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George Washington's Life As Seen In Vintage Postcards

Updated on January 26, 2015
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I love everything weird and colorful in this world and I try to live a life that will make the world a little better once I'm gone.

Vintage Postcards Depicting George Washington, Our First President

Washington's Birthday, having been an American holiday for many years, inspired some amazing imagery and patriotic artwork. Vintage postcards designed for Washington's Birthday include iconic elements such as Washington's unique profile, his tricorn hat, cherries, a hatchet, the flag, and Washington's horse.

Since greetings and postcards are not generally sent for Washington's Birthday anymore it is interesting to take a look back at these beautiful works.

With the postcard images representing different stages in Washington's life, we can take a walk through the postcards to learn about the man known as the "father of his country".

Vintage George Washington Postcards

Before 1971, George Washington's Birthday, February 22nd, was its own federal holiday. Lincoln has his own holiday, too (February 12th). President Nixon changed all that by merging the two into Presidents' Day which falls on the third Monday of February, and celebrates all of our country's leaders. Alas, the February holiday would not again fall on Washington's birthday, since the latest it can occur is the 21st.

Washington's Childhood

The Story of Wshington Chopping Down the Cherry Tree - I Cannot Tell A Lie

George Washington was born February 22, 1732, the son of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, in Virginia. George's father died when he was eleven years old, after which George looked to his half-brother Lawrence as the male influence in his life. It was Lawrence who taught him social graces, tutored him, and helped to introduce him into society.

George Washington as a Surveyor
George Washington as a Surveyor | Source

George Washington As A Surveyor

George Washington became Official Surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, on July 20, 1749, at the age of 17. This was his first official position.

As commander of the Army and as President, Washington benefited from his extensive knowledge of maps.

"The want of accurate Maps of the Country which has hitherto been the Scene of War, has been a great disadvantage to me. I have in vain endeavored to procure them and have been obliged to make shift, with such sketches as I could trace from my own Observations..."

Postcard: Washington Taking Command of the Army

Postcard: Washington Taking Command of the Army
Postcard: Washington Taking Command of the Army

George Washington's Horse

Washington Taking Control of the Army

In many of these vintage postcards, you'll notice Washington being depicted with his loyal steed. You'll, also, probably remember that old joke "What color was Washington's white horse?".

Washington actually had several horses, but a few favorites. His favorite steed in a time of battle was Nelson, a sorrel who stood strong even around the gunfire. Another of his favorites was Blueskin, which was a light bluish gray color.

Blueskin was the offspring of a stallion named Ranger which belonged to the Sultan of Moroco and came to America on what was planned to be stop on its planned destination, England. While exercising on land, Ranger became injured and did not continue his journey. George Washington admired some horses he saw in Boston, and was informed they were the offspring of Ranger. He then went on to buy one of those horses, purchasing Ranger. Learn more about Ranger's interesting story.

Washington had another horse in which he favored, his prize Arabian, Magnolia . In 1788, Washington traded agnolia to Light Horse Harry Lee for 5,000 acres of land in the Kentucky territory. Magnolia must have been quite a horse! Learn more about Magnolia.

George Washington and Martha Curtis - The First President & The First "First Lady"

George Washington and Martha Curtis

On January 6, 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Curtis. She was a wealthy widow with one son and one daughter, Jackie and Patsy. Though uneducated, as most women of the time, Martha was smart, gracious, loyal, and experienced in running a plantation.

She did all she could to make sure her husband and her family were happy. Though she may not have always been 100% pleased with the how the Presidency had affected her life, she was understanding and tried to be positive, once writing "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."

Mt. Vernon

Mt. Vernon

Mt. Vernon was a tobacco plantation that his father had owned. George lived there for a few years during his childhood, but mostly lived at Ferry Farm, a plantation on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Upon his death, George Washington's father left Mt. Vernon (then still called Little Hunting Creek Plantation), to George's older half-brother Lawrence Washington. George leased the property from Lawrence's widow a few years after his death, and then fully inherited it after she and her child died.

The American Flag - Washington's Role in The First American Flag

George Washington's Birthday Vintage Postcards

Certainly everyone knows that it was Betsy Ross who sewed the first flag for the United States, but not everyone is aware of the circumstances that led to her being the one to do this.

Betsy Ross knew George Washington. Her pew at the Christ Church in Philadelphia was near to that of George and Martha Washington's. She knew Washington personally, had him over to her home as a guest, and had even done some embroidery work for him on ruffles for his shirts and cuffs.

In late May 1776, Betsy Ross was visited by Washington, and two others, Robert Morris, one of the wealthiest citizens in the colonies, and George Ross, the uncle of her late husband, at which point she was asked to create a new flag. The Grand Union flag needed to be replaced as it featured the Union Jack in the top left corner, and they did not want the flying of this flag to be confused with a flag of surrender. This small committee brought with them a drawing of the flag they wanted sewn. Betsy is said to have suggested a few changes to the flag, such as making it a rectangle (and not a square), and changing the six pointed stars in the drawing to five pointed stars instead.

Learn more about Betsy Ross and the history of the US flag.

Washington's Inauguration as President

George Washington

Very little new artwork is created that celebrate George Washington, new artwork featuring Washington often do so to represent money (as he is featured on the quarter and the dollar), or to represent the country or the founding of the country. Rarely is his image used to represent him as a person.

In Memory of the Birthday of Washington
In Memory of the Birthday of Washington

Quotes By President George Washington

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.

George Washington and Flag
George Washington and Flag

George Washington and Slavery

Being born into a society that included slavery, and having slave owning parents, George Washington considered slavery to be a normal and moral practice. At age 11, when his father died, George inherited 10 slaves.

He maintained this mindset until the war, during which he worked closely alongside slaves and saw many try to enlist in the army. He also came to understand that fighting for liberty while maintaining slavery was flawed. Though some other patriots had this same view, they felt that to take an abolitionist stand publicly at this point would prevent them from uniting as a group against England.

Upon his marriage to Martha, Washington was put in charge of 153 "dowery" slaves. Though he was put in charge of them, he did not own them, and could not legally sell or trade, or free them.

By 1778, Washington stopped selling or trading his slaves in order to prevent families from being broken. He wrote in letters that he wished to be done with slavery himself. He did not, sell or trade his slaves, though, as they had interwed with the dowery slaves, and he did not wish to break up their families.

Upon his death, however, Washington did free all of his slaves - 123 to be precise.

Sadly, sending greetings for Washington's Birthday, or even for Presidents' Day, is not a common practice these days. I think the patriotic artwork is wonderful, and I'd love it if people did sent patriotic greetings. Presidents' Day seems to have become simply a day off of work. With the exception students, there seems to be no celebration in this holiday at all. So, this year, I encourage you to do something for Presidents' Day. Read a biography of a president, send a patriotic card to a friend, tack up a red white and blue ribbon on your mailbox - something.

What will YOU do for Presidents' day this year?


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