February 17, 2012

George Washington and the Paparazzi

An original letter written by President George Washington to his friend, Governor Henry Lee of Virginia, is now on display in the Public Vaults of the National Archives, in Washington, D.C. The letter is dated July 3, 1792. In the letter, Washington turns down the request of the artist William Williams, who asked through Lee to paint the President's portrait. As Mount Vernon associate curator Laura Simo explains in the video above, Washington was fed up with posing for portraits, a frequent duty when he was President. In the letter, Washington complains that the painters frequently sell cheap versions of his portrait to the public. National Archives curator Alice Kamps describes the painters as the 18th-century equivalent of today's paparazzi. Williams did paint Washington's portrait, which now hangs in Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge 22, in Alexandria, Virginia. Learn more about the portrait in the video above.

Video provided by the National Archives, via YouTube

Current subscribers log in/register for 

Registered Users Log In

Forgot Password?
Register Now for FREE
Subscriber Benefits
Do it now to get all this:
  • Access to Interactive Digital Editions
  • Online Archives of Past Lessons & Teachers' Guides
  • Interactive Teacher Community
Website Login Page