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George Washington

This Exhibit Contains 7 Items

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Item 136

Silhouette of Peleg Wadsworth, Portland, ca. 1800

Silhouette of Peleg Wadsworth, Portland, ca. 1800 / Maine Historical Society

George Washington was America's first president, an office he held for two terms from 1789 to 1797. He, more than any other individual, was important in bringing the American people to a realization of their national identity. The Maine Historical Society's Museum has several items relating to George Washinton.


Item 7306

George Washington on the Bridge at Trenton, New Jersey, 1789

George Washington on the Bridge at Trenton, New Jersey, 1789 / Maine Historical Society

As Commander in Chief of the American troops during the Revolutionary War George Washington was "the eagle, the standard, the flag, the living symbol of the cause." Washington fulfilled America's need to personify its revolutionary consciousness.

Washington had a conventional mind; he was not a great intellect. His face was pockmarked, his teeth bad, and he was a clumsy public speaker. But he was a man of stability and good judgment who believed absolutely in the purest form of republican government- of, by, and for the people. As President he was dedicated to America remaining true to its purpose in pursuing such liberty.


Item 7281

George Washington, 1732-1799

George Washington, 1732-1799 / Maine Historical Society

This engraving of George Washington, after the Gilbert Stuart 1796 Landsdown portrait, was made by Edward Savage (1761-1817) in Philadelphia in 1801. It has hung in the parlor of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House since circa 1802.

The house and its contents were bequeathed in 1901 to the Maine Historical Society by Anne Longfellow Pierce (1810-1901), daughter of Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow and granddaughter of Peleg Wadsworth. Mrs. Pierce, who lived all her life in the house, left instructions that the engraving remain in the parlor "where it has always been."


Item 7282

Apotheosis of George Washington

Apotheosis of George Washington / Maine Historical Society

This "Apotheosis of Washington" by John James Barralet, Philadelphia, 1800, was bequeathed to the Maine Historical Society in 1901 by Anne Longfellow Pierce. An apotheosis equals a deification.

This engraving shows Washington being lifted out of his tomb and borne heaven-ward surrounded by allegorical figures and devices.

It illustrates the degree to which he had become a sacred symbol to Americans and his veneration by the Wadsworth family.


Item 7275

George Washington commemorative pitcher

George Washington commemorative pitcher / Maine Historical Society

This Liverpool pitcher is titled "Washington in Glory, America in Tears." It was produced in Liverpool, England, between 1802 and 1810, and is rare because it bears the mark "Herculaneum Pottery" under its spout.

Each year on the 4th of July Anne Longfellow Pierce brought this pitcher out of the cupboard to a place of honor on her table. She regretted that because it was cracked it could not be used to serve the lemonade.


Item 7280

Locket of George Washington's hair

Locket of George Washington's hair / Maine Historical Society

George Washington's death in 1799 plunged his countrymen into grief. On April 4, 1800, Elizabeth "Eliza" Wadsworth wrote to her father Peleg Wadsworth, a Congressman in Washington, requesting a copy of the death march composed for Washington's funeral. She also asked, "Papa, had he hair? A lock of that I should value more highly still."

Peleg conveyed her wish to Mrs. Washington, and the keepsake was sent. Eliza died in 1802. She willed the precious relic to her sister Zilpah, requesting that it eventually be placed "among the treasures" of the people of Maine.

Zilpah gave the lock of hair to her son, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1850 he had it enclosed in a gold locket, which is inscribed on the back with its history. In 1899 his daughter Alice gave the locket and the letters that brought it to the Wadsworth-Longfellow family into "the safekeeping of the Maine Historical Society in accordance with Eliza Wadsworth's desire and bequest."


Item 7276

Elizabeth Wadsworth, Portland, 1801

Elizabeth Wadsworth, Portland, 1801 / Maine Historical Society

Eliza Wadsworth's miniature was painted on ivory by John Roberts (1769-1803), an itinerant artist, in 1801. Her sister, Zilpah, wrote to a friend on October 18, "Should you like to see Betsy's miniature? It is taken by Roberts. This miniature of my sister was taken at the request of a particular friend."

The "particular friend" may have been Stephen Longfellow to whom Eliza (also called Betsy) was engaged. After her death he married Zilpah Wadsworth. A miniature of Stephen Longfellow, probably painted at the same time, is also owned by the Maine Historical Society.



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