Archive for the ‘Primary sources’ Category

Washington’s Encampment at Verplanck 1782

Having recently visited the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and written about it in this post, I am tempted to return to see a special limited-run exhibit there from January 13 to February 19. On display will be a newly discovered seven-foot-long watercolor painting of Washington’s Encampment in Verplanck, New York, on the banks of Hudson River in 1782. The meticulously detailed painting by Pierre Charles L’Enfant shows the tents of various regiments and on a hilltop the only known wartime depiction of George Washington’s traveling canvas headquarters tent. The actual tent is a prize artifact at the Museum of the American Revolution. Below is the part of the panoramic painting that shows Washington’s tent.

Read about the discovery of this painting in this New York Times article.

I am excited about this painting not only because the Verplanck Encampment is in the Lower Hudson Valley where I live but also because it is directly across from the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site of which my friend Julia Warger is the manager. She is over the moon about this discovery and she and her staff are poring over a highly enlarged reproduction of a section of the watercolor she received from the Philadelphia Museum.

Stony Point is the scene of the battle in which Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, on July 16, 1779, led his troops in a daring midnight attack on the British garrison seizing its fortifications and taking the soldiers and camp followers prisoners. The site is also the location of the Hudson River’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1826. Presently decommissioned it’s worth seeing if only for the spectacular view it affords up and down the river.

posted December 4th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Battles,L'Enfant, Pierre Charles,Museums,Primary sources,Stony Point Battlefield,Verplanck Encampment,Washington, George,Wayne, Brigadier General Anthony

“Goods & Chattles”

An inventory of a household’s goods provides an intimate glimpse of the owner’s life as no other document can. Reading it, one almost feels guilty of spying or trespassing. ELIZABETH AMSDEN (1724-1768), an unmarried woman from Deerfield, Massachusetts, made her living as a weaver; indeed she had a shop. Shortly before her death in 1768 she made a list of all her belongings and sold them to a townsman. Here are her possessions, actually quite of number for a single lady. Note that “do” means “ditto”, “hollon” refers to a plain-weave fabric from Holland. Prominent are the tools of her trade: looms, warping bars, sley, shuttles. The signatures at the bottom left are those of the neighbors who witnessed the document.

See the inventory in manuscript form HERE. Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA.

posted November 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amsden, Elizabeth,Clothes,Employment,Furnishings,Primary sources

“Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe”

More about deciphering eighteenth century handwriting.

Readers will, of course, have seen the sign “Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe” when looking for a place to have a cuppa. The “y” in the sign is a thorn and represents “th”; therefore one should say “The Olde …” The thorn is used in other words too.

Lower and upper case letters of the alphabet in their handwritten forms can be difficult to recognize and differentiate. Nouns were often capitalized but not consistently. The writer will sometimes capitalize a noun on one line but not on another. Or … use the lower case for a proper noun. Cast your eyes on these samples of upper and lower case letters.

Doesn’t the capital “L” look like an “S”? Many’s the time my colleagues and I have conferred in a manuscript library over the handwriting in a letter, trying to decide whether a particular word begins with a capital “G” or a lower case “g”.

One of the more confusing writing conventions met with in reading and transcribing eighteenth century letters and diaries is the “long s” that looks like the present-day “f;” it was used in the middle of words though not at the end. The words shown are “Congress” and “possible.”

I’m off shortly to help a friend examine a cache of family letters. Maybe the tips and examples given will help you decipher old family letters or diaries, if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The source for this post is “What Does That Say?” Series, Pt. I found HERE.

posted November 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Primary sources

A Short Break

For the next few days I will be visiting the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It opened in April and I am anxious to see what steps have been taken to make the period more meaningful and accessible to young and old alike. I’m interested, of course, in how much attention has been paid to women and how they are represented. More fodder for this blog.

posted October 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia,Primary sources

“the horses might repine for want of their Coach”

Here is the first page of the letter (in his own hand) that George Washington wrote to ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL describing the horses she proposed to buy. His care and concern for the animals is clear. As is his sense of humor! Powel took delivery of the six horses (previous post) but did not purchase the carriage. A transcription of the complete letter follows.

My dear Madam,

I accept your offer for my coach horses, to be delivered after the third of March in good order.

I bred them myself, and therefore cannot be mistaken in their ages; — ten and eleven is the extent. — No horses of true spirit can be more gentle; and never having received a fright are afraid of nothing. — One of them was a little unwell about a month ago, but is now perfectly recovered, and is used (as you may have perceived) whenever the carriage is out. —

No horses are better broke—none go quieter when drove by a person on the box, and I dare say would go as well with a Postilion (being perfectly good tempered) but as I never used them in that way, this is conjectural. As the leader of four (in hand) and as Pole enders with six, they are equally docile and steady. —

As the Coach would be lonesome without the horses — and the horses might repine for want of their Coach (having been wedded together seven years) you had better take both. — It is a very easy and convenient carriage for the City, but too heavy for the Road — thence I part with it; — and will let it go cheap.
Truly & affectionately
I have the honor to be
Your Most obed’t & obliged
Go Washington

Monday afternoon
6th February 1797

When six horses were used with a carriage two were the leaders, the second two were “pole enders,” and the ones nearest the carriage were “wheelers.” Washington frequently referred to his state carriage as a “chariot.”

Washington’s letter appears HERE.

posted September 14th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Primary sources,Washington, George

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