Tobias Lear to Clement Biddle
New York July 11th 1790
I have to acknowledge your favors of the 24th of June1 and the 4th2 & 8th3 of the present month; the former enclosing the Account of coach hire &c. paid by you—and the latter covering Mr Hare’s bill & rect for Porter sent to Mount Vernon.
The President will thank you to inform me if plated waiters, suitable for carrying tea round to company, can be had with you—their sizes & cost—There are some with Japanned bottoms & a silver or plated rim of openwork round them—can any of these be had in Philada? And will you be so good as to inform me the price per oz. for silver waiters of the above size made with you?4 In great haste, I am dear Sir, with sincere respt & esteem Yr most Obedt Servt
P.S. Have those vessels from India brought any very fine muslins & cheap?5
ALS, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence; ADfS, ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.
1. This letter from GW’s friend Clement Biddle, U.S. marshal for Pennsylvania and a Philadelphia merchant, has not been found.
2. Biddle’s letter to Lear of 4 July 1790 noted that Captain John Ellwood, Jr., sailed for Mount Vernon on 29 June with wine for GW, that Robert Hare’s bills and receipt for it would be enclosed in Biddle’s next letter, and that he would soon be able to procure china for Mrs. Washington as two ships had just arrived from Canton (PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book). In response to the last statement, Lear asked Biddle on 18 July to purchase and send to Mount Vernon blue-and-white china tea and coffee services for twenty-four with three or four matching slop bowls for tea dregs, “but not of the highest price, as they are for common use.” Biddle replied on 21 July that the request could not be met in its details, but that he could procure matching enameled tea and coffee cups and saucers at ten to fifteen shillings a half dozen. Lear responded on 25 July, noting Mrs. Washington’s preference for the blue-and-white service and her willingness to accept the enameled cups and saucers, if necessary. On 29 July Biddle wrote that since he could not find enough of the matching blue-and-white cups and saucers, he would send the enameled ones unless Lear objected, and he also asked for clarification on the specific number of pieces required. Lear replied on 1 Aug. that “three dozen of cups & the same number of saucers” were needed. A week later Biddle informed George Augustine Washington that “I sent a small Box marked GW Containing 3 doz. china cups & Saucers, 2 doz. Coffee Cups & Saucers, & 4 Slop Bowls” by the sloop Dolphin, Captain Carhart, on 6 Aug. 1790 (Lear to Biddle, 18, 25 July, and 1 Aug. 1790, all in PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence; Biddle to Lear, 21 and 29 July 1790, and Biddle to George A. Washington, 8 Aug. 1790, all in PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book).
4. On 14 July Biddle answered Lear’s 11 July queries: “I have made Search for such waiters as you describe and find but one which was in a Case which the Owner unpacked on Purpose—it is Japanned Bottom with plated Raised Rim of indented work (not open) Oval figure, 24 Inches long by 18 or 19 Inches wide the ground Cream or light Pearle and an Oval Landscape in the Ground—Two handles of Plate and Ivory and I think is a very neat One—the price is £5—and I am told by the Silver Smith who directed me where this was that it is the only one of the Kind in Town.
“The price of Silver Waiters large Size & of warranted Silver with best Workmanship is 15/ oz.” Lear requested Biddle to purchase the japanned waiter only, as silver ones could be had cheaper in New York (Biddle to Lear, 14 July 1790, PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book; Lear to Biddle, 18 July 1790, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).
5. After Biddle replied that much muslin had just been imported from England and India, Lear notified him that Mrs. Washington desired to see samples of the finest India jaconet, from which she could choose a piece, and Biddle promised to forward them on 22 July. He was unable to do so, however, for another four days, when he sent for Mrs. Washington’s approval two ten-yard pieces. She purchased one, at two dollars a yard, and had Lear return the second piece on 29 July (Biddle to Lear, 14, 21, 26 July 1790, PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book; Lear to Biddle, 18, 29 July 1790, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).