George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hewson, 27 February 1793

From John Hewson

Kensington [Pa.]—February 27th 1793.

A Citizen

Presents to the Consort of our most worthy President; a piece of elegant Chintz, the fabrick of which was imported from India, in an American bottom: and printed by the subscriber in his manufactory at Kensington, adjoining the Glass-house.1 It is presumed if the worthy person here address’d,2 would honor the manufacture of our own country so far as to wear a dress made of the piece accompanying this; it might be a great means of introducing the like amongst the more affluent of our fellow citizens, and would help to remove the prejudice, that at present too much prevails, against American manufactures.

The subscriber is willing to risque his Reputation on the piece herewith presented, as the best performance ever exhibited on this Continent to the present day. The wholesale price is Nine Shillings Pr yd and upon strict enquiry, it will be found that no importer in this City can present a piece of equal fabrick and workmanship, from any part of the world at a less price.

If any thing appears improper in the freedom here taken, it is hoped that candor will cast a veil over it. From Citizen

John Hewson

P.S. The person who delivered this letter with the piece of Chintz will call for an Answer on saturday next.3



John Hewson (1747–1821), with the encouragement of Benjamin Franklin, emigrated with his family in 1773 from London to Pennsylvania, where he established a calico-printing factory and bleach yard at Kensington in Philadelphia County. During the Revolutionary War he served in the Philadelphia County militia, was captured and held prisoner by the British in 1778, and had his business destroyed during the evacuation of Philadelphia in June 1778. By the following fall Hewson had restored his business, and he continued to produce block-printed calico, linens, and other fabrics until his retirement in 1810. For examples of his work, see Harrold E. Gillingham, “Calico and Linen Printing in Philadelphia,” PMHB, description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 vols. to date. 1877—. description ends 52:97.

1This is probably the same glass-manufacturing business that was advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) on 23 Jan. 1772. Its location in the “Northern Liberties” district outside Philadelphia places it near Hewson’s business.

2Although the accompanying fabric was intended for Martha Washington, the cover of this letter was addressed to “His Excelly (George Washington) President of the United States.”

3No written reply from either Martha or George Washington on Saturday, 2 Mar., or any other date, has been found.

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