George Washington, Distiller

  • There is a fascinating What if ... article by Michael Bechloss about George Washington and his distillery at Mount Vernon (The New York Times, 12-Feb-2016). Following his presidency in 1797, Washington found himself in need of money, despite an 8,000 acre plantation and labor by hundreds of enslaved African-Americans. His plantation manager suggested starting a distillery, which in 1799 produced nearly 11,000 gallons and achieved a profit of about $7,500 (about $142,000 today). What might have become one of the great businesses of the early republic — it was already the largest distillery in America — was cut short when Washington died in December 1799.
JDN | 15-Jan-2017

Lafayette’s years in America had given him the most glorious career it was possible for a youth of his disposition to imagine. He had fought for a noble cause, and won the love of a nation. George Washington sent him admiring and heart-sore letters after the marquis returned to France; the state of Virginia presented a bust of him to the city of Paris; the island of Nantucket sent him a 500-pound cheese. Lafayette cherished the love he had earned overseas, and never let the French forget it. When his first two children were born, he named the boy George Washington and the girl Virginia. At his Paris household, his family spoke English, and his messenger was dressed as an American Indian.

Richard Brookhiser
Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution (2003)