Monday, July 20, 2009

Reception at Bridge At Trenton On His Way to His Inauguration

One of the most noteworthy of receptions that greeted Washington along his route was at the bridge at Trenton, New Jersey, the site of Washington's first victory in battle during the Revolutionary War. There, he was greeted by a large garland constructed over the bridge and girls throwing flower petals in front of his path.

Reception Upon Arriving at New York Harbor On His Way to His Inauguration

Upon reaching Elizabethtown, New Jersey on April 23, 1789, Washington was escorted across New York Harbor harbor to Manhattan in a specially built barge rowed by thirteen sailors in white. He was also accompanied by a committee consisting of three newly elected U.S. Senator and five newly elected Representatives. While being rowed across the harbor, Washington was saluted by all the ships that had congregated in the harbor to greet him, including a Spanish ship that displayed an array of flags of all nations and fired a thirteen gun salute in Washington's honor. Meanwhile, upon reaching the New York side of the harbor, Washington was greeted with another thirteen gun salute from the fort there and an even larger crowd of people and officials.

Inauguration as Our Nation's First President

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as our nation's first President. For the inauguration ceremony, he worn a plain American-made brown suit with buttons with eagles embozzed on them, white stockings, and a ceremonial sword. The inauguration ceremony took place at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City. It was conducted on a balcony overlooking a cheering crowd below. After the brief ceremony, Washington and the other dignitaries returned to the Senate chamber inside where Washington gave his inaugural speech.

President George Washington and His Cabinet

Pictured in this illustration are President George Washington and his cabinet. From left to right, illustrated are George Washington, Secretary of War Henry Knox, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Not pictured because he was not technically a part of the Cabinet was Vice President John Adams. Historians generally agree that George Washington put together the most brilliant group of cabinet officers in our nation's history. Unlike subsequent presidents that often polled their cabinet officers in making decisions, however, George Washington made all presidential decisions. He would often seek memos from his cabinet officers to seek their differing opinions, but he never put decisions to a vote. Instead, his cabinet was modeled after his counsel of generals underneath himself where he sought their views, but there could only be one commander. From today's perspective, Washington might be accused of micro-managing. But given the small size of the federal government when he was President and the lack of the type of White House support staff that modern presidents have to assist them, George Washington had no choice but to become involved in almost all the details of running the new government. This was one of the reasons why George Washington was the most qualified to become the nation's first president - since he had experience in running a large plantation (that was larger than the entire federal government when Washington was President) and had experience in commanding the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Also, George Washington was the one person that the country could unite behind in putting aside their regional differences.

1790 Painting by Edward Savage of George Washington and His Family

In this 1790 painting of George Washington and his family by Edward Savage, Martha Washington is pointing to map of the planned new capitol for the nation to be named the District of Columbia - or Washington, D.C. Standing behind Martha Washington is Billy Lee, the long-time personal valet to George Washington. He was the one slave of Washington's to be immediately freed upon his death because of his service as Washington's personal valet throughout the American Revolutionary War.

An Engraving of George Washington and His Family

Another Engraving of George Washington and His Family

First Lady Martha Washington

Presidential Reception


Despite the many variations in the manner that George Washington was portrayed in paintings, there are also many consistent features in such paintings. These include the Roman shaped nose, the crease in Washington's chin, his high forehead, the scar on one cheek, and the general shape of his hair. But actually we are fairly confident that we know what George Washington really looked like. This is because in October of 1785 a life mask and a life bust were made of George Washington at Mount Vernon by French sculpture Jean-Antoine Houdon. He had been commissioned to make a statue of George Washington by the State of Virginia which now stands in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol, after being recommended for such a task by Thomas Jefferson. The statue was made in France using Gouveneur Morris as the life model for sculpting George Washington's body. But the face of the statue came from a life mask that Houdon made of Washington at Mount Vernon. Afterwards, while still at Mount Vernon, Houdon also made a clay bust (see above) that Houdon presented as a gift to George Washington before he left. It is now on display in the museum at Mount Vernon, while the Morgan Library in New York City owns the original Houdon life mask of George Washington.


The first painting of Washington from life was painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1772. For the portrait, Washington put on his uniform that he had worn during the French and Indian War (see above). Later during the Revolutionary War, Charles Willson Peale served on Washington's staff and painted numerous other paintings of Washington both during and after the Revolutionary War. The last time that he painted Washington from life was at Mount Vernon during a week long sitting where he was accompanied by his sons and brother.

Portrait of George Washington at Age 40 by Charles Willson Peale

When Charles Willson Peale painted George Washington from life in 1772, he painted a second version of his painting of George Washington in his uniform from the French and Indian War that was of Washington's head only.

Minature of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Portrait of George Washington at Princeton by Charles Willson Peale

Portrait of George Washington at Yorktown by Charles Willson Peale

Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale

Portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale

Rembrandt Peale was one of the sons of Charles Willson Peale. He was able to paint George Washington from life when he accompanied his father on a trip to Mount Vernon. After George Washington's death, Rembrandt Peale painted the above portrait as an idealized image of the way that he thought that George Washington could best be remembered.

1787 Portrait of George Washington by James Peale

James Peale was the brother of Charles Willson Peale. Above is a portrait of George Washington painted by James Peale in 1787.

1790 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Peale Polk

Charles Peale Polk was a nephew of Charles Willson Peale. Above is a portrait of George Washington painted by Charles Peale Polk in 1790.


John Trumbull was an individual who served as an aide to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. He then travelled to London to study painting and made several paintings of George Washington from memory. In addition to his portrait paintings of George Washington, John Trumbull is famous for the large murals that he painted of the American Revolution which hang in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

John Trumbull Portrait of George Washington

John Trumbull Portrait of George Washington


The painter Gilbert Stuart first painted a portrait of George Washington from life in 1795 showing the right side of Washington's face and again in 1796 showing the left side of Washington's face. From these two life paintings, Gilbert Stuart painted many other portraits of George Washington. One of these portraits painted by Gilbert Stuart was used for the image on the one dollar bill. For this reason, Gilbert Stuart's interpretation of the way that George Washington has become the dominant image of George Washington in the public's mind today.

Vaughan Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Unfinished Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Williamstown Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Constable-Hamilton Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart