George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 10 October 1785]

Monday 10th. Thermometer at 68 in the Morng. 70 at Noon and 74 at Night.

Thunder about day. Morning threatning but clear & pleasant afterwards.

A Mr. Jno. Lowe, on his way to Bishop Seabury for Ordination, called & dined here. Could not give him more than a general certificate, founded on information, respecting his character; having no acquaintance with him, nor any desire to open a Corrispondence with the new ordained Bishop.

Observed the process for preparing the Plaister of Paris, & mixing of it—according to Mr. Houdon. The Oven being made hotter than it is usually heated for Bread, the Plaister which had been previously broken into lumps—that which was hard, to about the size of a pullets egg; and that which was soft, and could be broken with the hands, larger; was put in about Noon, and remained until Night; when, upon examination, it was further continued until the Morning without any renewal of the heat in the Oven, which was close stopped. Having been sufficiently calcined by this operation, it was pulverized (in an Iron Mortar) & sifted for use through a fine lawn sieve, & kept from wet.

When used, it is put into a Bason, or other Vessel with water; sifted through the fingers, ’till the Water is made as thick as Loblolly or very thick cream. As soon as the plaister is thus put into the Water, it is beat with an Iron spoon (almost flat) until it is well Mixed, and must be immediately applied to the purpose for which it is intended with a Brush, or whatever else best answers, as it begins to turn hard in four or five minutes, and in Seven or ten cannot be used, & is fit for no purpose afterwards as it will not bear wetting a second time. For this reason no more must be mixed at a time than can be used within the space just mentioned.

The brush (common painters) must be put into water as soon as it is used, and the plaister well squeezed out, or this also becomes very hard. In this case to clean it, it must be beaten ’till the plaister is reduced to a powder, & then washed.

John Lowe (1750–1798), a minor Scottish poet, was born in the Galloway district of Scotland and educated at the University of Edinburgh. He came to Virginia in 1772 and became a tutor in the family of John Augustine Washington. He later ran an academy in Fredericksburg attended by Fielding Lewis’s children. After his ordination at St. George’s Church, Hempstead, Long Island, he became minister at Hanover Parish in King George County, Va.

Samuel Seabury (1729–1796) was the first bishop of the Episcopal church in America. He had been an outspoken and active Tory before and during the Revolution, and his choice by the Episcopal clergy of Connecticut as their candidate for consecration caused much controversy among the American churchmen and laity. The fact that he was consecrated in Scotland rather than in England made some question the validity of his office, and he was a controversial figure until his death.

plaister of paris: Houdon used the plaster of paris to make a life mask of GW, from which he made two busts. One of these he took back to France with him, along with the mask; the other remained at Mount Vernon.

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