More Tea Things of George Washington

G Washington teacup saucer 1780 french GW monogram mt vernonAt Martha Washington’s invitation, French officers of General Rochambeau’s army dined at Mount Vernon on July 20, 1782. The Comte de Custine de Sarreck, commander of the Saintonge regiment, sent ahead of his arrival a splendid tea and coffee service specifically made for the Washingtons at his Niderviller porcelain factory. The monogram GW decorates each piece.

The service’s stunning array of gilded and enameled borders, each with its own pattern number painted on the pieces’ undersides, suggests Custine intended it to advertise his wares to a new American market.

Gifts of porcelain were common between the French aristocracy and Americans who traveled to Paris. The service Custine presented to the Washingtons is, however, the only known instance of 18th-century French porcelain crafted for an American recipient.

g washington tea set laFayette gift french 1780

French tea set c.1780 was a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. Image courtesy of Mt. Vernon.

After the Revolutionary War, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, and their families exchanged numerous gifts and tokens of affection, perpetuating the warm friendship forged by the General and his “adopted son,” as Lafayette styled himself. According to family tradition, Lafayette gave this tea set, of which a teapot, sugar bowl, and saucer survive, to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis Law.

g washington tea urn mt vernon

Silver hot water urn. Image courtesy of Mt. Vernon.

A silver hot water urn, similar to this handsome example in the collection at Mt. Vernon, would have been found on the tea tables of George III, Thomas Jefferson, and well-t0-do characters in the novels of Jane Austen. Hot water was brought by staff from the kitchen and poured into the urn before it made its way into the teapot – usually in full view of eager guests.

The ceremony of making tea was a well-honed ritual in both the Americas and Great Britain at the end of the 18th century and into the Regency Period.

It was a high compliment to be offered tea – purchased at great expense and carted from the other side of the world.

Read more about the Tea Things of George Washington.