George Washington
& Gadsby's Tavern

Did you know that George Washington supported Gadsby's Tavern in the 18th century as a frequent customer to Mr. Gadsby's establishment and again in the 21st century as a silent contributor to the new GTMS Endowment Campaign?

In the 18th century, George Washington was a frequent patron of Alexandria's City Tavern. His patronage helped Mr. Gadsby build the national reputation of the elegant new establishment opened in 1792, He even attended Birthnight Balls in his honor in 1798 and 1799, his last two birthdays. However, in a more passive and surprising way, he also contributed to the preservation of Alexandria's landmark in 2020.

In early 2020, Mr. Thomas Seligman, Curator Emeritus of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University gave President Washington the opportunity to once again help Gadsby's Tavern. Mr. Seligman had inherited a tiny (about 4”x3”) but charming painting of George Washington from his grandmother, who came from a long-established banking family in New York. The early 19th-century miniature on ivory was donated to the Society with the intention that we would sell it to raise funds for our recently established Endowment fund.

After several months of diligent research and outreach by the Potomack Company auction house staff, the portrait went under the hammer in their November Historical Sale. Although the painter could not be identified, the researchers determined that the picture was similar to one painted by Benjamin Trott who apparently used the well-known Gilbert Stuart portrait as a model. The unknown artist of the miniature probably was also aware of a John Roberts mezzotint, which used the same Trott portrait. Obviously, plagiarism was already the highest form of flattery in the early 19th century.

In the picture to the left Kristen Eastlick, President of GTMS, standing next to the much-blown-up reproduction of the miniature, is receiving the check for the nearly $5,000 auction results from Elizabeth Wainstein, owner and CEO of the Potomack Company on the far right. On the far left of is Anne Craner, Potomack’s Director of Fine Arts and the principal researcher on the piece. Second from the left is Peggy Harlow, the GTMS online operations and auctions coordinator.

Many GTMS members and friends made smaller but much appreciated donations as part of a virtual event celebrating the donation and initiating the Endowment Campaign's fund-raising efforts. Their support along with the results of the auction combined with other significant funding from bequests generously made by first person reenactor, Laurie Kittle, and long-time Museum docent and GTMS officer, Kathy Kelly. Money from the memorial fund previously established in memory of GTMS founding member Dick Sheridan. These initial Benefactors helped give the Endowment campaign an excellent head start.