George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean-Pierre-Henri Elouis, 20 July 1793

From Jean-Pierre-Henri Elouis

Philadelphia July 20th 1793
No. 9. 8th Street. at the wax works1


your humanity and generosity are so well known, that it is with the greatest confidence that I dare to adress myself to you, in a moment when I am distressed by unexpected bad circumstances. I have had much Imployment last winter; but my wife having been sick for these three months, it has been impossible to me, to follow my business as I could have done it, if I had not been detained at home. I have Experienced great troubles Since four years; I had the good fortune to Conquer all difficulties, but So many have fallen upon me all at once, that I do not know how to extricate myself, if not helped.2

the Sum of Eighty Dollards would enable me to follow my business as before, and I prefer Sir, to owe you that favor, than to any body else; being Certain of Secrecy, as it would be hurtfull to the Interest of an artist, if he was Known to be in distress. he must appear happy, and in good Circumstances to get business, otherwise, great many would thinck he has no talent. perhaps Sir, that you do not recollect my name? I teach drawing to Miss custis, I have been recommanded by Mrs Stuart;3 and I have had the honour last winter, to take your likeness in miniature, it is not Intirely finished: having been much disturbed, and wishing to make a well finished Picture, I shall wait till my minds in a more quiet Situation.4

I put So much dependence Sir, upon your goodness, that I expect you will Excuse the liberty I take in adressing to you, and that you will receive Kindly my Letter. I am with the greatest Respect Sir, your most humble obedient Servant

H. Elouis

if you are Pleased Sir, to favor my Petition I Shall cease from that Instant to receive the two guineas Pr month that I receive for the Lessons I give to Miss Custis. as it will Lesson the Sum. and be assured Sir, that I will take every opportunity to Express to you all my gratitude.5


1The wax museum of Daniel Bowen was at the corner of Eighth and High Streets (Philadelphia Directory 1793 description begins James Hardie. The Philadelphia Directory and Register . . .. Philadelphia, 1793. description ends ). On Bowen’s wax statue of GW and his various museums, see Tobias Lear to Bowen, 28 Dec. 1792, notes 1–2.

2Portrait painter and miniaturist Jean-Pierre-Henri Elouis was born in Caen, France, in 1755. After studying at the Royal Academy in London for several years, he emigrated to the United States circa 1787. He worked in Alexandria, Va., Annapolis, Md., and Baltimore before settling in Philadelphia in 1792. He is listed in the Philadelphia Directory as “limner, 201, Mulberry” in 1793, as “portrait painter, 106 No. Front” in 1794, and as “Miniature painter 1 south Third St” in 1799. He eventually returned to France, where he died in 1840.

3Eleanor Calvert Custis Stuart, the wife of David Stuart of Alexandria, had apparently recommended Elouis as a drawing teacher for her daughter Eleanor (“Nelly”) Parke Custis, who lived with George and Martha Washington at Philadelphia. On Nelly’s previous art lessons and the paintings she produced, see Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends , 87.

4The miniature of GW, if completed, has not been identified.

5On 20 July, GW provided Elouis $80 “as a loan” (Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends ).

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