Domesticating Revolutionary Sentiment in Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America

Lisa West Norwood (Stanford University)

Presented at the 12ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 1999.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, Papers from the 1999 Cooper Seminar (No. 12), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall, editor. (pp. 62-68).

Copyright © 2000, James Fenimore Cooper Society and the College at Oneonta.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

{62} On July 12, 1858, Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote from Geneva, New York, to one of her sisters in New York City, expressing her pleasure at becoming involved in the purchase and restoration of George Washington’s home and grave. “Most of us have more patriotism than we are aware of, and it is pleasant to have the feeling aroused under a form more generous and dignified, than a fourth of July Oration, (of the common sort), a Buncombe speech in Congress, or a fireman’s procession — the usual channels into which one’s everyday love of country flows.” 1

By the end of the year, Susan Fenimore Cooper had written a small text, Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America, seeking donations for the cause and contributing to the plethora of written and visual statements on Mount Vernon’s importance to the nation. 2 With Mount Vernon: A Letter, Susan Fenimore Cooper brings Revolutionary sentiment into the home, domesticating history along with other contemporary women’s projects. 3 The Mount Vernon preservation effort relied on domestic rhetoric, repeatedly extolling the need for female stewards of the home, 4 and Cooper’s text fits neatly into this tradition. Yet, while Susan Fenimore Cooper does stress Mount Vernon’s importance as the home of George Washington — and, therefore, by extension, as a kind of national home — she does not intend to domesticate male history. Instead, her sense of civic involvement defies simple gender typing and encourages us to ask new questions about homes and memorials. Let me return to Susan Fenimore Cooper’s letter to her sister. Patriotism to her seems potentially ungrounded — an everyday sentiment that tends to go unnoticed. “Most of us have more patriotism than we are aware of. ... ” It needs to be linked to a form. Yet, the form of Mount Vernon appears not as a purely feminized space but as a “form more generous and dignified” than everyday, domestic forms; it is separate from the “usual channels into which one’s everyday love of country flows,” channels which she identifies not with domestic concerns, but with Fourth of July orations, Congressional speeches and the like — the very occasional effervescence of patriotic spirit that most would probably consider the male political domain, both then and now. This paper will examine some passages in Mount Vernon: A Letter to see how Cooper domesticates Revolutionary history, what she considers the proper “home” for Revolutionary sentiment and memory. Her “home book” of the Revolution creates a new kind of Revolutionary monument, a monument that links everyday observances and patriotism.

Although Cooper’s Mount Vernon: A Letter domesticates Revolutionary cultural memory, its argument relies less on a sense of female subjectivity than on a sense of family and local history. Her conception of Washington at Mount Vernon draws heavily on her family legacy, with Washington doubling at times with her grandfather, at times with her father, and at times even with herself; it is this personalized touch that grants her the authority to assume that Mount Vernon could be central to others’ lives as well as her own. Indeed, Mount Vernon: A Letter can be read as the first text she writes about her own family, several years before Pages and Pictures. The visual presentation of the texts supports such an argument, for Pages and Pictures includes similar frontispieces to those in Mount Vernon: A Letter: in each, there is a portrait of Washington and James Fenimore Cooper, respectively, followed by a picture of their ancestral homes, Mount Vernon and Otsego Hall. Yet Mount Vernon: A Letter also draws heavily from Cooper’s earlier efforts, especially from the sense of place she explores in Rural Hours. Indeed, it seems that Cooper strives to link place and biography in Mount Vernon: A Letter as she did natural and cultural history in Rural Hours. Before I continue with a discussion of Revolutionary sentiment, I will outline the fascinating history of the preservation of Mount Vernon.

The Preservation of Mount Vernon and Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America

According to the Mount Vernon legend, a British naval officer passing the stately home on the Potomac during the War of 1812 tolled his ship’s bell in reverence to the national site. The British display of deference became a tradition of respect for other ships as well, yet the respectful peal took on tones of lament as the ancestral home of the great disinterested Washington fell into disrepair, unable to be maintained by the heirs. The mother of Ann Pamela Cunningham heard the peal while traveling past Mount Vernon in 1853 and communicated the sad state of the home to her daughter. Oddly recalling the death of James Fenimore Cooper’s beloved sister, Hannah, Ann had suffered a severe horseback riding accident in her teens and was an invalid, her physical impairment ending her reign as a Southern belle. Inspired by her mother’s description of the disgraceful sight, Ann proceeded to organize women in the South to unite to save Mount Vernon. Her first appeal to the region occurred on December 2, 1853, in the Charleston Mercury, with subsequent calls for funding in other Southern papers in the same year. Soon, the appeals took on a national note. 5

{63} Ann Pamela Cunningham’s drive was not the only form of revived interest in George Washington. The 1850s saw resurgence in the George Washington myth, with many writers using the disinterested figure as an appeal to the Union, an attempt to find a figure that could supersede the sectional divisions of the nation. Many of these stressed Washington’s long history of service, of which his leadership in the Revolution was only a chapter. In particular, his 1796 Farewell Address was cited again and again as a plea for Union, the Federalist concern with factions being reinterpreted as sectional interest, especially threats of secession. 6

Many of these texts refer to Mount Vernon as Washington’s much-loved place of quiet between public duties, but none took interest in its actual preservation. Disinterest was also rampant among private organizations and governmental bodies. In fact, both the State of Virginia and Congress turned down opportunities to purchase the home as a national site. Thus, Mount Vernon and the drive to purchase and preserve it did develop gendered associations that were apparent at the time. 7 Cunningham appealed to the women of the nation as the rightful inheritors of the site, the only ones who could protect it from the threats of the male political and economic world, “the grasp of the speculator and worldling.” 8 She designed a counterpart to the American government as the best way to facilitate such national involvement of women: a Union of American women, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, with a national Regent and a Vice Regent per state. The Vice Regent then could select local representatives for counties and towns. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association desired women who did not have to work and were not saddled with undue family cares; widows and spinsters were the ideal candidates whose “family” truly could be aligned with the national interest. 9 And that familial disinterestedness was a quality long associated with Washington himself, since he married a widow and accepted her children as his own, but did not have any direct offspring. The legacy of his family relies on nephew bonds, brotherly affection and surrogate roles.

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was not purely a Southern effort, although Cunningham’s early appeals were intended for a southern audience. It set the model for mid-century preservation of other homes, with women claiming responsibility for cultural memory and perpetrating the belief that ancestral homes could impact the people of the nation. This pattern differs from the neglect earlier in the century, with, for example, the destruction of John Hancock’s house in Boston, and from twentieth century examples, when professional men and national bodies became involved again in preservation matters. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association can be seen as a predecessor to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and other organizations that function on “genealogical” connections, which were not relevant in Mount Vernon’s case — perhaps because of Washington’s lack of direct descendants and the consequent sense that all Americans were heir to his cultural legacy. 10

Although women spearheaded the movement to purchase and restore Mount Vernon, their fundraising efforts did not categorically exclude male contributions, nor did women raise all of the $200,000 necessary for the purchase. Edward Everett, the famous orator now mostly remembered as the “other” speaker at Gettysburg, traveled with his speech “The Character of Washington,” soliciting funds and raising about a third of the total amount. He maintained a frequent and voluminous correspondence with Ann Pamela Cunningham and spoke warmly of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. He also wrote fifty-three weekly historical essays for the New York Ledger, for the advance sum of $10,000, which he donated to the fund. These columns were later published by D. Appleton and Company as Everett’s Mount Vernon Papers. 11 Other newspapers and magazines, including Godey’s Lady’s Book and Harper’s, published appeals to the public. Currier and Ives lithographs of Mount Vernon were among the many different projects that contributed to the effort. 12

After an initial period of resistance, John Augustine Washington, Jr. signed a purchase agreement with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for $200,000. The contract specified February 1862, as the final payment date, but the fundraising proceeded more quickly than expected. By the end of 1859, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was within $10,000 of their original goal, although additional money was needed for restoration as well as purchase of the site. 13 The need for management plans and the increasing sectional tension delayed final possession until February 22, 1861. While the preservation of Mount Vernon did not unite the North and South, it did provide a neutral ground near the locale of many of the early battles in the Civil War. Sarah Tracy, a Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association representative, lived in the house with the groundskeeper — and a chaperone — and she upheld the integrity of the site as an apolitical realm. She received permission to cross enemy lines to obtain supplies and was promised protection by generals of both armies. In addition, soldiers from both armies toured the newly purchased Mount Vernon, with Tracy distributing souvenirs that could awaken interest in their homes when they returned from the war. They were not allowed to bring arms onto the grounds. Ironically, the lack of Civil War looting contrasts with the frequent pre-1858 seizure of items from the Mount Vernon house and lands by souvenir-seekers and vandals. 14

{64} What was Susan Fenimore Cooper’s involvement in the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and in the purchase and restoration of Mount Vernon? In May 1858, Mary Morris Hamilton, granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, was named Vice Regent for the State of New York. In July 1858, Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote at least two letters — one to a sister and one to Mary Morris Hamilton — acknowledging her acceptance of a local role in the Mount Vernon project. 15 A copy of the Mount Vernon Record also records her name as a member of the New York Ladies’ Standing Committee as well as a donor. 16 New York State was hugely successful in its efforts, contributing over $35,000 to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association through balls, Washington Irving’s famous contribution of $500, and other events. Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Mount Vernon: A Letter was part of the fundraising effort, both soliciting funds with its message and also contributing its proceeds from sales. 17

Cooper’s letter to Mary Morris Hamilton expresses willingness to help as well as deference to the Vice Regent’s talents and connections. It does not mention the text she would publish within a few months. It also expresses a fear that she will not be very helpful due to the nature of her own home. “We live in a very quiet wood of the country; the population of our own county and that of half a dozen others adjoining it, is quite rustic, and matter of fact in character — very good Americans at heart no doubt — but not in the least prone to extraordinary demonstrations of patriotism.” 18 Again, as in her letter to her sister, Cooper sees a split between everyday and extraordinary demonstrations of sentiment, associating Mount Vernon with the latter, not with the former. She specifically asks Hamilton about the minimal level of contribution, whether someone could give less than the $1 amount that entitled the giver to have his/her name listed in the Mount Vernon Record, a short-lived periodical designed for the cause. Although I have not found the specific totals attributed to the text, the trope of an appeal to children (and the associated plea for even pennies, not just dollars) did seem to have an effect. In fact, the Mount Vernon Record mentions a few New York school districts as contributors in 1859, so the appeal to “the children of America” was not an empty sentimental appeal. 19

Mount Vernon: A Letter expresses many sentiments common to the cause, particularly the importance of Mount Vernon in establishing the moral character of Washington and the importance of women in preserving the home as a national shrine. The rhetoric at the end of the text demonstrates such domestic sentiment clearly. “Children of America! We come to you to-day, affectionately inviting you to take part in a great act of national homage to the memory, to the principles, to the character of George Washington. The solemn guardianship of the home, and of the grave, of General Washington is now offered to us, the women of the country. ... Let it become, for each of us, a public pledge of respect for the Christian home, with all its happy blessings, its sacred restraints-of reverence for the Christian grave, the solemn mysteries, the glorious hopes, shrouded within it. Let it become a pledge of our undying gratitude to him who lies sleeping so calmly yonder, on the banks of the Potomac.” 21 Cooper’s address to the reader reveals the persuasive nature of the text, but it also recalls the novelistic convention of appeals to the reader found in mid-century sentimental novels, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Wide Wide World. Yet, despite the predictable language of Victorian domesticity, religion, and death, the text does not merely parrot Ann Pamela Cunningham’s platform. I briefly want to mention two distinctions.

First, Cooper rhetorically appeals to the children, not the women, of America, positioning herself as a parental authority rather than as an equal member of a female American community. I find this approach significant to an understanding of Cooper’s later works. Critics often have emphasized Cooper’s role as a daughter, a position she seemed to fulfill even after the death of her father. 21 Yet here she takes on the opposite role, that of a parent appealing to the public as a younger audience. She specifically omits the role of daughter in her list of women’s roles: “Happy are we, women of America, that a duty so noble is confided to us. And we, your countrywomen — your mothers, your sisters, your friends — would fain have you share with us this honorable, national service of love.” 22 Second, Cooper does not appear to have been connected with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association on the national level; her participation, as befitting her philosophy expressed in Rural Hours, was more local and regional. None of the basic histories of the preservation movement mention her text or her involvement at all, although several mention the roles of other women prominent in literary and cultural circles, such as the widow of Horatio Greenough, who was the Vice Regent for Massachusetts. 23 In fact, Cooper’s personal life and literary connections link her more with many of the men who participated in the wider Washington cult, such as Washington Irving, who wrote the magisterial Life of George Washington, and Horatio Greenough, who sculpted a statue of Washington, than with the national leaders of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Her interest in the Mount Vernon project therefore does not align itself entirely along the lines of the domestic arguments of Cunningham and the Vice Regents. Instead, like Irving and other writers not primarily concerned with the preservation of Mount Vernon, her interest in Washington foregrounds the question of cultural memory, including memory of the Revolutionary generation.

{65} Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America and the domestication of Revolutionary sentiment

Amidst the predictable sentimental language in Mount Vernon: A Letter, Cooper presents a narrative of George Washington’s life that domesticates the Revolution as well as domesticates the process of saving the ancestral home. She writes George Washington’s life not as a series of departures for the national cause, as most eulogists did, but as a series of excursions away from home. She resists seeing Mount Vernon as the place of retirement, of an isolated private life, and instead sees it as a place of productive work, not unlike georgic visions of Cooperstown that abound in the three generations of Cooper writings. For example, she mentions Washington’s role in trade as if he participated directly in the transactions, as trade occurs in rural villages. “The flour from the fields of Mount Vernon was sent in other ships to the West India Islands, and there, my children, the name of George Washington became known in the markets, not as that of a gallant soldier, not as that of a wise statesman, but as the name of an upright man, an honest farmer, faultless in good faith.” 24 This George Washington is not unlike the people in Cooperstown and other rural villages. Despite the scale of his enterprises, he is given a local presence “in the markets,” presenting a model for rural trade as “an upright man, an honest farmer,” not just the “father” of educated statesmen or landed gentlemen. Of course, the passage suggests to us today the issues of plantation economics and West Indian trade, issues which, along with land speculation, were admittedly part of Washington’s life, although their role was minimized in the 1850s to maintain his status as a disinterested statesman. In this passage, for instance, these questionable practices were subsumed under the more benign epithet “farmer” for Susan Fenimore Cooper.

Cooper’s image of Washington as “an honest farmer” recalls some of her views on the moral benefits of gardening in Rural Hours. She talks not only of the self-discipline that gardening inspires, but also the generosity. “This head of cabbage shall be sent to a poor neighbor; that basket of refreshing fruit is reserved for the sick; he has pretty nosegays for his female friends; he has apples or peaches for little people; nay, perhaps in the course of years, he at length achieves the highest act of generosity — he bestows on some friendly rival a portion of his rarest seed, a shoot from his most precious root! Such deeds are done by gardeners.” 25 Gardening results in surplus, which is not traded, but is given away, bringing moral, not monetary, wealth to the worker. This moral development culminates in an act of sharing that transcends competition between gardeners even as it admits that such competition exists; until the end of the sentence, the reader has no clue that Cooper’s image of the generosity of gardeners includes any kind of rivalry, not even a “friendly rival.” Thus, in this passage as in the passage on Washington as “an honest farmer,” Cooper minimizes any sense of competition and emphasizes instead traits like generosity and shared enterprise, traits that fit ideals of a village economy more than contemporary models of plantation economics.

Not only does Cooper’s narrative localize George Washington, but it also competes with the vision that Edward Everett proffers in his Mount Vernon speech “The Character of Washington.” 26 While Everett also emphasizes the importance of Mount Vernon in Washington’s life, he envisions it as a rest between public offices rather than emphasizes the civic lesson embodied in Mount Vernon itself. For Cooper, Mount Vernon the home was the central place of work, of moral work. Everett was known to appeal to his local audience, but in a different way than Cooper’s text. He would arrange his talks around George Washington’s visits to the place where he was giving the speech — such as his three visits to Boston, or his New York exploits in the war and afterwards. 27 Everett chooses to show how Washington touched other places during these military and political departures from Mount Vernon; Susan Fenimore Cooper chooses to conflate Mount Vernon itself with the place she loves — Mount Vernon and Cooperstown become doubles, not the country versus city dichotomy of the pastoral.

If Mount Vernon and Cooperstown can be seen as doubles, then perhaps George Washington’s excursions from the home are similar to Susan Fenimore Cooper’s walks in Rural Hours. The observations that she provides the reader do not derive from within the house, but from walks in the neighborhood. The pattern of leaving to gather knowledge and returning to compile it is similar to her expression of George Washington leaving for adventures “on some worthy errand” and returning not as an escape, but “as he returned to their [walls’] shelter,” bearing with him, year after year, fresh claims upon the respect, the veneration, the gratitude of his country.” 28 The epistemology of learning is similar. One difference is that, for Susan Fenimore Cooper, all the county feels like “home”; since Cooper rarely ventures outside this broadened sense of home in Rural Hours, her text does not evoke the home versus world, private versus public tension found in most contemporary writings on George Washington.

Susan Fenimore Cooper not only focuses on the home as the central space of work in Mount Vernon: A Letter, but she even rewrites Revolutionary history into a calendar of natural history, repeating in miniature form the diary structure of Rural Hours, with George Washington as the author. “Ere long, loving country life as of old, we find him keeping a diary of all the little events of interest. As the months went round, the days, marked so often in past years with the gloomy trial, the terrible battle, are now given to the peaceful work of the farm and the garden. Jan. the 10ᵗʰ — the period {66} of the stormy winter campaign in the Jerseys, he now quietly notes that the thorn is still in full berry. Jan. the 20ᵗʰ — the anniversary of the bitter hardships of Valley Forge, the sufferings of his army, the plottings of his secret enemies in the Conway cabal — we now follow him into his pine groves, where he is happily busy clearing openings among the undergrowth. In April, the month of Lexington, he sets out willows and lilacs — he sows holly-berries for a hedge. ... He sows acorns and buck-eye, brought by himself from the banks of the Monongahela.” 29 This passage shows correspondence between national Revolutionary history and natural history, with nature taking over, the yearly occurrences both memorializing and replacing the “events” of the past, neutralizing them in a yearly pattern of cultivation and observation. Here, nature helps make human events seem more like rituals, meaningful in their observation, not in their single occurrence.

Such a vision contrasts with the Emersonian tradition of transcendentalism most often associated with American ante-bellum nature writing. In transcendentalism, the viewer’s mind — or Emersonian eye — passes from a natural object to a spiritual truth. Here, the lilacs and willows lead not to universal currents, but to specific connections, historical connections. The link is through the time of the year and through Washington’s work in the garden or farm, not through any culturally relevant connection or natural symbolism. The lilac does not symbolize Lexington or the Revolution, does not itself evoke memory as the lilac does in Whitman’s elegy “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” While it seems that the connection may lack relevance, it links both the lilac and Lexington to a pattern of observation and ritual governed by the seasons, the rhythms of the natural world.

What kind of permanence does such a memorial provide? On one hand, it links Revolutionary history not only to the “home,” but also to the cultivated landscape, which, to Susan Fenimore Cooper, contains the record of human history and American landscape changes. Consequently, Cooper domesticates Revolutionary sentiment not only by emphasizing the home, but also by “domesticating” it as one does botanical species, transplanting it into the cultural memory as natural history. Yet, on the other hand, it raises the possibility that Revolutionary history could disappear under the repetitions of natural history. Will January 20ᵗʰ always recall the pine groves as it does Valley Forge? Or, to reverse the connection, will April always recall Lexington as it does willows and lilacs? The last example in Cooper’s catalogue, Washington’s planting of buck-eyes brought from the Monongahela River, perhaps shows the ultimate fate of such a link between national and natural history. The Monongahela was the site of a battle in the French and Indian War, not the Revolution. Thus, in Cooper’s catalogue, the French and Indian War, unlike the Revolution, no longer is tied to dates. The event itself has been erased, with its natural symbol overpowering it; bloody Monongahela has been transformed almost completely, translated in the memory as acorns and buck-eyes.

But what makes the Revolution able to fit a seasonal calendar, and not the French and Indian War, whose “bloody Monongahela” has been nearly erased? The Revolution, unlike the French and Indian War, will not disappear as the botanical calendar incorporates it. It is the defining era of Cooperstown and of the Cooper family, their ideal moment of conception and creation. Judge Cooper first glanced over his lands shortly after the Revolution, and he associates Cooperstown with the immediate post- Revolutionary era. “In 1785 I visited the rough and hilly country of Otsego, where there existed not an inhabitant, nor any trace of a road. ... In this way, I explored the country, formed my plans of future settlements, and meditated upon the spot where a place of trade, or a future village, should afterwards be established. ... This was the first settlement I made, and the first attempted after the Revolution.” 31 James Fenimore Cooper continues the importance of the Revolution for the Cooper family. His first American novel, The Spy, is set during the Revolution, and The Pioneers, although set in the 1790s, grapples with questions of inheritance introduced by the Revolution. Rural Hours, too, includes several passages linking the post-Revolutionary moment with the origin of Cooperstown. “This village lies just on the borders of the tract of country which was opened and peopled immediately after the Revolution; it was among the earliest of those little colonies from the sea-board which struck into the wilderness at that favorable moment, and whose rapid growth and progress in civilization have become a by-word.” 31

Mount Vernon becomes a suitable monument for Cooper not only because of its renowned cultivated landscape and its association, through Washington, with the Revolution, but also because of its role as an ancestral home. Otsego Hall, the Cooper family’s counterpart to Mount Vernon, was constructed in 1799, the year of Washington’s death. It too fell into disrepair, and James Fenimore Cooper repurchased it and restored it in the 1830s, after his family returned from Europe. 32 One of the “improvements” was the gothic façade evident in the frontispiece of Pages and Pictures. After James Fenimore Cooper’s death, Otsego Hall was sold. It succumbed to a fire in 1853, shortly after its renovation as a summer hotel. 32 33 Susan and her sister Anne Charlotte built their new home, Byberry Cottage, using bricks, oak doors and other materials from the Otsego Hall remains. 34 Mount Vernon’s preservation as a national home perhaps compensated Cooper for the loss of her own ancestral home; at least, her experience of the centrality of a home through several generations awakened her to the plight of Mount Vernon and the need to bring it under public protection.

Let us return once more to Susan Fenimore Cooper’s 1858 letter to her sister. Her sense of “everyday love of country” applies not only to her interest in the natural world, the calendar of changes and repetitions in the landscape, but, also, to a sense of patriotism. Such patriotism is grounded not in manmade monuments to the past, not in occasional speeches and celebratory events, but in the cultivated landscape of family homes, where it can be part of a national and domestic heritage.


I would like to thank the staff at the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library, Mount Vernon, Virginia, for their assistance in this project.


1 Cooper, Susan Fenimore, Letter to “My dear sister.” 12 July 1858. Geneva, New York. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library, Mount Vernon, VA. Cited with permission from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library.

2 Examples of writings, prints, and descriptions of other projects pertaining to the purchase of Mount Vernon can be found in the centennial exhibition catalogue of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. See Catalogue of the Centennial Exhibition Commemorating the Founding of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, 1853-1953 . Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1953.

3 For a nineteenth century text linking women’s issues and Revolutionary sentiment, see Ellet, Elizabeth Fries, The Women of the American Revolution. New York: Baker and Scribner, 1848-1850. For a recent secondary source, see West, Patricia, Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America’s House Museums. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999.

4 See Mitchell, Judith Anne, “Ann Pamela Cunningham: A Southern Matron’s Legacy.” Master’s Thesis, Middle Tennessee State University, 1993; Catalogue of the Centennial Exhibition, 25.

5 Several books relate the history of the purchase and preservation of Mount Vernon. The most complete narrative can be found in Thane, Elswyth, Mount Vernon is Ours: The Story of Its Preservation. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1966. Other sources for general information on Ann Pamela Cunningham, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union and the purchase of Mount Vernon are: Conn, Steven, “Rescuing the Homestead of the Nation: The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and the Preservation of Mount Vernon.” Nineteenth Century Studies 11 (1997), pp. 71-93; Johnson, Gerald W., Mount Vernon: The Story of a Shrine. Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1991; King, Grace, Mount Vernon on the Potomac: History of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929; Muir, Dorothy Troth, Presence of a Lady: The Story of Mount Vernon During the Civil War [1946]. Reprint. Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1982; and West, Domesticating History.

6 For more information on the history of Washington’s image, see Conn, “Rescuing the Homestead,” pp. 72-73; and Schwartz, Barry. George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol. New York: The Free Press, a Division of Macmillan, Inc., 1987. Writings on Washington in the 1850s include Washington Irving’s five volume Life of George Washington, published from 1855 to 1859, and Benson J. Lossing’s Mount Vernon and Its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Pictorial, published in 1859.

7 Conn, Mitchell, and West all argue that perceptions of gender and domesticity played important roles in the purchase of Mount Vernon.

8 “To the Ladies of the South.” Charleston Mercury. December 2, 1853. Reproduced in Catalogue of the Centennial Exhibition, 25.

9 Thane, Mount Vernon is Ours, 78-79.

10 See Howe, Barbara J., “Women in Historic Preservation: The Legacy of Ann Pamela Cunningham.” Public Historian 12 (1990), pp. 31-61.

11 See Thane, Mount Vernon is Ours, pp. 29-76, for details of Everett’s involvement with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. For a reading of Everett’s traveling speech, see Reid, Ronald F. “Edward Everett’s ‘The Character of Washington.’” The Southern Speech Journal XXII (1957), pp. 144-156. The collected papers from the New York Ledger are published as Everett, Edward, The Mount Vernon Papers. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1860.

12 Muir, Presence of a Lady, p. 8. See, for example, “Mount Vernon As It Is,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 18 March 1859, pp. 433-451.

13 Thane, Mount Vernon is Ours, pp. 131-161.

14 Johnson, Mount Vernon: The Story of a Shrine, pp. 34-42; Muir, Presence of a Lady, pp. 35-46, 53-58.

15 Cooper, Susan Fenimore, Letter to “My dear sister.” 12 July 1858; Cooper, Susan Fenimore. Letter to Mary Morris Hamilton. 27 July 1858. Geneva, New York. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library, Mount Vernon, VA. Cited with permission from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library.

16 Mount Vernon Record I (1858/1859), 17, 143. Cited with permission of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library.

17 Minutes of the Council of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1929, pp. 79, 83. Cited with permission of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Library.

18 Cooper, Susan Fenimore to Mary Morris Hamilton. July 27, 1858.

19 Mount Vernon Record, pp. 168-174.

20 Cooper, Susan Fenimore, Mount Vernon: A Letter to the Children of America. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859, pp. 68-70.

21 See Maddox, Lucy B., “Susan Fenimore Cooper and the Plain Daughters of America.” American Quarterly 40 (1988), pp. 131-146.

22 Cooper, Mount Vernon: A Letter, pp. 68-69.

23 Thane, Mount Vernon is Ours, pp. 77-115. Elswyth Thane’s history of the Mount Vernon purchase includes extensive information about the women involved as vice regents.

24 Cooper, Mount Vernon: A Letter, p. 17.

25 Cooper, Susan Fenimore, Rural Hours [1850]. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1998, p. 81.

26 A version of Everett’s speech “The Character of Washington” is published in Reid, Ronald F., Edward Everett: Unionist Orator. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990, pp. 147-174.

27 Reid, “Edward Everett’s ‘The Character of Washington,’” p. 153.

28 Cooper, Mount Vernon: A Letter, p. 54.

29 Ibid., pp. 54-55.

30 Cooper, William, A Guide in the Wilderness [1810]. Reprint. Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1970, pp. 9; 11.

31 Cooper, Rural Hours, pp. 117-118.

32 Kurth, Rosaly Torna, “Susan Fenimore Cooper: A Study of Her Life and Works.” Ph. D Dissertation, Fordham University, 1974, p. 70.

33 Shaw, Samuel M., “The History of Cooperstown, 1839-1885.” A History of Cooperstown. Cooperstown, NY: New York State Historical Association, 1976, p. 51. For more information on the relationship between the Cooper family and their New York homes, see Kurth, “Susan Fenimore Cooper,” pp. 1-24, 68-92.

34 Kurth, “Susan Fenimore Cooper,” p. 91.