George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 8 February 1790

From David Humphreys

Hartford [Conn.] Feby 8th 1790.

My dear General.

I take the liberty to put under cover to you a letter for Mr Manley the Engraver in Philadelphia, who is about to strike the Medal containing your likeness.1 At the moment when I was leaving New York he asked me for my opinion on the subject, and requested that I would write to him as soon as I might find it convenient—which I promised. In case there should be any thing erroneous in the Model, or (according to your judgment) improper, I must ask the favor, for the sake of the Public which is much interested, that you will be pleased to retain it in your hands, or make any alterations whatsoever. If otherwise, the Artist will be much obliged by your having the letter sealed & placed in the Post Office for transmission.

I arrived here only the day before yesterday, and shall probably be detained somewhat longer on my journey than I expected. Especially, as, upon the Application of the Person in New York who is publishing a Map & account of the Post Roads, I gave him encouragement to furnish him with some information for his Notes on them through Connecticut. This may retard me a few days at the Towns in the Western parts of the State, while I shall be on my return. I beg you, however, to be persuaded that I shall hasten to receive & execute your Commands with all that zeal & fidelity, with which I have the honor to be, My dear General, With perfect devotion Your Most obliged & Most humble Servant2

D. Humphreys


1The enclosed letter has not been found. The “Manley Medal” was the first medal issued in the United States bearing GW’s portrait. It was designed by James Manley, a portrait painter, silhouette maker, and engraver of New York and Philadelphia, and produced by Samuel Brooks, a Philadelphia goldsmith and seal cutter. The medal was advertised for sale by subscription in the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) on 3 Mar. 1790. The advertisement describes the medallic portrait as “a strong and expressive likeness.” Subscribers were offered copies in white metal, gold-colored metal, silver, and gold. The obverse side of the medal bears a bust of GW in uniform, his name, and date of birth. The reverse carries the legend “General of the American Armies 1775. Resigned 1783. President of the United States 1789.” Many known examples are marked “J. Manley & C. 1790” (Baker, Medallic Portraits of Washington, description begins W. S. Baker. Medallic Portraits of Washington, with Historical and Critical Notes and a Descriptive Catalogue of the Coins Medals Tokens and Cards. Philadelphia, 1885. description ends 39–44). One of the medals is in the collections of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

2Manley wrote to GW from “No. 1 Carters Ally Philadelphia” on 13 Feb. 1790: “Herewith I have done Myself the Honr to transmit an Impression on Lead, taken from the Die, in its unfinished state; the likeness I hope will be Honrd by the Intire approbation of you, Mrs Washington, and friends, you will please to observe, that the Die Not being finished—dose Not give that Compleat releif, or sharpness, it will do, when Compleat which it Shall be; as soon as I am favoured, by Collnl Humphys, with the proper Inscription, for the reverse Side; I wrote Majr Jackson a few days since on that Subject; & wait the favr of his ansr: if there is any alteration or Correction you wd wish, I wil Esteem it an Honr to be Info[r]med of it” (DLC:GW).

Lear’s reply to Manly of 22 Feb. 1790 reads: “The President of the United States has directed me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter to him of the 13th instant, enclosing an impression on lead, taken from the unfinished die.

“A Letter from Colo. Humphreys to you was lodged in the Post-Office last Monday, and has undoubtedly reached your hands before this time” (PHi: Society Collection).

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