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    George Washington continues work on the trans-Virginia canal

    George Washington Document Signed "G:Washington." Two pages, 7.75" x 5.25", [Mount Vernon], October 18, 1787. Only twenty-six days after arriving back at Mount Vernon from Philadelphia where he served as president of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington endorses this receipt for supplies to be used on the construction of Washington's grand Potomac River canal. The paper is toned with mounting remnants in the lower margin of the recto, though no text is affected. The recto of the sheet reads in full:

    "Alexandria [Virginia] June 2d, 1787 Recd. of Wm. Houtshorne[Houstoun?] Two Iron fifty Six weights, one quire paper, Ten quarter Casks Powder, Two Bundles Soal Leather, one Bundle upper Leather, and one Keg Nails - to be delivered to James Smith at the Great Falls of Potomac - for which I have received one Dollar & a Quarter for the carriage thereof [signed] Gerar Green."

    The verso reads in full:

    "No. 84. Gerrard Green recd. for Leather &c &c, carriage pd 716 - June 2d. 1787 -
    Pass'd Oct. 18th 1787
    [signed] G:Washington
    [signed] John Fitzgerald
    [signed] George Gilpin."

    Thirty miles from Mount Vernon, James Smith, the recipient of these materials, managed the construction of George Washington's dream, a canal stretching from the Potomac River to western Virginia. Washington's hopes were that the finished canal would quickly move people and goods west, populating those far-flung Virginia counties and enriching their landowners such as himself. His interest in the Potomac River project became a near obsession when he was elected president of the Potomac River Company in 1785. John Fitzgerald and George Gilpin, who also signed this document, worked with Washington on the proposed canal, which was begun in 1785.

    Washington had arrived home at Mount Vernon only days before signing this document. The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, from which he had returned, had elected him its president back in May, but the general had longed to return to his Virginia farms and canal. His dream for that trans-Virginia canal, however, was only an illusion. Years later, financial problems slowed the work, but the death knell came with the advent of railroads, which were less expensive and more efficient.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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