tv The Presidency Elizabeth Powel - George Washingtons Political Confidante CSPAN March 1, 2021 12:00am-12:55am EST
you're watching american history tv 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3 follow us on twitter at c-spanhistory for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. next on the presidency we hear about george washington's friendship with elizabeth powell a philadelphia hostess whose political salons attracted among others constitutional convention delegates a surviving eight-page letter provides a glimpse into her role as confidante. she implored washington to stand for a second term as president though. he had expressed his own doubts. speakers are mount vernon reference librarians, samantha snyder and kayla anthony philadelphia society for the preservation of landmarks executive director. george washington's mount vernon hosted this program and provided the video. and in about 55 minutes a look at how abraham lincoln's legend evolved after his assassination and into the early 20th century.
hi everyone. my name is samantha snyder. i'm the reference librarian at george washington's mount vernon, and i'm so excited to be with you here today with a colleague of mine kayla anthony, and we're going to be discussing elizabeth willing powell and her husband samuel powell two of george washington's very closest friends and we figure with this being the year of the woman. why not? talk about a superpowerful woman that really helped shape the founding of the republic so i myself am a powell scholar and i have been working on the project that i've been doing for about three years, and i will have a chapter coming out in an edited volume that's going to be published by the university of virginia, press in january 2022. so i very much look forward to sharing that with you all in the future and i'm going to go ahead and pass it over to my colleague and dear friend kayla anthony. um, and i will it over to you. thank you so much, sam and thank
you to mount vernon for asking me to participate today. i'm excited to also share elizabeth's story. i think you'll all enjoy it very much. i'm the executive director for the philadelphia society for the preservation of landmarks and we are an 89 year old nonprofit that stewart's for historic house museums the pal house where i am today, so i am the ballroom at the palouse. this is the home the ancestry home of san juan elizabeth powell. we also have the health visit house, which is just around the corner from here in society hill in philadelphia. we have grumble corp, which is in germantown and historic waynesboro, which is out in paoli and our mission is to not only preserve our four historic sites, but also to provide related cultural educational and historical programming. i thought it might be interesting to talk maybe a little bit about how we came about because our organization as i mentioned is 89 years old. i'd be 90 next year citing and we're founded in 1931.
named francis anne worcester so much like mount vernon. we were we were founded by a very strong matriarch and the organization was born essentially to save the pal house from demolition. it was slated to be knocked down for a taxi cab parking lot and francis ann and her her colleagues and friends rally together and managed to raise about 30,000 at the height of the great depression to save not only the pal house but the house that was next door originally and from there long. well advocacy turned into long-time stewardship and we started to acquire more and more propert. so that's that's who we are and we're excited to be we're excited for sam's research. we feel like this is going to be really helpful and further interpreting elizabeth's story in particular. so, thank you again for having me here today. absolutely. so i think kayla i think i want you to kind of introduce samuel
powell and then i'll go into a little information on elizabeth powell. so i know you want to talk about a really lovely portrait of samuel that that we have or that you have. so i'll go ahead and let you explain good old sam. so this is daniel pal. so this is this is the man who's house. we interpret here in philadelphia samuel was he was born actually in 1738 into a wealthy. philadelphia family is a grandfather was a carpenter and a mass quite a bit of well, which he inherited in his early 20s. he also well his biggest claim to be my suppose was the fact that he was the last mayor of philadelphia under the british crown and the first mayor of philadelphia in the new republic. he also had his hand in a number of different organizations in philadelphia. he was a member of the library company of philadelphia the
american philosophical society the hand in hand fire company and the society for promoting agriculture, which if you're well familiar with washington, you can imagine that was a horse an interesting topic between the two of them. sam will talk about later. samuel powell also served as the pennsylvania state senate as well as the speaker and so he was just he was a really well politically connected individual in philadelphia and i'll turn it back over to sand to talk a little bit about elizabeth. sure, so i'm happy to talk about elizabeth. this is actually i want to briefly mention this this is a new portrait that we've recently acquired. thanks to an anonymous donor of elizabeth willing powell from circa 1793. so this was kind of at the height of her social scene on which kayla will talk about more of how the powell's had a just their home being the social
epicenter. this was a portrait that we think was done by joseph wright who actually died from the yellow fever epidemic just like samuel powell did so this portrait was never finished, but i think it really has amazing kind of it really shows her presence and who she was as a person. so let me tell you a little bit about who she was prior to knowing george washington. so elizabeth was born in 1742 in philadelphia to two very wealthy families. so her father was a in and her mother was a member of the shipping family and some of you may recognize the name shippin if you've ever watched turn peggy ship and arnold she was actually elizabeth's second cousin, so there's definitely a connection there, but she grew up very wealthy. she was likely educated by her mother but she and her sisters had a lot of fun in philadelphia during the french and indian war when soldiers were quartered in
philadelphia, they went to assemblies they went fishing and she and her sisters two of them were actually called the three goddesses. so i like to think that they were very much the skylar sisters of philadelphia just a few years earlier. so elizabeth, of course married samuel on august 7th 1769, and then they purchase a house on third street, which i know kayla is going to tell us more about so that is where i am today actually, so this is the ball house. it's on 422 south 3rd street in philadelphia. please come visit us. we are open for tours currently earthly through sundays 11 to 3 pm with horse on the hour. we'd love to see you there if you can get away or if you're around the philadelphia area. it's it's great to have tour tours still happening right now giving the current circumstances with covid, but this is the palouse. this is where sam and elizabeth moved into and it was originally
built in 1768 by charles stedman. he was also a merchant and he unfortunately went bankrupt and shortly thereafter samuel purchased the house this place really became though the epicenter of social life in philadelphia. that's a socially elite gathered here frequently as well as political. ite, so while it is an important place to not only host just family members and various friends of the pals. it was also a place where they hosted a number of intellectual salons of the time period so this was the room that i'm in actually the ballroom is where we like to sort of imagine that it happened we go. so this this is where elizabeth would be been hosting her salons and the marquita leon noted in his travel journal that she was one of the most european styled
salons was the ones were the ones that elizabeth was hosting here. and this was a way to engage in different different civic conversations intellectual conversations on different topics as far as novels and politics and elizabeth later in her life comments on how she she hosted many of the constitutional convention delegates here and that was a very all frequented topic at her house. so it's interesting to think about how a woman in the 18th century could use what was a ported to her such as a salon in order to influence politics that were going on. not only in philadelphia but national so that's that's one of her kind of things to fame here in philadelphia. are these salons and she's well sought after and sam you can talk about this a little bit more if you'd like. she's certainly people are coming to philadelphia to see her and maybe more so her than
even samuel. yeah. so one thing like i mentioned that the constitutional convention delegates were coming to visit here for these salons. they were of course. friends and business associates with with the pals, but maybe perhaps some of the most important ones that you've heard of of course were and this is a number of all the founding fathers you would have heard of but benjamin franklin was a guest here john adams and abigail adams the marquita lafayette marquis again to shuttle you of course and our beloved george and martha washington who did end up becoming very close friends with the pals. and they actually lived and we've kind of believe that they probably first they might have known each other earlier, but they probably started develop a friendship around the 1780s when lived next door to the pal. um sandwich you like to talk a
little bit more about the washington's relationship with the past. absolutely kayla. thank you. so as kayla said they lived next door. the washington's lived next door to the powells in 1781 to 1782 and this image is actually from 1800. it is a a engraving of a the third street and it's done by an artist named william birch and the powell house itself is in just in the background and the house that the washington's rented was right next door to that. and so they were there for just a few months but during those few months i think is really when they started to develop a close friendship and kayla's right. everyone was going through the hell house at that point. and of course if you're washington fan, you know, who the marquita lou is. he's one of washington's best friends. so i'm sure they often discussed the powell's merits together, but yes, so they at that point
they were washington is about about finished with the war. so he's kind of going back into the social scene. he didn't often get to spend a lot of time in city centers. so he was a bit behind on the cultural trends and i think that the powells at least during my research from what i've found the powells were very much at first kind of leading washington and martha into society and during that 1780s even after the washington's left philadelphia the two of them, washington and elizabeth and washington and samuel really started to develop their friendship elizabeth and washington would trade publications back and forth. so again that highlights just how well read she was and how educated she was and so they they actually washington sent her a copy of visions of columbus and then one of just not to lose publications and a
whole host of others and then of course samuel in washington had their agricultural connection and they samuel sent washington some seeds and washington actually notes that his his diaries that the seeds are growing well and they're from mr. powell and philadelphia. so they very much had a fun friendship. it definitely was advantageous for both of them, but they really they did connect on a very personal level. so that's been definitely a fun thing to discover, but what i do want to talk about is when the washingtons came to mount vernon so they are the washingtons. i'm sorry when the polls came here burden to see the washingtons. so just after the constitutional convention in 1787, the washingtons went back to mount vernon and the powells made a decision to go visit. elizabeth's sister mary
willingbird down at westover plantation. so if any of you are familiar with revolutionary war history, you may recognize the name william byrd the third he actually committed suicide in 1777 and mary bird was left to manage this large plantation. so elizabeth and her sister were close so they were making their trip down to visit her, but then they ended up stopping at mount vernon for four days and samuel on the trip down kept a really amazing travel journal. that is very cool to kind of trace how a couple would have traveled through, maryland and delaware and through virginia. they stay against these tavern which is pretty cool, but then they arrive at mount vernon and samuel goes into great detail about seeing the house itself, and it's actually one of the best documentations we have of the house. it's in 1787 new room is being completed. the on mantle has been installed so family even comments on that fun on the mantle in room and he says that he thought that it
would be prettier without the columns. so that's kind of funny, but then the the other thing that he says is when they're standing out on the piazza. he says that it's probably the most charming seat. he's ever seen in america. so that's a very cool quote that we often use and i think very fitting for samuel who's traveled so much to be so intrigued by the house itself, but this image actually is one of our very special things that we have in our collection. this is what we call the powell coach. there's a whole story behind this so i won't go into great detail, but it's one of the the only surviving coaches from this period it's a wonderful shape and it's just a really neat image and they didn't own this this coach yet when they came to mount vernon, but i thought it was kind of cool that to imagine it pulling up to the mansion and and them coming out and seeing the house for the so so with
that after the left and went on to westover, they came back through once more and then of course washington had his two years before he was elected president of the united states and then when the temporary seat of the government was moved to philadelphia the powells and the washington became they they got to be in the same place again. so in in that time the the pals in the washingtons again hung out and they did things like go to the circus and they also went to plays so they were very much kind of a respite for entertainment for for the washingtons, but they also discussed politics, of course samuel was speaker of the state senate at that point, so washington and him were very much interacting but elizabeth was very much a political advisor to him as well. all and i do want to start
talking about a very important letter that we have in our collection and i know the image is a little small you can see this on our website if you go to our digital collections scanned all eight pages of it. so as people know washington was kind of hesitant to run a second term. he'd been in politics for 40 years at that point 40 plus years at that point. he very much wanted to go back to mount vernon and retire under his own vine and his own fig tree and so he spoke with elizabeth about that and and his cabinet that he wanted to step down. however, he had multiple conversations with elizabeth about it and this letter she actually wrote this in response to their final conversation, which was the night before the month long election process began. so this letter is incredibly powerful.
eight pages long. it's full of reasons. why why washington should and continue on and serve a second term. she's upset that he would still like have this desire to step down even though it was the night before the election was beginning it would be detrimental to society and it's just it's a great letter and i actually have found some very neat things in my research that i'm gonna debut today on this video. um, so two things that i found is that this letter has edits from her husband samuel and that's that's unique to this letter at least from what i've found within her many many letters that are located here at the historical society of pennsylvania all over so that to me shows how important elizabeth's opinion was to george that even though samuel red over. letter they still decided to
keep it in her hand because her hand and her ideas would carry the most weight as far as convincing him will run and then the other thing i found is that they the she used a political treatise and borrowed some quotes from this from this book and she crafted her own arguments within that book so or within with those with those sentiments from the book and she used that for her letter, so she was very much taking inspiration from this book and actually abigail adams did something very similar with the remember the ladies letter from 1776. so this this letter is awesome. and while we have it in our collection, it was not written at mount vernon. it's very much written at the pal house. so kayla all stop talking and i'll let you talk more about how you interpret elizabeth and use this letter. yes, so this letter is very important to the narrative of our story as well. so i think that and sam did a
great job of recapping it, but it's it's really this amazing example of you know, the only example of a woman making these comments to the president of the united states and the only example of you know, not had that member so kind of incredible that you know, elizabeth powell was interested with this information is confidential information and we you know it also the way she crafts this letter is extremely eloquent. it's a well thought out argument argument and it's really indicative of her her intellect and obviously the mutual respect that washington had for her and and she even kind of points out and sam you can probably quote this better than i can but she kind of like is it not a selfish decision to go back to mount vernon and exactly it's for the fate of saving the country, you know the new country it may not survive without you and really? it's just interesting as she
wasn't a woman who? she didn't have formal education. of course. this is the 18th century, but she was extremely well read. he didn't travel as the market wish i tell you points out and his in his journal, but she was, you know, extremely intellectual because she immersed herself in civic education and she periodicals and newspapers and novels and books and it's really i feel like this is the epicenter of like all of her intellect is really seen in this letter, which it's absolutely done. obviously, you know, we can't say that she's the only reason that washington made this decision, but i certainly think that it influenced him without a doubt and i think you mentioned it sam. but again, i'm not i can't quote. i can't quote the manuscripts quite like you rights, you know a horse he he is elected unanimously he accepts the
position even though he may be did not want to and then writes later in a letter to a colleague that you know, his confidential friends. well know that this in you can finish it if you'd like, but this was this is not taking lightly like it was a difficult decision to make and in saying that he's more or less saying that elizabeth was one of these confidential friends and this example of which i think is is quite amazing for an 18th century woman. i mean you don't think that she would have had the same kind of status intellectual status as you know, you would have you have expected him to have with a male. and so this i think is a really amazing example of how how she was able to use her political influence and and what was afforded to her as a woman as a way to influence, you know the commutation. yeah. yeah. absolutely. i agree with you you explain
that very well and yet the the quote is is it was only after a long and painful conflict in my own breasts i think is that is the dramatic quote. a little bit there a little bit of dramatic. yeah. yeah. extremely important letter if they have the originals at the library of congress and mount vernon has the copy which i think arguably is even cooler. oh, i agree. it's samuel and i think that's also a really some commentary on samuel and elizabeth's relationship because this means that you know, she they clearly valued each other's opinion like sam said for whatever reason they felt that this would be more effective if it was in her hand and not samuels and it was clear then you know, the market is actually you like he he said
so much so many good things about them, but he also commented on how equal their relationship was and i think that this you know is a good example of that as well that they were very respectful of one another they had a lot they had a loving relationship but like as two friends equally matched in, you know, taste intellect and you know, i can't remember the last adjective there but but but it's true in this letter is like a really great example of that as well. yeah, yeah, i agree. i agree. thank you. yeah, thank you. that was wonderful explanation for all of that and i guess did we did we want to did you want me to go ahead and explain kind of what happened next after this letter and after washington? yeah. yeah. it was really 92. correct? yes. yes, so shortly thereafter. they you know we're looking at
1793. so that's the wave of yellow paper epidemic came through and obviously devastating philadelphia george washington george and martha washington. they fled back to mount vernon and the pals and actually they pleaded with the palace to come join them not for it and which i think you told me is there's no other account with them asking anyone else to join them. correct? yes. yes, correct. yeah. so if you want to elaborate a little bit more on here. yeah, yeah, so so as kayla said that yellow fever kind of exploded in philadelphia not not dissimilar to what we are going dealing with today, but the the powells, of course they were affected as many families were samuel powell. actually. he died of the yellow fever and the washingtons did invite the pals with them to flee back to
mount vernon. there is a very sad sad letter from elizabeth to george and martha that it's sad when you when you think ahead about what happens two weeks later, it's her turning down their their invitation to come to mount vernon. she says that samuel thought that it would be better to stay although for her own happiness. he wanted her to make her own decision and for his happiness. he wanted her to make her own decision because if she died, he would be very sad then she says thing that she feels like if she wasn't there with samuel it would it would break her heart and then sadly two weeks later samuel passes away. she couldn't she wasn't with him. she actually went to her brother's house in western just outside of philadelphia. and so it's very heartbreaking. there's there's not a letter from the washingtons to elizabeth. there's no condolence letter. however, i'm sure that they visited her when they went back
to philadelphia nearly immediately and he was washington was alerted to samuel's death by his comptroller of the treasury on the first of october and when his when the comptroller wrote he said he mentioned mr. powell's death with the most sincere regret so clearly that was that and that was more than he would say for other people too as he as he lifted out the desk so clearly that shows how connected the washingtons were with the powells and how how sad that must have been for? washington too to lose to lose another good friend of his so they they really had just a special special relationship. and and so so yeah throughout after after samuel dies, of course elizabeth goes into morning. however as kayla mentioned she is incredibly, you know, politically connected she she doesn't just stop living when samuel dies and that it was partially because she does have the washington still in
philadelphia to philadelphia and she very much keeps up her friendship with them. they they continued to get together for tea and dinners, but then of course when washington decides to step down and not serve a third term elizabeth loses one of her best friends and he goes back to mount vernon and before he well before he leaves they they have an auction where they sell off excess furniture and sundries that the adams administration didn't want. elizabeth went to that auction and found a piece of furniture that she very much wanted for herself. it is the the presidential desk. so that is a picture of the desk. and this was the desk that washington used for eight years, which elizabeth actually writes in a letter to him that she even though there's some scratches on it washington wanted to sell it to her for a discount. she says she couldn't imagine anything more valuable than
using the the desk. that was the repository for basically creating the government that held all these documents. and and so i think it's actually very cool about the desk that washington had it but elizabeth used it to write all these letters to really live her life as a widow and and run this business and and all of these things she had this desk for the rest of her life, but the reason why i want to talk about it isn't necessarily just because she used it as a powerful woman. she used her power in a different way when she acquired the desk. so as many of you know, if you are george and martha washington fans, you know that martha washington burned what she thought was all of the correspondence between her and george and there's two surviving letters, but elizabeth happened to find a bundle of letters in this desk. so she she finds this bundle of letters that is from martha to george and it's all wrapped up
in washington's in washington's handwriting and she writes to washington and this is very much their funniest exchange. she says that she's found a bundle of love letters from a woman written in the most solemn sanction and she teases him and and says that she doesn't open them, but she she wants him to know that she has them and then she very quickly goes. i'm just kidding. they're from martha washington and so it's a very cute cute little exchange and that's the same letter where she's very poignant about using the desk, but then washington writes back so after he got to mount vernon is when he got the letter from her so he ends up he ends up writing her back and he actually also writes to her he said as he promised he writes her a detailed description of his trip back to mount vernon. so she very much wanted to know how he was how he was doing how the roads were etc, etc. but at the beginning of the
letter he he very much acknowledges her funny little quit about finding a bundle of love letters and he says something about how oh, that would make him nervous if he had any love letters at all. and he says that the letters were filled with sentiments of friendship rather than of enamored love and the warmth that she was was inferring the letters would only be of that warmth if they were committed to the flames so i don't think that's him saying he and martha didn't have a you know, of course loving rel. ship i do think it's sweet actually to that. it gives another clemson to martha and george's marriage, but also into elizabeth and george's friendship and they do continue to correspond up until the last year of georgia's life. he goes back to philadelphia once more and they they have tea together. they have dinner together. she helps him get a couple of gifts for for martha and then for his newest great
granddaughter and then they unfortunately don't get to see each other again after the end of 1798 and george washington passes away and then a chapter of her life closes, but but she led quite a life with washington as a friend. so i do have a final final little anecdote and kayla. did you want to add anything to that or or just gonna comment that i mean, i think it's kind of endearing that she's almost teasing him about these love letters. i just really interesting. so a while she can write this very serious eight-page letter about how you know the fate of the new nation relies on his decision. she can also like, you know on the other side of the coin say, you know, just spoke at him a little bit and tease him and i think it's really you know what kind of relationship that they had? you know, it's not just a
political or advantageous relationship. clearly. they were very very, you know, intimate and friendly with one another so i think it's it was sweet. so thank you. yeah, i completely agree. i love the little the little turn that she can take with him. and and yeah, yeah, so i think is like it's too she did not just she didn't just stop her life. i mean so after no exactly yeah, unfortunately they were actually blessed with any children. they had four that died very early on during infants here. i think the oldest two years so they didn't have any they didn't have any children didn't have any errors, but that didn't stop her from from having a lasting impact in philadelphia. and so she really adopts the later generation. and i think it's really fascinating that she becomes so close to some of washington's relatives. maybe he was a little about that, too.
absolutely, absolutely. so so this this little this this picture of washington and this little excerpt of a letter does kind of give a good good way to talk about she did have a very close relationship with not only george and martha, washington but bush rod washington who some of you may recognize that name great name is the the george washington's nephew who became an associate supreme court justice and he actually was the first owner of mount vernon after martha washington died, but elizabeth knew him first when he was a little young upstart 21 year old law student and the washington's introduced him to the powells and i think in a similar way that the washingtons were very much led into elite society. they definitely introduced bush rod into the elite society of philadelphia and elizabeth as kayla said not have children of her own so she very much took a liking you to bushrod and then
of course nieces and nephews and i'll talk a little bit about one of her nephews and they they yeah, they became very good friends. i didn't have a chance to put up one of our one of kayla and my favorite anecdotes where bushrod white writes letters back to his mother several letters describing how much he loves elizabeth and how his friendship increases for her every day and and he doesn't know when it will end, but the sweet thing is is that she's very much teases him a lot in her way of teaching him is is through teasing him and one thing she does is she he comes with a watch chain that he's wearing and he's very proud of it. but then she promptly tells him that it's not good enough and he comes back the next day and she has a new watch chain for him and and it's just very cute. and then the henry there's a portrait that that bushrod had done in philadelphia in in 1783 by henry benbridge and actually the powell's helped. pick out that portrait and
there's another little anecdote where where bushrad says that ben bridge would be lucky to paint him. and he says that he doesn't mean that he would be lucky to paint him as a person, but he said that to elizabeth and she very much latched on to that and tells him that he would be he thinks himself a perfect adonis, but but and he bushraut says he blushed and and the proof and and then they had a good laugh about it and it's it's very sweet little anecdote and then the other the other person she was very close with was nelly custis who for throughout throughout nelly's life writes about elizabeth writes back to philadelphia to her best friend elizabeth bordley. gibson always asks about elizabeth tells tells elizabethport the gibson to update elizabeth powell on nelly's life one letter. she says tell my dear friend mrs. powell that her little nellie has become a grandmother. so so elizabeth was very much connected with these with these descendants long after george
washington had died. so the last thing i want to talk about before we take some questions. i'm so excited to hear that we have questions is this portrait and this little excerpt so this portrait is done by an artist named joseph wright who actually painted the portrait that i talked about earlier of elizabeth powell this was done in about 1784. i believe and the powell's actually owned. a copy of this portrait and this image is the exact portrait that the powell's owned. it was formerly at the philadelphia history museum now with drexel university, but this the pals acquired at some time in the 1780s and it's it's a wonderful portrait of washington. this is actually one of the one of the best portraits but elizabeth powell's nephew did not think so. um, so this this is a very cool a cool little glimpse. you elizabeth's friendship with
bush road washington, but actually her very close connection and relationship with her nephew who we are so grateful to her nephews descendants because they've been connected with mount vernon for for many many years, and i meant to mention that earlier so so they they're oh yeah go ahead landmarks and landmarks, correct, correct. um, so so there there however many great grandfathers john here powell this this is written by john paul's son samuel powell this little note and it's written in 1876 and samuel powell junior who was elizabeth great nephew was born in 1818. so she very much new him and he he was her little like her she calls him her little pet in multiple letters, which i think is very sweet. but this describes the 19th century so sometime after 1818 bush. washington when he was when he
was writing the circuit when he was a supreme court justice probably much prior to this was eating dinner with elizabeth powell every sunday that he was in philadelphia. so this describes dinners that bushraud would attend with elizabeth and then john hair powell her nephew who elizabeth formerly adopted would come to and little samuel powell would also be there and at this point elizabeth was not living in the house that kayla is currently in however she was living in her very large her own mansion that she had built but she clearly had this portrait hanging in a very prominent place because when when john here powell would be there he delighted to tease elizabeth that the portrait of washington that it was not an abner admirable likeness and and she would get very flustered and upset and she would always appeal to bushra washington who would who would gratify and say that it was a very accurate like
this and it was wonderful portrait. so i think it's a very cute clemson to her and john her powell's life or and relationship, but then also her and bushrod that that bushrod would honor her and her opinion so many years later and just because it kind of as a final thing. i think it's amazing that she hung a portrait of george washington in her house because that that hung in her house for the rest of her life. she she carried on his legacy. she carried on the legacy of all of the other founders and and it's just a really cool way to think of this woman being her own independent woman, but but yeah caring forth these stories so she lived to be 87 so she she lived a very long and very rich life. so that's that's all i have and i'm really excited to take questions and kayla. do you have anything else you want to add before we take questions? that was wonderful. thank you. all right, so cynthia miller.
i recognize this name one of our greatest fans. so cynthia miller says i am interested in the balls held at the powell house. could you possibly discuss a bit more about those? what was served what people wore who attended what was just discussed etc and i do want to say that the five plume hat. that's one of my favorites about the yeah. tell them about that and then i can shine and yep. um one thing that i have found in my research that that people wore at the pal house. there's a young woman named and shipping livingston who was a relative of elizabeth. she was a young woman same age as bushrod attended some falls at the powells during the 1780s early 1780s talks a lot about bush rod actually, but she describes one ball in detail her getting ready for the ball and it took all day and she showed up wearing a loomed hat so five giant feathers in the french
style. so i love to imagine that outfit at the palo house. and and what kind of performance she was putting on and how she was portraying this gentile woman and as a young woman, too, so that's my little bit about what people were wearing so to speak a little bit about like what was being served. so elizabeth was well known for her dinners, and they were typically three course dinners and they were very very decadent. i guess the most famous example of this is john adams's diary where he writes about a most sinful feast again at the pals all of the things that could delight the eye and he goes on to describe. a lot of different sweets and syllabums and all kinds of alcohol and it's very decadent affair. i think the best part about that quote though to be honest is when they they drink all of the madeira in the port and then they head to christ church stephen and ideas, like what
sort of parties but you john on adams also wrote about like giving a toast to elizabeth here, right? it was very embarrassing evidently, but we don't know what he said, but same very well. yeah, whatever it was. it's funny because you comments. oh, she never did like me very much. so it's kind of funny, but another really important letter that we know of was from sarah franklin beige the the daughter of benjamin franklin to her father on her father's birthday evidently she danced with the general on his 20th wedding anniversary at the pal. so would imagine that would have been in the very room that i'm sitting in right? so it you know, it was what was discussed. i mean it was it could have been anything from just entertainment of the day i could have been absolutely was some kind of some political affairs since you know, they were often coming
over after they had these deliberations but you know, it was really the epicenter of like social life and the pals were right in the center of it. so this was the place to be absolutely, absolutely. all right, susan mcgill says, how do we know that samuel edited elizabeth letter to gw urging him to run for another term. so the reason why we know that is that in this is just kind of basic in in all of my research. i have learned the pals handwriting very well, and i was actually kind of a funny thing. i was actually going to put a screencap of the letter on our instagram and i was we have it scanned and i accidentally zoomed into clothes on the letter when i was trying to take a screenshot and all of the sudden i had looked at that letter so many times all the sudden i saw on the inside page.
there was a letter of a word written above one that was an edit and i realized that's not elizabeth's handwriting. that's samuel's handwriting. so i noticed throughout the rest of the letter. there's multiple. there's multiple edits in his hand. so so that's that's how we know by that's yeah. yeah, so it's funny what you can what you can discover after doing so much research things always pop up for me and that's that's what's very fun. i've so enjoyed the very multiple layers to the powell's story and all of their documents and and all that. so that's what we're very fortunate that elizabeth like to write yes indeed in that. she liked to make copies of her letters. she i don't know how she did all that special with all the financial records. she left behind too. so she's busy woman with that desk. timmy hi, tammy, um does samuel
powell's descriptions? same up house description sound great. did he also describe the other washington family members who are present during that their visit? yes, he does and i meant to bring that up earlier bush rod washington comes to mount vernon to dine with them with his wife at that point. he briefly mentioned that the grandchildren are there and then actually they go to the ruins of belvoir plantation washington brings them to see the ruins. and if you're a virginian you might recognize the name belfar is now fort belvoir and that's where some of george's best friends in his early life lived george williams and sally fairfax. so samuel brings up the visiting the ruins. he doesn't talk about the fact that it's that it's george williams and sally's house, but i think that's kind of a cool. thing for washington to do it's very personal. it's a very glimpse into his life and then actually the other relatives that he brings up are
not at mount vernon, but when they are down going down to westover, they stop in fredericksburg and they have dinner with mary ball, washington and betty washington lewis, so i believe that's probably some of the only friends of the washingtons that ever met maribel washington. so i think that's really cool when i was looking through that travel journal we have an excerpt of it at mount vernon, but i found the full travel journal and i saw that i was like wow yet another connection that they have so so yes. yes, they he does describe friends and family. did elizabeth tammy again did elizabeth ever write to fanny bassett and major george augustine, washington? no, she doesn't write to them directly. she talks about she talks about george augustine washington actually when they are at mount vernon, um samuel does but then elizabeth writes to martha after they've come back from mount
vernon to philadelphia and she asks how fanny is doing and then i believe she says something briefly about george gustin washington. he actually he passed away when elizabeth was having her 50th birthday party. so the powell's could not the washingtons could not attend that birthday. so so yeah, so she did know who they who they were. all right, cynthia miller again. alright, um, could you also talk about the writtenhouse clock in the house and it's significant to the house as well as how that clock came to reside in the house. thank you kayla. i will let you one even be able to answer all of that. so we do have spots clocks actually, so we have a david writtenhouse clock which is owned by the philadelphia museum of art and we've a benjamin so i'm not sure which one we're referring to but the david writtenhouse clock is actually downstairs in samuel's office or
what we're portraying a samuel's office. it's interesting. um because if you're looking at george and philadelphia at the time the men are all very influenced by enlightenment period and they are interested in ways to control their environment. so the clock you know it has that one is that one has a metal face. so you might be talking about benjamin, which also has an astra astrid logical base phase and it's actually just behind me in the hallway, but it is believed to be the first one that benjamin franklin house did. not sure if that's what the question was, but the david rittenhouse clock. i don't know the maker of that case. i don't believe we are the maker up this one either but we we do own the benjamin franklin. i'm not sure how it came to his eye care. that's a great question. i'll have to look into that.
oh like here. yeah. yeah where it was the washington desk now it is so it was also with the philadelphia history museum and i believe it's now with the collection currently stewarded by drexel. i don't want to get this wrong, so i'm not going to detail about it, but i know it is safe and sound. yeah. so yeah drexels it will be with drexel's collection, but i believe abm sure it's in storage. yes. yeah. yeah, we love it to come back home. yeah, exactly. all right, susan mcgill what happened to the love letters that elizabeth found in the desk. so in that letter she does say to washington that she will give
them to tobias lear, but at first advice leader doesn't want them. he is too nervous that his personal correspondence between martha and george, which i think is very interesting because tobias lear was his longtime secretary so you would think that there would have been some overlap, but but maybe not maybe he really did respect george and marcus privacy, but she does eventually give the bundle to tobias and i believe he brings them back to to washington, but what's interesting and kind of cool and and just a into how people wrote letters and how they packaged up letters elizabeth specifically notes that she has bundled them up with her own paper and then three seals of her blessed friends arms that she uses so so she makes sure washington knows that that she seen the bundle but she hasn't looked in the bundle. so sadly. i think that they were probably burned as well. although i do really love the
parallel of the fact that the two letters that survived that that we know of were found in a desk and then these were found in a desk so clearly they were very good at taking their letters out of desks. so, so, all right. so with this, i'm very happy that that you were all able to join us today and kayla. did you have any final things you wanted to say? this is great. just wanted to thank again mount vernon and thank you sam and for all thank you know we're looking forward to seeing more of what your research, you know teaches us great. yeah, and i i want to say thank you to the to the powell descendants who are watching. we're very full for you and all the all the stewardship and and your love of your family's history. it's made it's made my life so fun. and yeah, so so, that's all that's all for me.
and if anyone has more questions, i'm happy to to answer them. you can find my email on our website and i'm sure kayla would love to answer more questions too and definitely go visit powellhouse. it is a beautiful house. i have so loved every time i visit i always get to see something new and kayla gives wonderful has so much knowledge, and i know that the docents have so much knowledge. so so please do go visit them. so with that yeah. yeah with that. i guess i will go ahead and say goodbye. so thank you again for joining us and i hope to talk about elizabeth again soon. next on the presidency a talk from the 2009 bicentennial year of abraham lincoln's birth. philip kunhardt iii comes from a family of lincoln scholars at the time of this presentation he was working on the book looking for lincoln the making of an american icon.
he described it as quote the story of the story how the slain president's legend took shape from the time of his 1865 assassination to the 1926 death of his eldest son robert todd lincoln. the national archives hosted this event and provided the video. there is a certain kind of fatalism, i guess about how one's vocation arrives but in my case i was a resisted the lincoln world for until my 30s and then was asked by my father to serve as a research assistant with him on a book. he was writing on the gettysburg address. and i got hooked. he i began to read i i essentially did research on three of his chapters and read began reading widely in the critical literature and began to realize this was a subject of great interest me as well.