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George Washington estate assembles collection of never-before-displayed artifacts

Mount Vernon, the former estate of President George Washington (via Google Maps)

Mount Vernon, the primary home of George Washington before and after his presidency, has begun a new permanent collection nearly as notable as the first president.

Opened on Saturday (March 26), the newly acquired items represent the “largest reunion of original Mount Vernon objects since the dispersal of George and Martha Washington’s estates in 1802,” according to an announcement for the exhibit, “Mount Vernon: The Story of an American Icon.”

“Many objects — Martha Washington’s diamond-studded pocket watch, her ruffled cotton robe, a French porcelain ice cream cooler — are new to Mount Vernon’s collection, treasured by Martha’s descendants for generations before the [Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association] acquired them in 2020,” said the association, which has preserved the historic site since 1860.

The artifacts also include the earliest-known portrait of Washington, which is on loan from Washington and Lee University. Created by painter Charles Willson Peale, it shows Washington in his 40s in 1772 before he would later lead the 13 colonies’ Continental Army against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.

The news release notes that the collection acknowledges the stories of people who were enslaved on the plantation, along with the Washingtons:

These paintings and decorative arts are paired with never-before-exhibited artifacts from Mount Vernon’s architectural and archaeological collections. These objects reveal the layers of Mount Vernon’s complex history, which includes Native settlements, other Washington family members, enslaved and hired laborers, and the determined women of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association who raised $200,000 to purchase the property in 1860 and still operate the site today.

The historic site also features the entombed remains of the country’s original president and first lady. Admission to the grounds is $28 for those age 12 and up, with reduced prices and free entry for younger kids.

Photo via Google Maps

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