Series 5, Financial Papers, 1750-1796
Ledgers, journals, account books, cash books, pocket books, receipts, invoices, and business correspondence filling thirty-four volumes. These document the finances of Washington’s public and private life; his plantation at Mount Vernon, including the slaves who lived and worked there; his military service during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War; his presidency, and his retirement.
Throughout his life George Washington, who was acquainted with the rules of bookkeeping, maintained detailed and accurate financial records. These document his private life and the business of his plantation as well as his public service. Enough of them survive to offer multiple avenues of access into Washington's complex and fascinating financial world. Washington was responsible for the modern equivalent of millions of dollars in public and private expenditures for his household, the property his wife Martha Dandridge Custis Washington brought to their marriage (and that the law allowed him to control), his agricultural and milling enterprises, land investments, the Virginia militia, the Continental Army, and the federal government. These records contain illuminating details about the daily lives of Washington and his family, and about the people who surrounded them, including family members, servants, slaves, neighbors, tradespeople, and military aides-de-camp. Although the Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia originally published only selections of the financial papers in their multivolume edition, their Financial Papers Project External is currently publishing them digitally.
Mount Vernon Accounts, 1750-1793
- General Ledger A, 1750-1772 [formerly Ledger Book 1]
- General Ledger B, 1772-1793 [formerly Ledger Book 2]
These two ledger books contain the basic business accounts of George Washington's estates for forty-three years. A name index for each volume provides access to records showing receipts and expenditures in transactions with individuals (the index for Ledger Book 2 is a separate volume). All receipts and expenses for goods and services generated by Washington's Mount Vernon estate can be found here. Mostly in Washington's own hand, these records show the acquisition of land, the sales of farm products, the work of servants, the operation of mills, and the purchases and sales of slaves. Ledger C is at Morristown National Park in Morristown, New Jersey.
- Copybook of Invoices and Letters, 1754-1766 [formerly Account Book 1, 1755-1766]
Before the boycotts of British goods that preceded the Revolutionary War, Washington, like other Virginia planters, sent his tobacco to British commission merchants who sold it for him and in return filled his orders for a wide array of goods. This volume documents those transactions, and includes the tobacco marks Washington used to identify his tobacco, and that of Martha Washington's children from her first marriage.
Half of the volume contains copies in Washington's hand of his letters to merchants and a few suppliers; reversed, it contains his copies of the invoices of goods he received. After his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, Washington chiefly dealt with merchant Robert Cary of London. Other merchants represented include James Gildart of Liverpool, Thomas Knox of Bristol, and Anthony Bacon, Capel and Osgood Hanbury, and Richard Washington of London.
The letters and invoices provide a record of the household furnishings, farm equipment, food, wine, medicine, clothing, shoes, jewelry, art and decorative objects, toys, books, and other supplies that George and Martha Washington purchased from Britain. They also provide details about the suppliers and artisans who produced and sold the goods the Washingtons bought. While the letters are largely about orders for goods, Washington also commented on political and personal matters. On September 20, 1765, for example, he wrote to Francis Dandridge, his wife's London uncle, at Cary's suggestion. Washington told Dandridge that the Stamp Act "engrosses the conversation" of the colonists, "who look upon this unconstitutional method of Taxation as a direful attack upon their Liberties."
- Copybook of Letters and Invoices, 1767-1775 [formerly Account Book 2, 1767-1775]
This volume appears to be a continuation of Volume 3, and like it, includes Washington's copies of the letters he sent to British merchants and suppliers concerning the sale of his tobacco and purchases of goods in return. It has been bound together with Volume 5, which contains invoices. It also contains letters relating to local matters, including Washington's legal, financial, and land dealings, the estate of Martha Washington's first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, and the education of her son John (Jackie) Parke Custis. As in Volume 3 some letters deal with political matters. See, for example, Washington's April 5, 1769 letter to George Mason in which he expresses his views about the boycotting of British goods. Images starting at 210 belong to volume 5.
- Invoices, 1766-1773; Lists of Taxed Lands, Slaves, and other Possessions, 1760-1774 [formerly Invoices, 1766-1773; Miscellaneous Lists, 1755-1774 ]
The invoices, 1766-1773, are copies in Washington's hand, listing goods he purchased from London merchants. The lists, 1760-1774, are of lands Washington owned on which he paid quitrents and taxes, and of "tithables." The "tithables" are chiefly slaves Washington owned for whom he had to pay a tax, or tithe. Information about the slaves listed includes their first names and, in some cases, their occupations and the farms on which they lived and worked. This volume is bound together with volume 4.
- Weaving Accounts, 1767-1771
This volume, in Washington's hand, records the work done at his weaving workshop at Mount Vernon. The workshop was run by Thomas Davis, a weaver Washington employed. The volume lists the yardage the weavers produced, with information about fiber (wool, linen, cotton), patterns, weaves, quantities, prices, purchasers, and how long each order took to make. In addition to fabric, the weavers made harness, bed ticking, fishnets, and carpet. The records in this book show that much of what the weaving workshop produced was used at Mount Vernon, while some was purchased by Washington's neighbors. The weavers were a mixture of slaves and free white workers, and some details of their working lives are recorded here. These records show Washington's interest in economic self-sufficiency at a time when American colonists were starting to boycott British goods. On the last page are Washington's notes comparing the costs of making woven goods at Mount Vernon with the prices of English imports. See: https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2015/03/george-washington-and-the-weaving-of-american-history/
Colonial Virginia Military Accounts, 1755-1758
In August, 1755, during the French and Indian War, Virginia's governor appointed George Washington commander of the Virginia Regiment. He served in that position until late 1758. These volumes document his management of military finances during this period.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Ledger, September, 1755 - December, 1758 [formerly Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts, 1755-1758]
This account book is not in Washington's hand, but was kept for him, probably by his secretary John Kirkpatrick. The volume was disbound and the pages tipped into a new volume. A separate name index is tipped into the front of the volume. Many of the expenses are for recruiting. Others are for soldiers' pay, food and clothing, munitions, horse hire, pasturage, nursing and surgeon's fees, hospital rent, buckskin for making moccasins, skins to make drumheads, espionage, and more. The records of receipts that appear in volume 8 are also recorded here in volume 7.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Receipt Book, September, 1755 - February, 1758
[Formerly: Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts, Receipt Book, 1755-1758]
On the back of this small volume, still in its leather cover with a metal clasp, George Washington wrote: "Receipt Book for Cash expended for the Virginia Forces George [Washington]." Washington copied receipts into this volume during the period that he commanded Virginia's military forces. This information was then formally recorded in an account book maintained by a secretary (volume 7). Expenses for recruiting, travel, pay, supplies, pursuit of deserters, and more are recorded here.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Pocket Book, October, 1757 - March, 1758[formerly: Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Memorandum Book, 1757-1758]
This tiny pocket book includes in Washington's words, "Memm. how the 4000£ Receiv'd of Mr. Boyd is expended." Alexander Boyd was the paymaster for the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. Boyd also maintained the Disbursement Book for 1758, (volume 12). Other expenditures are also included in this volume.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Pocket Book, April - May, 1758
[formerly: Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Memorandum Book, 1758.]
In this brief pocket book, Washington recorded expenditures of funds for the period April 3 through May 24, 1758. Most of his expenditures for this period went for pay for troops, enlistments, horses, and quartermaster supplies.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Pocket Book, May - June,1758
[formerly: Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Recruiting Funds, 1758]
This small pocket book begins with the heading, in Washington's hand: "Memorandum of money paid to Recruits for the Virginia Regiment" and records cash paid for recruiting and other military expenses.
- Virginia Military Accounts: Receipt Book, June, 1758
[formerly: Virginia Colonial Militia Disbursement Book, 1758]
This brief book was maintained by paymaster Alexander Boyd. It contains receipts for cash disbursements for £473, 2 shillings, and 6 pence made during the period June 14-19, 1758. Most of the expenditures were for forage and baggage.
Cash Memorandum, or Pocket Books, 1772-1784
- Pocket Book of Cash Expenses, August, 1772 - May, 1773
- Pocket Book of Cash Expenses May, 1773 - March, 1774
- Pocket Book of Cash Expenses, October, 1774 - May, 1775
- Pocket Book of Cash Expenses, May, 1775 - January,1776;
September,1783 - December, 1784
George Washington called these small, leather-bound books "pocket day books." He used them to record small personal expenditures and receipts of cash. They also include some entries documenting the larger business of his plantation, such as hiring. Washington later transferred most of the entries in these volumes to his ledger and account books. The blank pages that appear are blotter pages.
Vol. 15 begins on October 26, 1774, the last day of the First Continental Congress, which began meeting in Philadelphia in September. The first page of this book is headed "Expences at Philadelphia Contd," and includes the last of his expenses in Philadelphia and those for his trip home. It picks up from a pocket book that the Library of Congress does not have, which presumably includes the bulk of his expenses at the First Continental Congress. Volume 16 begins with his expenses at the Second Continental Congress, which opened in Philadelphia in May, 1775. Washington continued to use a "pocket day book" through his first year as commander in chief of the Continental Army, noting that his first purchase on reaching Cambridge to assume command of the Army was "a ribbon to distinguish myself." Washington broke off after January, 1776, for the duration of the Revolutionary War. Then he started again in September, 1783 as the war came to an end. His diaries follow the same pattern, breaking off during the Revolutionary War, then starting again near the end of the war.
Revolutionary War Accounts, 1775-1784
On June 15, 1775 Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
On December 4, 1783, the war over, he resigned as commander and returned to Mount Vernon and private life. As commander-in-chief, Washington maintained this collection of financial records with the help of stewards, secretaries, housekeepers, and aides-de-camp.
- Revolutionary War Warrant Book 1, August, 1775 - August, 1776
- Revolutionary War Warrant Book 2, August, 1776 - August, 1778
- Revolutionary War Warrant Book 3, August, 1778 - July, 1779
- Revolutionary War Warrant Book 4, July, 1779 - January, 1780
- Revolutionary War Warrant Book 5, January, 1780 – August, 1783
Warrants were written authorizations to receive or deliver goods or money. These warrant books, maintained by Washington's secretaries and aides-de-camp, list warrants signed by him. Warrants could be redeemed by the army paymasters, but most often they were used like cash by recipients. Warrants, like bills of exchange and vouchers, were often heavily discounted; that is, they depreciated in value. These warrants were used by quartermasters to issue vouchers to acquire services and supplies – forage, munitions, clothing, transportation, etc. – for the use of the American military and to maintain Washington's headquarters. Dollars in these books refer to the Spanish silver dollar; ponds, shillings, and pence were Virginia currency.
- George Washington's Revolutionary War Expense Account, 1775-1783[formerly: Revolutionary War Expense Account, 1775-1783]
George Washington refused to accept a salary as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, instead offering to claim only his expenses. Congress accepted this offer in 1775. At the end of the war, Washington compiled his accounts from his record books, including the ones in this series. Washington's total expenses included not only what he spent on himself, but also on the members of his headquarters (who he referred to as his "military family"), his retinue while traveling, and spy services. This is one of at least two copies of the expense account that Washington made. Another is at the National Archives in RG 56, General Records - Treasury Department.
The expense account has been published several times. See these listed in the bibliography in Related Resources. It is accompanied on this website by explanatory notes from one such edition, George Washington's Account of Expenses While Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army 1775-1783 ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917).
- Revolutionary War Journal of Expenses, July – December, 1783 [formerly Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1, July - December, 1783]
A journal covering the period from July 1, when Washington compiled his official expense accounts for the war, through December 28, 1783, when he submitted his resignation to Congress at Annapolis. The pages of this volume are tipped into one volume with the vouchers and receipts of volume 24.
- Revolutionary War Receipts, June, 1775 – December, 1783 [formerly Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2, June, 1775 - December, 1783]
Vouchers for payment, and receipts for funds received for supplies of goods and services purchased by General Washington and his immediate staff during the war. These are tipped into the same volume that includes volume 23.
- Revolutionary War Cashbook of Household Expenses, July – October, 1775 [formerly Revolutionary War Household Expense Accounts, July - October, 1775]
This volume, labeled "Cash Book No.1," contains detailed records of cash expenditures for Washington's immediate "military family," the aides and secretaries who attended him at his Revolutionary War headquarters. It was kept by Ebenezer Austin under the direction of Colonel Joseph Reed. Austin, who was the steward of the household at Washington's headquarters, supervised the food and laundry services for Washington and his staff. Reed served as Washington's private aide and secretary until his appointment as army adjutant general in 1776. This book covers the period from Washington's arrival in July 1775 at army headquarters at Cambridge, Massachusetts, through October 1775. Most of the payments in it are for food.
- Revolutionary War Cashbook of Expenses, October, 1775 – April, 1776 [formerly Revolutionary War Household Expense Accounts, October, 1775 - April, 1776]
This account book is labeled "Cash Book No. 2" and "Mr. Austin's Accts. being vouchers for the money charged to him." From November 1775 until Washington's departure from Cambridge, Massachusetts for New York in April 1776, the household accounts of his military headquarters were kept by Ebenezer Austin under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Harrison. Harrison, an aide to Washington, succeeded Col. Joseph Reed as secretary on May 16, 1776. The contents of this book are similar to those of Cash Book No. 1 (volume 25): purchases of food (mostly) and household services and supplies.
- Revolutionary War Receipt Book, May, 1776 - November,1780
A small, paper-bound book labeled "Majr. Gibbs's Receipt Book" and "Receipts for cash and memoranda." It contains receipts signed by steward Caleb Gibbs and housekeeper Mary Smith for cash received by them for the operation of Washington's headquarters as it moved from place to place during the Revolutionary War. Also included are memoranda documenting arrangements with tradespeople, servants (including Smith's successor as housekeeper, Elizabeth Thompson, July 9, 1776), spies (October 23, 1777, "secret services"), and others.
Captain Caleb Gibbs maintained this volume as steward from May 1776, when Washington arrived in New York, to November 1780. Gibbs was a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and had served in Colonel John Glover's Massachusetts Continental regiment before his appointment on March 12, 1776, as commander of Washington's Life Guards. Late in 1780, Gibbs left to serve as a major in the 2nd Massachusetts Continental regiment and was wounded at Yorktown.
Mary Smith and Elizabeth Thompson served successively as housekeepers of Washington's military headquarters in New York. They managed cleaning, laundry, and cooking during this period. Mary Smith was a widow from New York. On June 24, 1776, an anonymous letter to New York authorities claimed to identify her as part of a loyalist group planning to assist the British in their forthcoming campaign against New York. She later fled to England and there received from the British government a loyalist pension of £20. On June 18, before the anonymous letter accusing Smith was written, Washington wrote General James Clinton that he was "entirely destitute" of a housekeeper and had heard good reports of Elizabeth Thompson from Clinton's "neighborhood." He enclosed a letter to Thompson but it has been lost. Thompson, born in 1704, left Washington's employment in December 1781. In 1785 she received a pension from the Continental Congress for her service. (See: Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, ed. Philander D. Chase (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 5:132n, and Peter Force, American Archives, 4th Series (Peter Force: Washington DC, 1846) 6:1054. Force includes a copy of the anonymous letter).
- Revolutionary War Journal of Household Expenses, July, 1776 – November, 1780 [formerly Revolutionary War Household Expenses, July, 1776 - November, 1780]
A journal maintained by steward Caleb Gibbs and housekeeper Mary Smith (until her departure, see volume 27, above) documenting the household expenses of Washington's headquarters in New York City and then as he moved from one headquarters to another during this period of the Revolutionary War. Memoranda and daily records of expenditures document life in detail. Purchases of food, supplies, and services are recorded; also payments of wages to servants and slaves. Gibbs notes the shift to New Jersey currency when Washington fled there after New York fell to the British in October, 1776. It also records the receipt of items captured from the British, including fruit baskets and pudding dishes that belonged to General Frederick Haldimand, taken on July 11, 1776.
This volume sheds some murky light on the story of Mary Smith (see volume 27): a page headed "general accounts with Mary Smith" documents her settlement of accounts with Washington on July 16, 1776. Her signature on the page shows that she was still in the city well after the date (June 24) of the anonymous letter identifying her as a possible loyalist plotter. A marginal note reports that she began working for Washington on April 11, 1776 and left his New York household on June 25, 1776, the day after the letter exposing her was written.
- Revolutionary War Vouchers and Receipted Accounts ,1776 -1780
- Revolutionary War Vouchers and Receipted Accounts , 1780-1784
- Accounts, General Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, May, 1784 [formerly: Revolutionary War Vouchers and Receipted Accounts 3, 1784]
Volumes 29, 30, and 31 are collected together in one volume. Volumes 29 and 30 contain receipts Washington received for goods and services he purchased during the war that served as supporting documents, or vouchers, for the final audit of his accounts. Kept by Caleb Gibbs, Mary Smith, and others, these documents record the expenses of Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Issued to bakers, grocers, wine merchants, sellers of china and household furnishings, laundresses, seamstresses, servants, and tavernkeepers, they are a source of information about the lives and businesses of small (and some large) tradespeople, including women and African-Americans, in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War. Also included is correspondence from the Congressional Office of Finance, the Office's final report, and accounts of "monies drawn from the United States" by General Washington during the course of the war. See this example from volume 29 in the "Teaching with the Library of Congress" blog: "Experiencing History from Behind the Scenes: Martha Morris and George Washington."
The third volume (31) consists of records of expenses incurred by Washington during the General Meeting of the Society of Cincinnati in May 1784, after the Revolutionary War. Washington spent £86, 4 shillings, and 8 pence for the hire of a horse, lodging, and food for himself and the servants who accompanied him.
Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, May-September, 1787
- Pocket Book of Daily Expenses, Constitutional Convention, 1787 [formerly Daily Expenses, Constitutional Convention,1787]
In this book Washington kept track of his daily expenses while presiding over the federal Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787. He noted not only his expenses for travel and lodging, but also for the luxury goods he purchased and entertainments he enjoyed in this cosmopolitan city. These include powderpuffs, silk handkerchiefs, hair ribbons, lengths of fabric for dressmaking, a "fan chair"; a weathervane purchased from Josh Rakestraw for the cupola atop Mount Vernon, theater and concert tickets, and more. Washington reports his expenses for clothing and medical treatment for William Lee and Paris, two slaves who traveled with him. The many entries for "charity" were probably for beggars Washington met in the street. This volume has been published in Founders Online.
President of the United States, 1793-1796
George Washington served two terms as president of the United States, from 1789 to 1797. These account books cover some of Washington's expenses for a portion of his presidency, 1793-1797.
- Pocket or Waste Book of Daily Expenses, 1793-1794 [formerly Daily Expenses, 1793-1794]
This small account book contains Washington's daily household expenses from September 2, 1793 through April 4, 1794, when the Washingtons lived mainly in a rented house in Philadelphia. The volume was kept by secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, Martha Washington's nephew. The details in this volume reveal the operation of a household that included both a head of state and an upper-class urban family, which at that time consisted of George and Martha Washington, their two grandchildren, servants, and slaves. Expenditures include servants' wages; housekeeping money for steward and former New York innkeeper Samuel Fraunces; bonnets, jewelry, books (many of which were purchased by Martha Washington), a harpsichord, newspapers, theater tickets, clothing for slaves, alms for the poor, wood, candles, brooms, and more. To read more about this volume see this posting on the Library of Congress Blog: "George Washington's Philadelphia Household, 1793-1794."
- Mount Vernon Ledger, 1794-1796
William Pearce, manager of Mount Vernon from January, 1794 to November, 1796, maintained this ledger. Included here are expenses for house and farm, and also receipts and expenses for the industries that operated at Mount Vernon, including horse breeding, spinning of fiber for textile production, fishing, cooperage, and sale of produce. Although Washington was deeply interested in plantation management, it is clear from these records that his manager controlled the daily activities of Mount Vernon during his presidency. A name index is included.