National Geographic : 1953 Nov
661 National Geographic Photographer John E. Fletcher The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Presents Its Centennial Exhibit In 1853 Ann Pamela Cunningham, a semi-invalid, started her campaign to make the Washington home a patriotic monument (pages 670, 676). Her portrait hangs on the left; her associates appear on the far right. The cases contain historic documents pertaining to Mount Vernon and the association. ington after the old prison fortress was de stroyed during the French Revolution (page 659). "Over there"-the speaker waved toward a table miniature-"is a model of the Bastille made from its own stone. People think it came from Lafayette, too. It was really the gift of a little-known Englishman." From the hall we looked into the music room where the Washington family and neigh bors gathered for singing and dancing. Wash ington loved to dance, though he admitted he could "neither sing one of the songs nor raise a single note on any instrument." Relic Returned After 85 Years The old harpsichord which now stands open in the music room as if ready for the next player was a present from Washington to Nelly Custis, his wife's granddaughter. "That's a much-traveled instrument," Mr. Wall told me. "It was shipped from London to the Presidential Mansion at Philadelphia in 1793. When Washington retired from the Presidency, it came with the family to Mount Vernon. Later, Nelly married and took it away, and eventually her daughter-in-law returned it. It was the first piece of original furniture to come back. "A strange thing happened about the maker's name plate," he continued, indicating a brass-rimmed label on the harpsichord. "An elderly man brought it to us in 1951, saying it had been in his family 85 years. It seems his grandfather and grandmother came here on a honeymoon trip. They brought with them their landlady's child, and the child picked up the name plate and gave it to them." Leisurely we walked around the charming and livable old house. The family dining room contains many pieces the Washingtons owned-Chippendale ladder-back chairs, pic tures, silver centerpiece, and china articles. It was easy to imagine a gurgling, laughing child in the old high chair. It was used, in turn, by Nelly and George Washington Parke Custis. The youngest of Martha's grand children, they were adopted and brought to Mount Vernon after the death of their father in 1781. In the downstairs bedroom, cozy with its four-poster bed and chintz decor, Mrs. Wash ington often put up the guest overflow.