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Collection George Washington Papers

Series 1. Exercise Books, Diaries, and Surveys, ca. 1745-1799

Three exercise books (school copy books), ca.1745-1747, kept by Washington between the ages of about thirteen and fifteen; thirty-six of the diaries kept by Washington from about the age of sixteen until his death in 1799; and notes and drawings documenting Washington’s early career as a surveyor, 1749-1752 and undated.

1a. Exercise Books, ca. 1745-1747

Three notebooks Washington kept between the ages of approximately thirteen and fifteen. They contain his exercises and copies from texts in mathematics, land surveying, geography, finance, and law. Poems, notes, and a formula "to keep ink from freezing or moulding" are also included. One volume contains the 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation," that Washington carefully copied from an existing text (see: George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, ed. Charles Moore, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926). These three volumes are some of the very few surviving pieces of evidence about Washington's early schooling.

1b. Diaries, 1748-1799

Thirty-six volumes of diaries kept by Washington from the age of about sixteen until his death, with gaps. Sometimes using the blank pages in published almanacs, Washington tersely documented daily events, weather, agricultural activities, travels, and more. There is a long gap during the Revolutionary War, then the diaries resume in the summer of 1781 and include Washington's observations of the British defeat at Yorktown that October. Arranged chronologically. These have been published as The Diaries of George Washington, 6 vols., ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1976-1979).

1c. Surveys, 1749-1752

Washington's notes, with some drawings, lists, and calculations, documenting his career as a land surveyor between the ages of seventeen and twenty. Most of Washington's surveying took place on the frontier in Virginia's Northern Neck on land belonging to the Fairfax family, with which he was connected through the marriage of his brother, Lawrence, to Ann Fairfax. For more documentation of Washington's career as a surveyor, see Subseries 8C, Survey Warrants, 1750-1752. Maps and surveys by Washington are available in the Geography and Map Division. To learn more about Washington as a surveyor, and about the  surviving documentation of his surveying career, 1749-1752, see "George Washington's Professional Surveys" on Founders Online, National Archives: and Edward Redmond, "George Washington: Surveyor and Mapmaker".