Friday, February 14, 2014

George Washington's Ledger Book

In honor of Presidents' Day, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is highlighting a unique and rare item in our collection. General George Washington's account book used at Mount Vernon, August 1776 through May 1785. This account book was originally donated to the Tennessee Historical Society, and currently can be found at TSLA in the THS Collection.

General George Washington Account Book. Presented by J. K. Brown of Nashville, Tennessee, THS Collection, TSLA.

In addition to being our nation's first president, Washington was a successful planter and devoted considerable energy to his agricultural enterprise. On his Mount Vernon plantation, he farmed a variety of crops and even operated his own distillery. Washington was known for keeping meticulous records, both on the battlefield and on his plantation home at Mount Vernon. This account book provides evidence of his attention to detail, giving us a unique glimpse into Washington's life as a plantation owner and agricultural entrepreneur.

When the account book first arrived in Nashville, the June 4, 1858 edition of the Daily News enthusiastically reported that the account book was "said to be in the handwriting of General George Washington." The paper further added, "The style in which the book is arranged, evinces a systematic habit of mind, and a careful observance of the minutia of business." Researchers at Mount Vernon later confirmed that the handwriting was actually that of Washington's farm manager (and distant cousin), Lund Washington. For almost a decade Lund Washington served as the Mount Vernon plantation manager during the extended period when George Washington was away during the Revolutionary War. Nonetheless, this item represents an important piece of American history, and we're fortunate that members of the Tennessee Historical Society had the foresight to save this account book for future generations.

Poster advertising the Account Book's arrival in Nashville.
THS Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

To learn more about this and other fascinating collections held at TSLA, please visit our website, or better yet, visit us in person. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. Parking is available in front, behind and beside the building.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.


  1. Soooo...why did it come to Tennessee? And remain in Tennessee?

  2. Excellent question! We have tried to find an answer, but the provenance of this item is not clear. Minutes of the Tennessee Historical Society meetings show that in the 1850s the society was sending out letters seeking donations, and contacted John Augustine Washington, then living at Mt. Vernon, to request a Washington item. Although J.A. Washington declined, someone connected to the society evidently located this ledger, perhaps by purchasing it, and added it to the society’s collections.