Object Spotlight: Washington’s Decanter Case
Lonely cowboys had their flasks, but what did people during the Revolutionary War use to sneak a sip?
Washington may have kept his stash of spirits in this personal decanter case, which legend holds was given to the General by Lord Fairfax. It’s also possible the above box was the “1 Small Spirit Case” listed among the items in Washington’s study in an 1802 inventory.
Military officers, officials and travelers carried such cases. The utilitarian and sturdy nature of Washington’s case, which is reinforced with iron straps and an iron lock, makes it seem a good piece of craftsmanship to take into any battle. The middling quality of the glass decanters also suggest it may have been used in less than genteel settings.
Although we don’t know what alcohol Washington imbibed from these bottles, we do know that when he traveled west into the Ohio Valley in 1784, he carried with him Madeira and port wine as well as cherry bounce.
If wine and George Washington sound like an ideal combo, it’s not too late to have a glass on the piazza at Mount Vernon’s upcoming Sunset Celebration. We just can’t let you drink out of the General’s decanters.
To see the decanter case in person, check out Mount Vernon’s Hoecakes and Hospitality exhibit located in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Recipes for alcoholic concoctions such as cherry bounce, enjoyed by the Washingtons, are available in the exhibit’s companion book Dining with the Washingtons.
Assistant Curator Alison Bliss contributed to this report.
Object Spotlight is a regular feature that highlights household belongings used by the Washingtons. Check out Mount Vernon’s eMuseum to explore more Washington-related objects.
Gift of Mrs. Marsh, 1874 [W-188/A] [W-188/B1] [W-188/B2]
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