George Washington Papers

Charles Willson Peale to Tobias Lear, 23 March 1792

Charles Willson Peale to Tobias Lear

Museum1 [Philadelphia] 23 Mar. 1792. Oblige me by using the enclosed cards at your leisure, and I will be pleased if my labors can contribute in the least to your amusements.2 “I have now the prospect before me that by the assistance of Gentlemen of science, and by the Aid of a Generous Public to be enabled me to spend the remainder of my time in bringing the Museum into such perfection and Stability as to be in future highly useful as well as Entertaining. The plain is now laid to produce a Repository of subjects in Natural history which in a few years may become equal to any thing of the kind in Europe.” Since leaving you, I thought that the donation of the Otahitian dress might be in your name.3 Please inform me if I am permitted to publish this in my next list of communications to the Museum.4


1Charles Willson Peale’s museum was located at Philosophical Hall, opposite the library, on South Fifth Street. While presiding over the Federal Convention in 1787, GW had visited the museum at Peale’s request to pose for a mezzotint. When Peale first printed the annual subscription list for tickets to the museum in January 1794, GW’s signature headed the list (see the facsimile in Sellers, Peale’s Museum, description begins Charles Coleman Sellers. Mr. Peale’s Museum: Charles Willson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art. New York, 1980. description ends 72; see also Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:173, 242; Peale to GW, 27 June 1790, source note).

2The enclosures have not been identified but were probably tickets for admission to Peale’s museum, which cost one shilling each in 1788.

3GW had been presented the costume “by some gentlemen of Boston, adventurers in the first voyage made from thence to Nootka Sound, and the Otahitian Islands” (Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 28 Aug. 1792; see also Thomas, Reminiscences, description begins E. S. Thomas. Reminiscences of the Last Sixty-Five Years, Commencing with the Battle of Lexington. Also, Sketches of his Own Life and Times. 2 vols. Hartford, 1840. description ends 1:42–43). For more on the expedition that left Boston in September 1787 and returned in the summer of 1790, see Estéban José Martínez to GW, 14 April 1792, n.1.

4The list of the museum’s recent acquisitions published by Peale in Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser on 28 Aug. 1792 says that the “long cloak and a cap, made of feathers, and very elegant” was “now deposited in this Museum for preservation and safe-keeping for the President.”

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