George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 15 June 1774]

15. Dined at Mrs. Dawson’s & Spent the Evening at the Capitol at a Meeting of the Society for promoting useful Kn[owledge].

The Philosophical Society for the Advancement of Useful Knowledge was formed in May 1773 in Williamsburg (BEAR description begins James A. Bear, Jr., ed. “Thomas Jefferson Account Books.” Vol. 1, 1767–75, typescript, University of Virginia Library. Charlottesville, Va. description ends , 122). This 1774 meeting, held “at the Capitol . . . at four o’Clock in the Afternoon,” was the first attended by GW, and he paid his dues of £1 (Va. Gaz., P&D, 9 June 1774; LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 115). At this meeting the society voted a “pecuniary Reward, and Medal” to John Hobday, a local Virginian, “for his Model of a very ingenious and useful Machine for threshing out Wheat” (Va. Gaz., P&D, 16 June 1774). The society’s first president, the botanist John Clayton (1694–c.1773), of Gloucester County, having died, the amateur astronomer John Page (1743–1808), of Rosewell, was elected president (BERKELEY [1] description begins Edmund and Dorothy Smith Berkeley. John Clayton: Pioneer of American Botany. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1963. description ends , 168). With the outbreak of the Revolution no more meetings were held, although as president Page remained active on behalf of the society into the 1780s (Va. Gaz., P, 16 May 1777; Page to Thomas Jefferson, 28 April 1785, JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 8:119–20).

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