George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 29 January 1789

To Henry Knox

Mount Vernon Jany 29th 1789

My dear Sir,

Having learnt from an Advertisement in the New York Daily Advertiser, that there were superfine American Broad Cloths to be sold at No. 44 in Water Street; I have ventured to trouble you with the Commission of purchasing enough to make me a suit of Cloaths.1 As to the colour, I shall leave it altogether to your taste; only observing, that, if the dye should not appear to be well fixed, & clear, or if the cloth should not really be very fine, then (in my Judgment) some colour mixed in grain might be preferable to an indifferent (stained) dye. I shall have occasion to trouble you for nothing but the cloth & twist to make the button holes. If these articles can be procured & forwarded, in a package by the Stage, in any short time your attention will be gratefully acknowledged. Mrs Washington would be equally thankfull to you for purchasing for her use as much of what is called (in the Advertisement) London Smoke as will make her a riding habit. If the choice of these cloths should have been disposed off in New York—quere could they be had from Hartford in Connecticut where I perceive a Manufactury of them is established.2 With every sentiment of sincere friendship I am always Affectionately Yrs

Go: Washington

ALS, PWacD; LB, DLC:GW. This letter was also published in facsimile by N. W. Ayer & Son.

1This advertisement appeared in the Daily Advertiser (New York), 21 Jan. 1789. The dry goods establishment at 44 Water Street was kept by Gilbert Effingham.

2The Hartford Woolen Manufactory was founded in 1788, largely under the auspices of Jeremiah Wadsworth and Peter Colt, with a capital of £2150 contributed by thirty subscribers. Over the next several years it received considerable encouragement from the state of Connecticut in the form of tax exemptions and bounties. The advertisement cited by GW was part of an advertising campaign launched by Wadsworth in major newspapers extolling the manufactory’s fabrics, especially the firm’s broadcloth, which boasted such names as “Congress Brown” and “Hartford Grey,” in addition to “London Smoke.” Wadsworth led a concerted effort to equate the wearing of cloth of American manufacture with patriotism. Writing in the Federal Gazette, a “Philadelphia Mechanick,” probably inspired by Wadsworth’s campaign, wrote that a “PASSION for encouraging American manufactures has at last, become fashionable in some parts of our country. To render it more general and useful, I beg leave to propose, that the gentlemen who are, or shall be, elected to serve in the Senate or House of Representatives of the United states as also the President and Vice president, should all be clothed in complete suits of American manufactured cloth, on the approaching fourth of March” (reprinted in the Connecticut Courant [Hartford], 19 Jan. 1789). GW continued to pursue his attempt to secure the Hartford cloth. See Daniel Hinsdale to GW, 23 Mar. 1789, GW to Hinsdale, 8 April 1789, and GW to Beverley Randolph, 22 Nov. 1789. According to tradition the suit of clothes that GW wore to his first inaugural was of cloth made at the Hartford Manufactory. In October 1789, stopping in Hartford on his trip to New England, GW noted that the manufactory “seems to be going on with Spirit. There Broadcloths are not of the first quality, as yet, but they are good; as are their Coatings, Cassimers, Serges and everlastings” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:468). However, Henry Wansey, a British textile manufacturer, visited the establishment in 1794 and found that “none of the partners understand any thing about it, and all depends on an Englishman, who is the sorter of the wool” (Jeremy, Henry Wansey and His American Journal, description begins David John Jeremy, ed. Henry Wansey and His American Journal, 1794. Philadelphia, 1970. description ends 149). That same year the manufactory closed, a victim of lack of capital, high operating costs, and public prejudice against American manufactures.

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