Celebrating Washington

NOTES AND COMMENTS

February 22, 1999|By James Bready

FUNNY THING, in the Revolutionary War the two opposing chieftains were Farmer George and George the Farmer. George the former was also a Hanoverian, an invalid, a king. George from Mount Vernon was also a fourth-generation American, surveyor, soldier, state legislator, letter writer and first U.S. president.

George III is not our topic -- his birthday's in June. The pride of the Washingtons is about to have a bicentennial year, climaxing in December with the anniversary of his death. Official Maryland can be relied on for noises. Among private citizens, how many are collateral descendants, or own an associational object or bear Washington's life story in mind?

The simplest approach is a letter. Peacetime George, arising at 5 a.m., turned first to his desk. The count of Washington's known letters tops 25,000. While on active duty, he often dictated to a secretary. Jennifer Bryan of the Maryland Historical Society (an exhibition coming up, late this year) says it's fairly easy to identify his handwriting and "G: Washington" signature.

At auction recently, a 1789 Washington letter fetched $653,000. But, Maine Antique Digest adds, another sold for only $6,000.

Or you could settle for a copy of the interesting 1867 book, "Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, by His Adopted Son," G. W. Parke Custis -- George's stepgrandson. Custis was a native Marylander, his father having married into our Carrolls.

Happy birthday to everyone's continuing national hero, and our good neighbor across the river.

Pub Date: 2/22/99

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