(GEORGE WASHINGTON.) Textile titled "The Resignation of Pres't Washington." Engraving on linen, 18 1/4 x 21 inches to sight; minor wear including 6 small areas of loss, light folds, minimal foxing; early owner's initials "R M" stitched into upper left corner, circa 1960 tag of Carriage House Antiques of Jamaica, NY on frame verso. Not examined out of frame. Anderston, Scotland: W. Gillespie & Co., circa 1800
This textile commemorates Washington's decision to retire from public office. His decision to decline a third term as president set a long and venerable precedent, and set the tone that the presidency was not a lifetime appointment. His famous Farewell Address first appeared in a 19 September 1796 newspaper, and is still read aloud in the Senate on Washington's Birthday each year.
A full-length portrait of Washington in military uniform is surrounded by seven numbered text panels. The first three offer a short and laudatory biography: "His late manly & noble resignation . . . will impress his parting & paternal instructions indelibly upon the hearts of his Countrymen." The four side panels contain extensive quotations from the Farewell Address.
This handkerchief was apparently produced shortly after the Farewell Address, and as Washington is spoken of in the present tense, it was probably produced before his 1799 death. It was manufactured by a Scottish firm.
Herbert Collins estimates the date at 1796-1800, and traces just one copy at the Smithsonian. Linda Eaton's 2014 catalog for Winterthur estimates the date at 1800-1820. We trace none at auction, and only those two in institutions. Collins, Threads of History 13; Eaton, "Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens 1700-1850" C341 ("One of a number of handkerchiefs printed by the Gillespie firm for the American market").