For Immediate Release
February 3, 2003
MOUNT VERNON, VA – The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has acquired an extremely rare letter handwritten by Martha to George Washington. Recently purchased at an auction held by Christie’s, the correspondence is one of only two known surviving written communications from Mrs. Washington to her husband, and the only one which bears her signature. The note is a postscript to a letter written to George Washington by his cousin, Lund Washington, on March 30, 1767, when the future president was in Williamsburg for a session of the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Lund Washington managed Mount Vernon during George Washington’s frequent absences, and the letter contains interesting information on early farming practices and a runaway slave. What makes this letter extraordinary, however, is the affectionate note from Martha Washington. Mrs. Washington burned what she thought was all written correspondence shared between husband and wife following the death of George Washington in 1799. The only other surviving letter she wrote to her husband is owned by the Virginia Historical Society. Unlike Mount Vernon’s letter, the note in Richmond is unsigned.
“This letter is extremely important to Mount Vernon and the story of George and Martha Washington,” said James Rees, Executive Director of Historic Mount Vernon. “Of the thousands of letters undoubtedly exchanged between the couple, only a handful has survived. This warm letter provides some insight into their relationship, and it helps us talk about George Washington the husband, in addition to George Washington the president, general, and farmer.”
Text of letter:
My Dearest [Mount Vernon, 30 March 1767]
It was with very great pleasure I see in your letter that you got safely down [to Williamsburg.] we are all very well at this time but it still is rainney and wett I am sorry you will not be at home soon as I expected you I had reather my sister woud not come up so soon, as May woud be much plasenter time than april we wrote to you last post as I have nothing new to tell you I must conclude my self
your most Affectionate
The purchase of the letter was made possible by the late Jess and Grace Pavey, two of the foremost collectors and dealers of Americana whose $2.1 million charitable trust was established in 2000. The Pavey Fund enhances Mount Vernon’s ability to compete with private collectors and other institutions for 18th-century objects. “The Pavey Fund allows Mount Vernon to be more aggressive in the marketplace when an important object is available,” said Linda Ayres, Director of Collections. “It continues to play a critical role in acquiring objects and has drastically increased our ability to return significant Washington-related pieces and period objects to Mount Vernon.”
Other objects acquired by the Pavey Fund include an early land survey executed by young George Washington, a Chinese export porcelain tankard, a pair of Philadelphia andirons, a set of three graduated crystal tazzas, a set of 11 Irish goblets, or “rummers,” a George III marquetry tray, and 18th-century engravings of George Washington by Alexander Campbell, John Norman, and J. Galland.
Since its founding in 1853, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has been committed to locating and acquiring objects that belonged to George and Martha Washington. In addition to the newly acquired note from Martha Washington, Mount Vernon owns one of only three surviving letters written by George Washington to his wife. The adoring letter from the general was written during the Revolutionary War and was found lodged in the back of a desk owned by Martha Washington and passed down through her family. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association purchased that letter in 1960. The other two existing letters from George to Martha Washington are at Tudor Place and the Rhode Island Historical Society. The latter letter never reached Martha Washington.
Public Information: 703-780-2000; 703-799-8697 (TDD); www.mountvernon.org
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, open to the public since 1858, communicates the character and leadership of Washington to millions of Americans each year through a variety of interpretive programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation. Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, founded in 1853, making it America’s oldest national preservation organization. Mount Vernon is located at the southern end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, just 16 miles from Washington, D.C.
Hours of operation: April-August, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March, September, October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November – February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular admission rates: adults, $11.00; senior citizens, $10.50; children age 6-11, when accompanied by an adult, $5.00; and children under age 5, FREE. Admission fees, restaurant and retail proceeds, along with private donations, support the operation and restoration of Mount Vernon.