WASHINGTON, George]. Epaulette worn by General Washington, in the French style adopted by Continental officers in the middle years of the Revolution, part of pendant fringe replaced in the early or mid-nineteenth century. One of a pair, approximately...
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WASHINGTON, George]. Epaulette worn by General Washington, in the French style adopted by Continental officers in the middle years of the Revolution, part of pendant fringe replaced in the early or mid-nineteenth century. One of a pair, approximately 7¾ x 5½ in., comprising an upper strap (2 x 55/8 in.), underside backed with gold braid or galloon inner strap (1¾ x 55/8 in.), with buttonhole where it would have been attached to uniform at shoulder; wide pendant fringe of silver wire at lower end (6 x 3¼ in., probably an early 19th century replacement for original gold fringe), original narrow gold wire-twist fringe (3¼ in. long) still intact, the two layers re-stitched benaeth fringe with late 19th century thread). Contained in 19th-century protective box, bearing old paper label with provenance note (see below). AN EPAULETTE OF GENERAL WASHINGTON A most interesting relic of the Commander-in-Chief, whose provenance leads back to Washington's niece and ward Harriot Washington Parks, a beneficiary in his will. Although damaged and restored, it is otherwise completely consistent in style with epaulettes used in the Revolutionary War period. Only two other pairs of Washington's epaulettes are extant: one, in the Massachusetts Historical Society, was given by Washington to his aide David Humphreys. Another set is part of the only complete Washington uniform, once owned by John Parke Custis, now in the Smithsonian. Contemporary portraits of Washington in uniform before 1779 show that Washington wore an English style epaulette. But in 1779 (as in one full-length portrait by Rembrandt Peale), Washington apparently wore different epaulettes: braided or woven gilt lace (galloon) with a fringe of wire (bullions) at the shoulder: a French style, dating from 1762. Since the Continentals were receiving significant supplies, including uniform material, from French allies, and French officers were serving with the army, the adoption of French style uniforms, insignia and decoration is not surprising. The Marquis de Lafayette, who joined the Continental Army in 1776, gave epaulettes as gifts to many American officers; Washington himself may have been a recipient. Continental Army regulations of 1780 prescribe a row of embroidered stars along the top of the shoulder strap; as Commander-in-Chief, only Washington was authorized to wear three stars. But according to a specialist in Washington's uniforms, epaulettes without stars continued to be widely used, and although some of the Peale brothers' portraits of war date depict three-star epaulettes, others show the plain form. Neither the Smithsonian nor Humphreys epaulettes bear stars, and all life portraits of Washington from 1789 exhibit plain shoulder straps. The style of the present epaulette is consistent with Revolutionary War date, and is probably contemporary with the set in the Smithsonian. See detailed report by James I. Kochan, "Preliminary Findings on an Epaulette Said to Have Belonged to General George Washington." August 1999 (copy accompanies the lot). The early label on the box in which the epaulette is housed reads: "These are the remains of one of General Washington's Epaulets bequeathed to his niece Harriet Washington who married Andrew Parks and by her given to Captain Thomas McElderry of Baltimore, Maryland who married Elizabeth Parks (her sister-in-law) and after his death it was cut to pieces by his children and these remains were given to Marywell McElderry one of the children (by her mother) who married George Douglas, and after her death Sept.15 1874 it became the property of her son by inheritance John A. Frith Douglass of New York City." Provenance: 1. Harriot Washington (1776-?) daughter of Samuel Washington, became a ward of George Washington after death of her parents. In Washington's will, she was bequeathed 1 part of 23 parts "from the rest and residue of my estate, real & personal-not disposed of in manner aforesaid." This residual property evidently embrace
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