Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Unusual history painting of George Washington at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia


Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (American painter, 1863-1930, American) George Washington at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia

George Washington wrote on June 10, 1787 "Sunday 10th. Breakfasted by agreement at Mr. Powell’s, and in Company with him rid to see the Botanical garden of Mr. Bartram; which, tho’ Stored with many curious plts. Shrubs & trees, many of which are exotics was not laid off with much taste, nor was it large." (Samuel Powell owned land across the Schuylkill River southwest of Philadelphia. The Bartrams, owned a well-known botanical garden on the west bank of the Schuylkill River 3 miles southwest of Philadelphia. )  Washington rode out once again to William Bartram’s botanical garden “and other places in the Country” on Sunday, 2 Sept. 1787 (Diaries, 5:183).

William Bartram (1739–1823) operated a botanical garden with his brother John, Jr. (1743–1812), on the west bank of the Schuylkill 3 miles from Philadelphia. The establishment was still called John Bartram & Sons, although it had passed into the hands of the sons upon the death of its founder, John Bartram (1699–1777). William’s reputation as a traveler-naturalist was enhanced by the publication in 1791 of his Travels through North and South Carolina. Washington was a subscriber to the book but declined a request that it be dedicated to him. On 2 Oct. 1789, Washington sent word to Clement Biddle, his agent in Philadelphia, that he wanted the Bartrams’ list of plants plus a note about the care of each kind (Washington-Biddle correspondence). In March 1792, Washington obtained plants of 106 varieties, the surviving list bearing the heading “Catalogue of Trees, Shrubs & Plants, of Jno. Bartram." These plants were sent to George Augustine Washington, Washington's manager at Mount Vernon, and a second shipment was sent down in November to replace the plants that had not flourished.