A poster from the late 1800s announcing that no business will be conducted on Washington’s Birthday, which was then celebrated on his actual birth date of February 22. Credit: Library of Congress
Happy Birthday, George!! Two-hundred and eighty five years ago today on February 22, 1732, George Washington was born. Americans have commemorating his birth and his life for centuries, since he rose to prominence as the commanding general of the Continental Army and the nation’s very first president. For centuries, his likeness has been added to plates, glasses, and bottles, carved in stone, etched on coins, used in advertisements, and printed on clothing to create unique memorabilia celebrating the man who was eulogized as “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
The 1932 celebration of Washington’s 200th birthday especially led to increased demand for Washington memorabilia. The George Washington Foundation has a small collection of both this bicentennial and a few commemorative objects from even earlier. To mark George’s birthday in 2017, Lives & Legacies shares photographs of this memorabilia!
Amber glass hatchet from either the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair or the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Made by the Libbey Glass Company at the World’s Fair Libbey Glass Demonstration Furnace where visitors could observe glass manufacture and then purchase the glass hatchets. They came in other colors such as opaque white, amethyst, green, and cobalt blue.
Medal featuring a right-facing bust of Washington that was awarded by the New York State George Washington Bicentennial Commission “in appreciation of Services generously Rendered to the Commission During 1932.” The accompanying card is signed by Charles Tobin, the commission’s chairman.
A pin dating from around 1900 that features a portrait of George Washington from the chest up and wearing a red coat. The image is printed on paper or fabric and is covered by celluloid, with a metal, goldtone rim. The pin could be attached to a piece of clothing and has a bar for hanging a ribbon or pendant. The Washington image of has “PAT. W.& H. CO. / NEWARK, N.J.” printed on either side.
A Washington Bicentenary Memorial Plate from 1932 made by Crown Ducal in Stoke-on-Trent, England. This ceramic plate with blue transfer-print was part of a series of 12 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth. It imagines General Washington and Mary, his mother, strolling through a romanticized rural landscape.
A clear glass bottle from 1932 made by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company of Huntington, West Virginia. One side is a crude embossed profile of a Washington bust while the other side has embossed depiction of a cherry tree with the dates “1732” and “1932” on a scroll beneath.
A commemorative plate from 1932 with an elaborate floral gilded border and a transfer-printed bust of George Washington in the center and made by the Capital Souvenir Company.
A commemorative porcelain tray depicting George Washington, Martha Washington, and Mount Vernon. The vignettes were transfer-printed first and then hand-painted to add details. At the bottom of the Mount Vernon vignette is printed “Washington’s Home / Mount Vernon, Va.” The tray was made by Tressemann & Vogt in Germany between 1891 and 1907.
A green water bottle with a likeness of George Washington under the word “water.” The bottle reads “Washington / Bicentennial” with the dates 1732 and 1932 on either side. It was made by the Hemingray Glass Company in Muncie, Indiana.