Wednesday, August 1, 2012

George Washington's Canvas

230 years ago, the American Revolution was winding down. In 1783, George Washington resigned his commission and retired, briefly as it turned out, to private life. For much of the war, Washington traveled with the army and, when necessary, camped with them. This summer has been hot and humid here in the Mid-Atlantic, and it's hard to imagine life without air conditioning and a daily shower (or two). For Washington, the summer campaign setup might not have been as comfortable as his Mount Vernon estate, but he certainly fared better than the average Continental soldier. His marquee tent, used for as a bedroom and office, will eventually be installed in the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

Washington's sleeping and office marquee, circa 1911, American Revolution Center via DailyMail.

Washington's dining marquee and liner also survive and are owned by the Smithsonian and the National Park Service, respectively. Various pieces were conserved in the 1970s and again in 1999. Of course, there is some debate concerning who made these tents and just how long Washington used them. But the certainly date to the war and were used by the man himself.

A careful visitor to the Smithsonian may also notice Washington's camp chest tucked into a low case in one of the main galleries. Not fine china, but not too shabby, either. 

Washington's camp chest, National Museum of American History.

One final piece of Washington's camp equipage is on the radar right now, as the Virginia Association of Museums holds its "Top Ten Endangered Artifacts" poll. Tudor Place, a house museum in Washington, D.C., owns one of the eighteen original camp stools made for Washington by Philadelphia upholsterer Plunket Fleeson in 1776. Now missing its original covering and in need of conservation, this stool is a deserving candidate for VAM recognition. Although, if we're being honest, I'm also partial to the horse-drawn rock wagon and Alexander Spotswood's waiscoat, vying alongside the stool for the top spot.  

Washington's camp stool, Tudor Place.

No comments:

Post a Comment