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Secrets of Washington's Archives

Secrets of Washington's Archives

Author: The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon

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What did George Washington write in his personal copy of the Constitution? Who left behind messages inside some of Washington’s books? How did Washington learn to become a professional soldier?

Mount Vernon’s newest podcast and video series explores the treasures found inside the George Washington Presidential Library’s special collections. Librarians and historians share the hidden and oh-so-human stories found in the founding father’s books, periodicals, and maps.
11 Episodes
A Presidential Primer

A Presidential Primer


The State of the Union address may be an annual tradition now, but when Washington prepared to give his address in 1790, the expectations weighed heavily upon him. To prepare for this momentous occasion, Washington turned, pen in hand, back to the Constitution itself. In this episode of The Secrets of Washington's Archives, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, President & CEO of George Washington's Mount Vernon, explores Washington's own copy of the Constitution contained within a volume of the first Acts of Congress. Within this extraordinary text, we see Washington's own handwritten notes on what it meant to be president.
A Gift from Spain

A Gift from Spain


Washington bought a copy of Don Quixote on the last day of the Constitutional Convention. But what is so significant about this Spanish story? And what did Benjamin Franklin and the Spanish ambassador have to do with it? In this episode, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, President & CEO of George Washington's Mount Vernon, tells us the story behind two versions of this spectacular tale. Watch the Video Companion:
A Syllabus for War

A Syllabus for War


George Washington’s commitment to professionalism went hand-in-hand with his leadership as both a general and a president. He believed strongly in creating an American army that adhered to new models of professional military duty. In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz explores Washington’s military education and what we can learn from Washington’s leadership today.
Farming was Washington’s greatest passion, and he devoted himself to the study of new and emerging agricultural practices. Associate Curator Jessie Macleod discusses how enslaved men and women at Mount Vernon put some of these innovative ideas into practice. Watch the video companion:
A message scrawled in the leaves of an antique book may seem like a trope for a gothic novel, but it is also a hidden clue into the life of Martha Washington. Like George, Martha Washington enjoyed reading and collecting books, particularly the sensational gothic novels of the era. And these novels are more than just light entertainment: they tell a story about the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter, revealed through the pages of the book itself. Watch the Video Companion:
Come take a journey through Revolutionary America through the eyes of a French aristocrat and natural historian. While many remember George Washington’s famous friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette, fewer are aware of his close relationship with the Marquis de Chastellux, a French soldier and popular philosophe. In this episode, Dr. Iris de Rode joins us to discuss Chastellux’s famous travel diaries and his deep and abiding friendship with George Washington.
In the early American Republic, nationhood represented more than just an ideal. It also required a novel approach to visualizing the space and geography of the new country. Washington wanted to literally put the United States of America on the map. And where better to do it than in one of the most popular atlases of the era? In this episode Dr. Alexandra Montgomery shares the story of how George Washington helped create the first American Atlas and the significance of creating new American maps in the wake of independence.
Faith and Freedom

Faith and Freedom


In the aftermath of independence, the American branch of the Church of England faced an identity crisis. The head of the Anglican Church, after all, was the King of England. So what were the faithful Anglicans to do? Make their own American prayer book, of course. In this full-length podcast episode, we explore a set of prayer books belonging to Martha Washington and her granddaughters. Classroom resource specialist Jennifer Seiter explains what this Washington family heirloom can reveal about the sweeping religious changes happening in the United States during the early Republic and George Washington’s own commitment to religious freedom.
When this magazine disappeared from George Washington's library, it wouldn't reappear until a hundred years later--and in the unlikeliest of places. In this episode of Secrets of Washington's Archives, research librarian Samantha Snyder uncovers the history of The Bee and its connections with Elizabeth Powel, a prominent Philadelphia woman and close friend of Washington. See the video companion and more at
Published in 1679, The Compleat Surveyor was a textbook for those training in the field of surveying, including a young George Washington. But don’t be fooled by its simple description: its early influence on Washington would last throughout his life. In this first episode, we will explore Washington's education and passion for maps with our Curator of Special Collections, Dana Stefanelli.
What did George Washington write in his personal copy of the Constitution? Who left behind messages inside some of Washington’s books? How did Washington learn to become a professional soldier? Mount Vernon introduces its latest podcast and video series, The Secrets of Washington's Archives. Come explore the books, manuscripts, and maps found inside the George Washington Presidential Library’s special collections and hear stories about George Washington, the American Revolution, and the Presidency. The series will release June 5, 2023 for Mount Vernon members and June 19 for audiences everywhere. Learn more at Music by SoulProdMusic at Pixabay.
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