Washington College’s Miller Library is hosting a special exhibit of items related to George Washington this weekend. The exhibit, in the Sophie Kerr rare books room on the library’s second floor, is a special feature for Admitted Students day, Saturday, April 13. However, the general public may get a special preview of the exhibit on Thursday, April 11, 1 to 3 p.m. and Friday, April 12, from 11 a.m. 1 p.m.
The exhibit has drawn rare books and other items from the college’s archives to give a historic portrait of the college’s long relationship with its benefactor and namesake. Anyone interested in Colonial history, and its resonance through the two centuries since Washington’s death, should make it a point to visit this exhibit.
Jennifer Nesbitt, the administrative assistant at Miller Library, gave your Spy reporter a tour of the exhibits, pointing out items of particular interest. While many of the objects are special, perhaps the prize of the collection is a set of physician’s scales used by Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick, who attended Washington on his deathbed. They were donated to the college by Dick’s great-grandson, James Alfred Pearce Crisfield.
Another unique item is Alexander Hamilton’s personal copy of Washington’s A Message from the President of the United States to Congress, with Hamilton’s handwritten signature on the title page.
But these items just scratch the surface of the exhibit, which includes not only rare and historic books, but a Victorian needlework portrait of Washington, copied from the Gilbert Stuart portrait, and a bust of Washington made from Confederate paper money after the Civil War. And there is a commemorative linen handkerchief from 1806, with quotations from Washington’s farewell speech. Commemorative handkerchiefs were popular after American Independence, on account of British colonial policies that forbade colonists from manufacturing cloth items. This policy was designed to support British manufacturers at the expense of the colonies, so after the American Revolution, locally produced cloth became an important industry and symbol of political and economic independence. Handkerchiefs like this one were made and sold as souvenirs and keepsakes.
Nesbitt said the college plans to bring out other items from its special collections for public viewing on a regular basis. It’s a good reminder just how special the college’s collections are, and what a great resource they are for the Chestertown community.
All photos from George Washington Exhibit, unless otherwise noted, are by Peter Heck.