot a guitarr – I have inclosed the key it is sent in the vessel with several other things – I shall be glad to have the little caps made and sent before I live this as I wish to give them to the ladie as soon as done we are all well – Mr & Mrs Lear intend a trip to the eastward when we set out for the southward – the weather is extremely warm hear and has been so for some days past – all hear join me in love to you and children – and believe me my dear

Fanny your most
affectionately
M Washington

Note the reference to the “guitarr” that the President gave to his niece Harriot. See POST.

Citation: Martha Washington, “Letter, to Fanny Bassett Washington, July 1, 1792,” online HERE, Item #462 (accessed July 19, 2017).

posted July 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Housekeeping,Lear, Tobias,Mount Vernon,Philadelphia,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, Harriot,Washington, Martha

“let me know if you are in a certain way”

Martha Washington’s surviving correspondence includes more letters to her niece FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON than anyone else. At this point Fanny had married George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine. They were in residence at Mount Vernon, she managing the household, he the estate. They had a daughter Maria. Martha wrote this letter from Philadelphia, the capital of the United States at that time, on April 19, 1791.

Mr dear Fanny

By Austen who is come home to se his friends I have the pleasure to tell you we are all tolerable well—I have never heard from the president since he left Mount Vernon—nor from you. Some day last week i wrote to you and inclosed some muslin borders for —?— to hem—When they are done be so good as to send them back to me by Austin when he comes as his stay will be short indeed[;] I could but illy spare him at this time but to full fill my promise to his wife[.] The children join me in love to you the major and children—you must let me know if you are in a certain way and when the event will happen, as it must be very inconvenient to you for us to come home about the time—our stay will be short and I wish to have all well if possible at this time[.] I expect to be coming home some time about the first of August—how are your brothers, is B Lewes married—
Adieu my dear Fanny & believe
me your most affectionate
M Washington

Austen was a slave. it was the practice of George and Martha to send the slaves they had in Philadelphia back to Mount Vernon regularly to avoid a Pennsylvania law which allowed slaves to gain their freedom after a six-month residency. Martha asks if Fanny is pregnant.

The letter can be found HERE.

posted July 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Mount Vernon,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

Ona Judge “Never Caught . . . . “

I am looking forward to reading the first full-length nonfiction account of the escape of Ona Judge known as Oney, a dower slave belonging to Martha Washington, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (New York: Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, 2017). Ona was the daughter of Betty, a seamstress, and Andrew Judge, a white indentured tailor at Mount Vernon. See previous posts here, here, and here. Oney became a skilled seamstress and was taken by Martha to Philadelphia, the capital of the United States during Washington’s presidency, to be her personal maid. Oney escaped, fled to New Hampshire, and married a seaman Jack Staines. Washington went to great lengths to try to recover her. Without success.

Eric Foner, a historian whom I admire, has called the book “a fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom in the flawed republic he helped to found.”

Historic sites in recent years have introduced exhibitions and tours on the theme of slavery; Mount Vernon’s “Lives Bound Together” runs through September 2018.

posted February 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Staines, Ona "Oney" Judge,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“The India counterpanes make very pretty curtains . . . “

The last two posts have focused on Dr. Richard Hill and his family. When Hill and his wife left the country for Madeira to escape his creditors his large family was broken up. Seven of his nine children remained in America under the care of his daughter Hannah and her husband, Dr. Samuel Preston Moore. Two—Mary and Harriet—accompanied their parents to Madeira. Daughter Deborah later joined them there. These three daughters married and lived abroad. Daughter Milcah Martha was born in Madeira and eventually returned to the United States.

Son Henry Hill, who was raised by his sister in America, and his English brother-in-laws joined his father in the wine business that Hill had established in Madeira. With a lodge in Madeira and offices in London and Philadelphia it became a thriving venture supplying much of the wine to the American colonies and then the United States in the second half of the eighteenth century. Henry inherited a large share in the firm when his father died in 1762 making him a man of considerable wealth.

When Philadelphia became the capital of the United States in 1790, President George Washington and the officers of the new government moved there establishing what became known as the “Republican Court.” They rented and refurbished large houses and the wealthy residents of the city built or redecorated their own mansions and delighted in being part of the lively social scene. The latest fashions in furniture and decor from London and Paris were much sought after. Henry Hill and his wife Ann Meredith built a house on Fourth Street between Union Street and Cypress Alley. Hill sought the advice of his sister MARY HILL LAMAR, who lived in London, on what furniture would be suitable and solicited her help in making appropriate purchases for him. Here is a letter containing Mary’s advice.

London [without a date]

Captain Willet being to sail to-morrow, you may depend on the above going by the first opportunity after all are ready. As to the chimney-piece and slab, a handsome white marble which is the fashion for the best room and looks beautifully, cannot be got under £40 or £50. By what you say of Mr. White’s, it cannot be such as I mean, which is entirely marble without any wood. His I imagine is only a plain slip of wood in front; such, here, are only put in bed and back rooms; the best dining parlors of late have also entire marble pieces. If the foregoing articles cannot be got ready to go very soon, I think to send as soon as possible the paper; the most fashionable is such as will suit any colored furniture. Yellow is a color quite the fashion at present, and from experience I know it wears and cleans the best of any.

You say nothing of chairs. I shall strive to make the upholsterer give some plans, when, if you want any you can choose. I think the best for America are cane seats with hair cushions covered with silk, which may be taken off in summer; the sofas made in the same manner.

A best room furnished in the present style and plainest taste is nothing more than two sofas, twelve or more chairs, a marble half circular table under the glass or glasses, glass lustres on the slabs to hold four lights, the lowest price of which will be twelve or fourteen guineas the pair, or in place of them, silver or plated branches for three candles; or in place of the marble slabs, inlaid wood, which are very pretty and come cheaper.

Neither tea or card tables stand in the best room, but are brought in when wanted; in the back room or common sitting room, one or two sofas according to the size of the room; chairs the same as in the best; a small breakfast table, one or two card tables, a double half oval under the glass, or in lieu, the tea or card tables. The India counterpanes make very pretty curtains for a back room or best bedroom; as one counterpane of the largest size makes a window curtain, they come much cheaper than a good English cotton; some time ago they were to be got for three guineas apiece, but are not to be met with now; they make beautiful beds lined with white, and white clothes [bed linens] and testers [curtains for four-poster beds].
I have written you a long scrawl.
[The remainder of the letter is missing.]

Henry Hill’s wife died in 1785. He died from the yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in 1798.

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881
(Philadelphia: 1854), 197-98. The illustration is of Henry Hill from the aforementioned book. Additional information on the wine trade can be found on this site: “The Role of the Madeira Shipper in Relation to American Connoisseurs: The Case of Henry Hill.”

posted February 13th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Furnishings,Hill, Dr. Richard,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Philadelphia

“I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house”

ELIZABETH DRINKER noted on 20 July 1778: “Grace Galloway turn’d out of her House this forenoon, and Spanish officers put in. . . . ”

After the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, GRACE GALLOWAY had stayed behind—her Loyalist husband Joseph had fled with their daughter Betsy—in the hope of preventing their house “Trevose,” or the Manor of Bensalem (pictured in the previous post,) from being confiscated. A vain hope as it turned out. Charles Willson Peale, the Commissioner of Forfeited Estates, was determined to seize the property of accused traitors, the sale of which would yield him a five percent commission. Here is Grace Growden Galloway’s account of what happened as noted in her diary.

Wednesday . . . [June 17, 1778] this evening parted with my dear Husband & child. . . .

This day Thursday the 18th the American Troops came into Town.

Friday the 19th was warn’d by peal [sic] that he must take possession of my house for the state. . . .

[July] Tusday the 21st . . . about 2 o’clock they came—one smith a hatter & Col Will & one Shriner & a Dutch Man I know not his Name—they took an inventory of everything even to broken China & empty bottles. . . . they told Me they must advertise the house I told them they must do as they pleased but till it was decided by a Court I wou’d not go out Unless by the force of a bayonet but when I knew who had a right to it I should know how to act. . . .
Accordingly I did so & a little after 10 oclock they Knocked Violently at the door three times; the Third time I sent Nurse & call’d out myself to tell them I was in possession of my own House & wou’d keep so & they shou’d gain No admittance. Hereupon which they went round in the yard & Try’d every door but cou’d None Open, then they went to the Kitchen door & with a scrubbing brush which they broke to pieces, they forced that open—we Women standing in the Entry in the Dark they made repeated strokes at the door & I think was 8 or 10 Minuets before they got it open. When they came in, I had the windows open’d; they look’d very Mad. Their was peel, smith, the Hatter & a Col Will a pewterer in second street. I spoke first & told them I was Used ill: & show’d them the Opinion of the Lawyers. Peel read it: but they all despised it & peel said he had studied the Law & knew they did right. I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house. Smith said they knew how to Manage that & that they wou’d throw my cloaths in the street. . . .

Wenesday the 22 . . . Sent for Mr. [John] Dickison last Night & he told Me he wou’d look over the law to see if I cou’d recover My own estate & this evening he came & told Me I cou’d Not recover dower & he fear’d my income in My estate was forfeited likewise & that no tryal wou’d be of service: but advised Me to draw up a peti’on to the Chief Justice Mccean [Thomas McKean] for the recovery of my estate & refused a fee in the Politest Manner, but begg’d I wou’d look on him as My sincere friend . . . so I find I am a beggar indeed. I expect every hour to be turn’d out of doors & where to go I know not no one will take me in & all the Men keeps from Me. . . .

[August] Saturday the 8th . . . Peal & Will came to let Me know that I must go out a Monday Morn: for they wou’d give the spaniard [Don Juan de Miralles] Possession. . . .

Thursday the 20th [Her lawyer William] Lewise sent me word that I must shut my doors & windows & if they wou’d come to let them Make a forcible Entry. Peel & Will went over the House to see Nothing was Embassell’d [embezzled] & Locking Up the things at last Smith went away. . . . after every Mortifying treatment I was tiard [tired] & wanted to be turn’d out. Peel went upstairs & brought down My Work bag & 2 bonnets & put them on the side table; at last we went in the Entry to sit. . . . two of the Men went out & after staying some time return’d & said they had been with the council & that they had done right & must proceed. I did not hear this myself but the rest of the Women did. Mrs [Molly] Craig asked for My Bed but they wou’d let Me Have Nothing & as I told them acted entirely from Malice: after we had been in the Entry some time Smith & Will went away & Peel said the Chariot was ready but he would not hasten me. I told him I was at home & in My own House & nothing but force shou’d drive me out of it. He said it was not the first time he had taken a Lady by the Hand, an insolent wretch . . . as the Chariot drew up Peel fetched My Bonnets & gave one to me the other to Mrs Craig: then with greatest air said come Mrs Galloway give me your hand. I answer’d indeed I will not nor will I go out of my house but by force. He then took hold of my arm & I rose & he took me to the door. I then Took hold on one side & Looked round & said pray take Notice I do not leave my house of My own accord or with my own inclination but by force & Nothing but force shou’d have Made Me give up possession. Peel said with a sneer very well Madam & when he led me down the step I said now Mr Peel let go My Arm I want not your Assistance. He said he cou’d help me to the Carriage. I told him I cou’d go without & you Mr Peel are the last Man on earth I wou’d wish to be Obliged to. Mrs Craig then step’d into the Carriage & we drove to her house where we din’d.

By the law of coverture when a woman married any property she brought to the union belonged to her husband unless a prenuptial agreement had been drawn up. Even though the house Grace Galloway lived in had been inherited from her family, according to the law her Loyalist husband was the owner, and it was therefore subject to confiscation.

In the Words of Women Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) 124-125. Original source: Raymond C. Werner, “Diary of Grace Growden Galloway,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 55, no. 1 (January 1931) 36. 40-41, 51-72.

posted January 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Drinker, Elizabeth Sandwith,Galloway, Grace Growden,Galloway, Joseph,Loyalists,Philadelphia

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