George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Samuel and Elizabeth Willing Powel, 24 April 1793

To Samuel and Elizabeth Willing Powel

[Philadelphia] Wednesday 24th Aprl [1793]

The President and Mrs Washington present their complimts to Mr & Mrs Powell—and (agreeably to Mrs Powells request) have the honor to inform them that Mrs Washington is so much indisposed with a cold as to make her fear encreasing it by going to the Circus this afternoon. The President & rest of the family propose to be Spectators at the exhibition of Mr Rickets.1

AL, ViMtvL.

1GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends , 1793–1797, show that on 24 April 1793, GW paid $8 “for 8 tickets for the Circus.” According to John Bill Ricketts’s advertisement for his circus in the 24 April issue of Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia), the “Equestrian Exercises” would begin at 5 P.M. that day, and the “President of the United States and Fami[l]y will honor the Circus with their Company.” Martha was able to accompany GW to the circus later that summer, on 13 July 1793 (see ibid., 16 July 1793). Ricketts, who was an equestrian circus performer in England before emigrating to the United States, established a riding school in 1792 at the southwest corner of Twelfth and Market Streets, where he presented the first circus show in the United States on 3 April 1793. In 1795 Ricketts moved the circus to an amphitheater on the southwest corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets. The amphitheater, which was destroyed by fire on 17 Dec. 1799, was the scene of a birthday ball in honor of GW on 22 Feb. 1796 and a farewell dinner for GW sponsored by the merchants of Philadelphia on 4 Mar. 1797. For these two events, see Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia), 23 Feb. 1796, 6 Mar. 1797. Ricketts took the circus to other American cities.

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