Welcome to our blog, offering historical insights to the 17th- and 18th-century history shared at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
George Washington – Two Christmases
Posted on December 20, 2013, by
George Washington – Two Christmases
A doll like this finely made, hand-painted English example may have been on the Christmas gift list of a wealthy American family in the late 18th century. The circa 1770 doll is on exhibit at Jamestown Settlement through January 20, 2014, in “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution.”
In 1759 George and Martha Washington spent their first Christmas together at Mount Vernon. They had been married less than a year. A list of presents George Washington intended to purchase for stepson John (Jacky), age 5, and stepdaughter Martha (Patsy), age 3, shows a heartfelt appreciation for the joys of childhood. His list reads:
A bird on Bellows A Cuckoo A turnabout Parrott A Grocers Shop An Aviary A Prussian Dragoon A Man Smoaking A Tunbridge Tea Sett 3 Neat Tunbridge Toys A Neat Book fash Teas Chest A box best Household Stuff A straw Patch box w. a Glass A neat dressed Wax Baby
The items on the list would have likely been handmade and imported from Europe. Many mechanical and hand-carved toys of this period were produced in the cities and towns of northern Germany, such as Hamburg and Hannover. Although we can’t be sure what each one looked like, several were fairly common. The bird on bellows, cuckoo, turnabout parrot and “smoaking” man were probably mechanical toys made of metal. The bird and parrot would have contained whistles and may have had flapping wings. The grocer’s shop also likely was made in northern Germany, where elaborate miniature toy room settings were crafted and sold. The Prussian dragoon was probably a metal toy soldier, and the wax baby doll would have been made of poured, tinted and painted wax, a common method for doll construction in the 1700s. The three Tunbridge toys were probably made in Tunbridge, Kent, England. They may have been puzzle boxes, yo-yos or small decorative chests, made in the Tunbridge fashion, of many small pieces of wood glued together to create a mosaic effect. The tea set and tea chest may have been toys or could have been for a dowry for Patsy. The patch box contained small cloth patches to apply to the face as beauty marks. Were these for Patsy to play with, or meant as a present for Martha? If even half these things were purchased, it must have been a jolly and exciting first Christmas at Mount Vernon.
Contrast this with the events of George Washington’s Christmas in 1776. He was then Commander-in Chief of the Continental Army, encamped along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. His army was ill-supplied, exhausted from marching, and suffering from poor morale after a series of defeats. In addition, many of his men had enlistments that would soon run out. In a desperate move to rally support for the Patriot cause and seize the initiative, Washington, with a cadre of able officers and about 2,400 men, planned and carried out the successful Christmas attack on Hessian forces wintering in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington’s forces secured the surrender of the infamous Colonel Rahl of the Hessians, with only four Americans wounded and no fatalities on the American side. This remarkable Christmas Day victory revived the spirits of the Continental Army and renewed support for the Patriot cause.
Dogs of [the Revolutionary] War
“There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money” – Benjamin Franklin, 1738
“He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” – Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richards Almanack
George Washington was a lifelong dog lover and owned numerous dogs of many breeds.
During the 18thcentury in Western Europe a gradual change oc
Long Island of the Holston
I immediately transmitted your Excellencies Dispatches to the Chiefs of the Cherokees.
— General Joseph Martin
Among objects illustrating a profile of General Joseph Martin in the Jamestown Settlement exhibition “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution” is an 18th-century gorget to exemplify the practice of ceremonial gift-giving in diplomatic relationships with In
A European Encounters American Slavery
Captain Ewald’s Jaeger troops may have carried, in addition to a rifle, a weapon that could be used as either a sword or bayonet. This circa 1780 example, currently on display at Jamestown Settlement in “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution,” ultimately will be exhibited at the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.Hundreds of soldi
The Alexander Scammell Affair
This was the severest blow experienced by the allied army throughout the siege: not an officer in our army surpassed in personal worth and professional ability this experienced soldier. — “Light Horse Harry” Lee
Alexander Scammell rather than Alexander Hamilton might have led the October 14, 1781, assault on British Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown, depicted in a 20th
Witness to War: Writings of Baroness Frederika Charlotte Riedesel
I saw the whole battle myself, and, knowing that my husband was taking part in it, I was filled with fear and anguish and shivered whenever a shot was fired….
Portrait of Frederika Charlotte Louise von Massow, Baroness Riedesel, 1829, oil on canvas, painted by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.
These words, written near Fre
George Washington presided over the 1787 Constitutional Convention. This circa 1800 portrait of Washington, after Gilbert Stuart’s Lansdowne portrait, is exhibited at the Yorktown Victory Center.
Compromise Brought Constitutional Convention
to a Successful Conclusion on September 17, 1787
While compromise seems elusive on many of today’s pressing public issues, it was a crucial element at the 1787
Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford: Loyalist, Renowned Scientist A portrait of Benjamin Thompson, one of the most prominent scientists of the late 18th century, will be exhibited in the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown® galleries to help tell the story of Loyalists. Loyalists were colonists who chose for a variety of reasons to remain loyal to the British crown instead of supporting the
Variations of American Revolutionary War uniforms, worn by historical interpreters at the Yorktown Victory Center. Revolutionary War Military Attire
Was Less Than Uniform
The iconic American soldier of the Revolutionary War is attired in a blue regimental coat with red facing. In reality, Americans wore many different military uniforms during the Revolution. In 1777 the Continental Congress ord
Breaking News From Virginia: Colony Declares Itself “Independent of Great Britain”
On August 7, 1776, readers of the one of Scotland’s leading newspapers, The Edinburgh Evening Courant, learned that Virginia had taken the final step on the road to independence. By this time, of course, the Declaration of Independence already had been adopted in Philadelphia. However, since it took a month or
1770s TRUNK BELONGED TO CONTINENTAL NAVY OFFICER
The trunk owned by Captain Tobias Lear in the 1770s is on exhibit in “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution” at Jamestown Settlement through January 20, 2014.
One of the artifacts recently acquired for the future American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is a small wooden, leather-covered dome trunk ornamented with brass tacks, owned by Captai
Remembering Thomas Jefferson on the Fourth of July
Thomas Jefferson was principal author of the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. A rare broadside printing of the document dating to July 1776 is on exhibit at the Yorktown Victory Center.
The Fourth of July is a day to remember Thomas Jefferson, one of the great leaders of the revolutionary period. B
Lowering the Bar – British Army Recruiting Practices During the American Revolution
Image of a press gang, circa 1780
Before the American Revolution, Great Britain maintained a rather small standing army that was made up of volunteers. While the British navy routinely “pressed” or drafted sailors when they needed them, there was strong resistance to the idea of granting the army such authority.
Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation between Church & State”
The First Amendment is included in "Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America," published in 1789 in Richmond for the General Assembly of Virginia and believed to be the first public printing in the South of the Bill of Rights. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.
The Founding Fathers wrestled with the role
Rosie the Riveter’s Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Also known as “Rosie the Riveter,” this “We Can Do It!” poster was produced in 1943 for Westinghouse by J. Howard Miller.
During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was an iconic figure. She represented the thousands of American women who joined the industrial workforce to make the weapons needed to fight the Germans and the Japanese.
Cornerstone Dedicated, Logo Adopted For American Revolution Museum At Yorktown
With a newly created logo on display, a cornerstone was dedicated May 10 for the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which will replace the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution operated by the state’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
University of Virginia Professor A. E. Dick Howard, Virginia
THE COCKADE CITY
When the English arrived in Virginia in 1607 the area roughly 50 miles northwest of Jamestown was inhabited by the Appamatuck (Appomattox), one of the tribes of the Powhatan chiefdom.
By 1635 the English had patented land in the area along the south bank of the Appomattox River, and in 1646 the Virginia Colony established Fort Henry a short distance from the Appamatuck village l
A Defining Moment: April 1775
Tensions ran high in America in April 1775. The previous year King George III had appointed General Thomas Gage, a veteran of the French and Indian War, to serve as both royal governor of Massachusetts and commander-in-chief of all British forces in America. Gage had arrived in Boston in May 1774 and on June 1 implemented the Port Act, the harshest of Parliament’s I
King George III Portrait on View
A stately portrait of King George III in coronation robes anchors Jamestown Settlement’s new “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution” exhibition and will have a prominent place in the future American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries. Measuring more than 8 feet by 5 feet, the oil-on-canvas painting was produced by the studio of Allan Ramsay, Princip
Deborah Sampson Chose Her Own Path in Supporting the Revolutionary Cause The role of women who joined the Continental Army as relatives of soldiers and earned wages by performing domestic chores such as laundry is interpreted at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Deborah Sampson chose her own path, joining the army disguised as a man.
Deborah Sampson’s personal vision of what she could c
‘American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’ Artifacts
Showcased in Jamestown Settlement Exhibition
This sword scabbard is inscribed with the year 1776 and the name of its owner, William McKissack, a Continental Army officer from New York. The silver pommel is in the form of an eagle, which over the course of the Revolution became one of the symbols of the new United States.
An American-made eagle-p
George Washington – Conserving an American Idol
February 22, 2013, marks the 281st anniversary George Washington’s birth. As an icon of American history, Washington symbolizes many things to many people, and for well over 200 years, he has been represented in paintings, prints, sculpture, decorative objects and other artistic media.
In 1786, three years after George Washington resigned his com
The Long Way Home:
The Fate of Former Slaves at the End of the War for Freedom
Boston King, profiled in the Yorktown Victory Center’s Witnesses to Revolution Gallery, was among the formerly enslaved African Americans evacuated from New York to Nova Scotia at the end of the Revolution. Apprenticed to a carpenter in South Carolina as a young man, he worked for the British as a boat pilot and servant
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, ‘GRANDFATHER’ OF OUR NATION This terracotta portrait medallion of Benjamin Franklin, owned by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, was produced by Jean-Baptiste Nini in 1777 while Franklin was serving as an American representative in France, where he had a key role in persuading the French to aid the American cause.
If George Washington is aptly called the father of his country,
VIRGINIA PAYS FOR THE REVOLUTION WITH PAPER CURRENCY Like other states during the American Revolution, Virginia had to issue paper money to pay the costs of the war. Virginia’s first paper money came out in 1755 to help finance the colony’s involvement in the French and Indian War. Strictly speaking, Virginia paper notes were bills of credit backed by the colony, to be paid off out of future tax