Browse Exhibits (2 total)

The Diverse Groups of Artisans at Mount Vernon

Receipt for James- Enslaved Carpenter.jpg

Mount Vernon is best known as the home of America’s first president, George Washington. From 1754 to 1799, Washington expanded his estate extensively, he added nearly 5,000 acres of land to the estate during his ownership. At the time of his death, his estate was a little under 8,000 acres of land, split into five different farms: Mansion House Farm, Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, River Farm, and Union Farm. During the 45 years that Washington owned and lived on the estate, he relied on the labor of hundreds of workers to keep it running. Although there have been hundreds of people who worked at Mount Vernon from the colonial era to today, this project will focus primarily on the diverse group of artisans that worked at Mount Vernon during the time that George Washington resided there. These groups will include the enslaved, indentured, and hired workers, who found themselves working at Mount Vernon during Washington’s ownership. Specifically, this project is focusing on the social and economic lives of these diverse groups of artisans and how their lives impacted Mount Vernon.

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Comparative Analysis of Mount Vernon and Gunston Hall’s Enslaved Communities

George Mason and George Washington enslaved 434 people in total on their respective plantations in Fairfax County.[1] Despite relying on the labor of the enslaved communities at Gunston Hall and Mount Vernon only recently has information been compiled to detail the lives of these individuals. It is known that many Virginian plantations were remarkably similar to how the enslaved communities that resided there lived and worked. However, what can we learn from the differences between the enslaved communities lives at Gunston Hall and Mount Vernon plantations, and how does this reflect on the two owners?

Scholars of George Washington’s Mount Vernon tend to describe the plantation and Washington’s treatment of the enslaved living there as better than other plantations. There are primary source examples in which other white landowners describe the plantation and Washington’s treatment of the enslaved living on the plantation with some of the opinion that slaves lived much better there than on other plantations while others disagreed. How does this stand up to scrutiny? Was there a substantial improvement in the quality of life for the enslaved at Mount Vernon compared to other Virginian plantations such as Gunston Hall? What are the substantial differences between the two plantations if any?

1. Jackson T. Main, “The One Hundred” The William and Mary Quarterly 11, no. 3 (1954): 378-383.

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