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

But Adams did not just read books. He battled them. The casual presumption that there is some kind of rough correlation between the books in the library of any prominent historical figure and the person’s cast of mind would encounter catastrophe with Adams, because he tended to buy and read book with which he profoundly disagreed. Then, as he read, he recorded in the margins and at the bottom of the pages his usually hostile opinions of the arguments and authors.... [T]he Adams marginalia constitute evidence more revealing of his convictions about political theory than any of his official publications.

Joseph J. Ellis
Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams (1993)