George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 10 March 1797

To Tobias Lear

Head of Elk [Md.] 10th. of March 1797

My dear Sir,

We arrived at this place to dinner and shall remain all night. To morrow we shall proceed but slowly.1

As I have missed the Post of this afternoon, and another does not happen until Monday it is probable this letter will not reach your hands in time. If the case however should be otherwise, and you have means to accomplish it, let me request you to provide for me as usual new Carpeting as will cover the floor of my blue Parlour. That it may accord with the furniture it ought to have a good deal of blue in it;—and if Wilton is not much dearer than Scotch Carpeting—I would prefer the former. All the old Carpeting (belonging to me) I would have sent;—and Mrs. Washington requests that you would add the Bellows and the Vessels (Iron & Tin) in which the ashes are carried out. If two pair of new Bellows were added to the old, (and of a better kind) it would be desirable.

I pray you to desire Mr. Kitt to make all the enquiry he can after Hercules, and send him round in the Vessel if he can be discovered & apprehended.2 I am always & Affectionately Yrs.

P.S. The parlour is about 18 foot Square—a suitable border if to be had, should accompany the Carpeting. Pray get me of those Thermometers that tells the state of the Mercury within the 24 hours—Doctor Priestly or Mr. Madison can tell where it is to be had. Perhaps the old one if no thing better, may do to present to Mr. Snowden, according to his letter to me left with you.3

Lear, Letters and Recollections, 116–17.

1For GW’s description of his stay at Hollingsworth’s tavern in Elkton, see GW to Elizabeth Willing Powel, 26 March. See also the editors’ note for the entry of 10 Mar. 1797 in Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:237. The next day GW noted: “Snowing from day light until 10 Oclock—in the Afternoon a little rain. Breakfasted at Susquehanna—dined & lodged at Hartford” (ibid.).

2According to Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, the Washingtons’ chief cook, the slave named Herculas (Hercules) and called Uncle Harkless by the family, “was, at the period of the first presidency, as highly accomplished a proficient in the culinary art as could be found in the United States.” He was also a “celebrated dandy” who spent most of the “one or two hundred dollars a year” that he made from kitchen leftovers, on fine clothes in which he promenaded on Philadelphia’s Market Street. This celebrated cook, whom Custis describes as “one of the most polished gentlemen and the veriest dandy” of his day (Custis, Recollections, description begins George Washington Parke Custis. Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington. New York, 1860. description ends ), had been left at Mount Vernon, perhaps because GW had suspicions of his wish to escape (see GW to William Pearce, 14 Nov. 1796, ViMtvL). He "absconded" from Mount Vernon between the working hours on 21 and 22 Feb. (Farm Report, 25 Feb. 1797, NjMoHP). Frederick Kitt confirmed in January 1798 that Herculas was at that time in Philadelphia (Kitt to GW, 15 Jan. 1798). Herculas never again returned to Mount Vernon. For references to the prolonged search by GW and his wife for a cook to replace him, see Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., to GW, 8 April 1797, n.3.

3Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), famed scientist and political radical, followed his three sons to America in 1794, and he and his wife settled with them outside Philadelphia. The letter from Snowden has not been found. He is probably Richard Snowden of Newton, N.J., author of The Columbiad and of The American Revolution: Written in Scriptural, or, Ancient Historical Style (Philadelphia,1796), which he sent to GW (see Snowden to GW, 13 Nov. 1793). On 10 April 1797 James McHenry wrote GW from Philadelphia that Bartholomew Dandridge “left a thermometer with me for a post in Jersey. It is a present from you, but what is the name of the post, and where does he live?” A portion of the postscript, in GW’s hand, was owned by Mr. Joseph Rubinfine in 1986.

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