tv A Georgetown Life CSPAN January 30, 2021 7:18pm-8:01pm EST
announcer: gary talk about his book, the great comeback, how abraham lincoln beat the odds. he explained how lincoln bounced back from his loss to be the presidential nominee two years later. the national archives hosted this event in march 2009 and provided the video. vaiv grant quertermous is the curator and director of collections, as the former curator, he spent five years researching the family and used the collection to interpret their two centuries of ownership of historical landmark property in georgetown and their familiall ties to george and martha washington. he was the receive anticonstitutor of collections
at james madison's monitor peelar where he worked for nearly nine years on the mansion as interior initiatives. now let's hear from grant quertermous, thank you for joining us today. grant: thank you. it's a pleasure to be here this afternoon and i'm going to focus on how britannia's reminiscences. let me get my power-point going here. when subscribers to the century illustrated monthly magazine received their current issue in may of 1890, they would have been presented with a variety of reading options. a new poem by walt whitman, a treatise on agricultural
irrigation for the desert southwest by john wesley powell, then director of the u.s. geological survey or a collection of relics that was owned. mrs. kennon was at the time the closest living descendant of martha washington. her only surviving great granddaughter. the article described how britannia lived attitudor place surrounded by a collection of objects that had been used by the president and mrs. washington at the executive mansion they inhabited in new york as well as the one in philadelphia and later during their retirement at mount vernon, it talked about the important archive of family papers that britannia owned included the two letters from george and martha washington. at the time the article was published, britannia was 75 years old.
aside from her importance as a member of custist washington family, she was a lifelong resident of tudor place and the georgetown neighborhood of washington, d.c. during her long residency, she bore witness to many of the significant incidents that occurred and into the first decade of the 20th century. the article in the century magazine made britannia somewhat of a celebrity, three years later, she was invited to attend virginia day at the 1893 world's columbian expo position where the state of virginia had an exact replica of mount vernon. she was a member of the colonial dimes and the d.a.r. the following year, britannia's grandchildren recognized the importance of their grandmother as a source of collective family history, a living link to the ancestry. and for this reason, they began conducting a series of interviews with her prompting her to share recollections of past events as well as her vast
knowledge of family history. as she spoke, they began to write, capturing all of the information she provided and the memories exactly as she had recounted them. some of the notes appear on neatly lined notebook paper like these you see her and others are on the backs of envelopes or any scrap of paper that was at hand as the notes were being taken and they were later recopied. the compilation of these notes from these conversations form the manuscript known as britannia's reminiscences that is found in the tudor place arrest kievsz. the document that i have edited and annotated in my book accompanied by essays where i contextize britannia and how these were created. before i delve too far, i want to provide an overview. born in tudor place in 1815, she was the youngest child born.
it was through her mother martha that she was descended from the cuttist washington family, born in 17777, martha was a namesake for martha washington and the only one of her four cussist grandchildren to be born at mount vernon. in 1795, 17-year-old martha married thomas peter, eldest son of georgetown's first mayor robert peter. in 1805, thomas and martha purchased the tudor place property asking their friend to design a suitable house for the 8 1/2 acre property. this is the presentation that he provideded to the family and found in the after chive. this is a good time to mention that thomas and martha peter were ardent federalists, one possible way they had columbia, america, and britannia on their three daughters. unlike her older sisters, britannia was educated locally in georgetown spending four years at the young ladies academy at the convent, the school is known as georgetown
visitation. in 1842, britannia married beverly kennon, a naval officer who was command dent of the washington navy yard. tragically, their marriage was 16 months. during those 16 months, before tanya gave birth to the couple's only child martha who she called markie who was only 4 months old at the time of commodore kennon's death. newly widows, they returned to tudio place to live with britannia's mother. except for a brief period at the on set of the civil war, she made it home for the rest of her life living there for 67 years. as i mentioned earlier, beginning in 1894, britannia's grandchildren started prompting her to share her recollections of past events and her vast knowledge of family history. this undertaking allowed the grandchildren to commit to paper the stories they had grown up
hearing from her about lafayette 1824 visit to tudor place or her recollection of attending parties at the president's house during andrew jackson's administration or about interactions with notable political figures of the era including daniel webster and vice president john c. calhoun, a neighbor who actually lived across the place from the tudor place property at the estate known today as dunbarton oaks. her daughter was a friend of britannia and they attended dancing class together. another story that britannia recalled or another information that britannia recalled to her grandchildren was her role as a "bridesmaid" in the june 30, 1831 wedding to a young army officer named robert e lee. she talked how the minister got caught in a summer rainstorm and arrived at arlington house soaking wet. he ended up having to borrow a
pair of trousers, the reverend was tall and lanky and uncle custis was short and stout. the him was several inches above the too much his boots. another fascinating person who whom britannia interacted was elizabeth skyler hamilton. more tumultuous memories are described in her recollections like her decision to take on union officers as boarders during the civil war in an effort to prevent tudor place to be seized by the federal government. another instance she recalled was the hanging of her cousin and nephew after they were captured and accused of being confederate spies in tennessee in 1863. this image of their execution actually made the front page of harper's weekly on july 4 of 1863. in addition to her own memories and experiences, britannia
shared anecdotes and information passed on by her mother. this information recounted second-hand included the tales of martha's childhood visits to mount vernon and accompanying george washington to the laying of the cornerstone in the capitol building. britannia served as a loved figure to her five grandchildren following the death of their mother, her only daughter in 1886. at the time of the death, her children ranged in age from 18 to 6 years old. much like her great grandmother had done a century before, britannia stepped in and raised the grandchildren, several of them resided with her attitudor place. as the grandchildren reached adulthood and moved away, she
was an important part of their lives and someone with whom they frequently correspondented and visited. it was her grandson who was the primary force in insuring that his grandmother's recollections were preserved for later generations of the family. a majority of the notes are in his hand. other notes are also in the hand of her younger siblings who both lived with britannia attitudor place until the time of her death in 1911. in addition to his role as the unofficial family historian, he followed his grandmother's example of adding labels to important objects in the family collection and like his grandmother, he compiled his own reminiscences in the mid 20th century after he reached old age. his reminiscences include additional stories passed down by his grandmother and other members of the family. now britannia recognized her grandson's interest in family history and frequently gave him
objects from the family collection as well as bundles of old papers that were left in the tudor place attic. he went on to note that britannia said he was the only family member who took the slightest interest in them and she knew that he would preserve and care for them. each time armstead returned to georgetown to visit his grandmother, he continued to conduct orrall history interviews with her. after spending the day with her on may 13 of 1899, he confided to his diary a desire to write down all she tells me of the past, the most interesting volume it would make. armstead carefully preserved the notes from his conversations with his grandmother and today they're found within his personal papers in the archives. when he was interviews his grandmother and actively engaged in his research in the final decade of the 19th century, there were a few repositories to house public records, thus misgrandmother's memory and the collection of peter family papers attitudor place were
valuable and accessible research tools much in the same way as other historians saw audiences with his mother, to hear her memories of george and martha washington and utilized the same archive of family papers. he recounted his february 28, 1828 visit to tudor place in his diary summarizing a conversation he had with martha peter about martha washington's decision to burn much of washington's corners and the discovery of the two surviving letters by mrs. peter behind the drawer in mrs. washington's writing table. prior to her 1911 date and division of her estate, she possessed a large collection of family papers including the two george washington papers sparks mentioned. she also owned letters of condolence that were received by martha washington from president john adams and other former members of her husband's cabinet.
since thomas peter served as one of the executors of martha washington's estate, the archive held important documents about the settlement of the estate, other corners including some letters between thomas peter and george washington about the sale of tobacco and letters from britannia's siblings while they were away in philadelphia. in contrast to the after chives of the family papers possessed in the 1890's, the bulk of jo washington's corners was not publicly accessible as it was held by the state department. originally purchased from george corbin washington, the president's grand nephew, the personal papers and diaries of the president as well as state papers from his administration were not transferred to the library of congress until 1904. as part of the library's institutional reorganization in 1897, the manuscript division was created to house important papers including those of former presidents after they came under the ownership of the federal government. and most important for our
discussion today, the national archives and records administration was not created until 1934. prior to that time, each government agency or branch was responsible for keeping its own records and they weren't always stored in ideal conditions either. washington, d.c. had its historical society but the organization was in its infancy, it's role at the time was to serve as he forum where its membered presented papers of historical research many of which were published in its journal. up until the late 20th century and the add eventually of census databases and online repositories like the ones i used for research on this book, individuals would have needed to spend hours in courthouses searching probate records or climbing into church attics to locate old books and records. now, don't get me wrong. i spent my share of time during this project in various archives in tracking down sources and
documents, but being able to do a search across multiple census years or find a digital caller: of a family member's will certainly speeds up research and makes it possible especially now in the area of covid when so many repositories have been temporarily closed. birth and death records found in the leaves of bibles also acted as another important source. she inherited her family bible and added records. you can see where she has added names of her mother, her brother and her own daughter. the other thing to keep if mind is that elderly members of the community who served as firsthand witnesses to significant historical reents were often sources for
historical research. many of the histories of washington, d.c. and the articles that appear in the early volumes of the historical society's journal contain the same type of personal recollections as though britannia kennon provided to her grandchildren. they even wrote and published memoirs of their lives in the nation's capitol during the 19 the century. in contrast, she appears to have had no interest in writing or publishing a memoir. she granted interviews to local roberts to which she richard events like lafayette's visit in 1824, but it appears to be written for her grandchildren and other family members as the primary audience. by tannan kennon died on the eve of her 96th birthday in january of 1911. according to the terms of her will, the whole estate including her possessions and the 5 1/2 acre tudor place problem were
divided equally between her five grandchildren. the siblings also devised a way to include the collection of objects and papers that had been at tudor place. the obvious would be to sell the house and split the proceeds. fortunately, armstead jr. was buying his siblings share and by forfeiting his share of another family property, he was able to do that. the siblings also divided, like i said, the collection and took an inventory because the collection included furniture, jewelry and clothing and decorative objects including numerous objects formally owned by george and martha washington. to insure that the collection of washington objects and everything at adder place was equally divided, they began the
task of inventorying family possessions, each object was given a number and a small sticker and objects associated with george and martha washington were given an additional mount vernon label. the siblings identified more than 500 objects ranging from martha washington's writing table to a piece of soap that formally belonged to george and martha washington. yes, the piece of soap is still in the collection today. the 19111 inventory is an equally important historic document. the washington collection are objects and papers that were selected by armstead jr. during the 1911 division of his grandmother's estate. some of the objects that left tudor place as part of the 1911 division, objects that went to his siblings have returned to the museum kwlection and others can be found in the collections of the smithsonian's national
museum of american history, the philadelphia museum of art and of course mount vernon, you can see a plate from the collection at the philadelphia museum of art from the washington french porcelain service that has its 1911 inventory number and mount vernon sticker affixed to it. the archive of family papers was equally divided in 1911, although armstead-year claimed it was the intention for him to receive the bulk of the papers. his siblings were adamant the papers be divided equally as well. he received his grandmother's account books, a portion of her correspondence related to his grandfather's military naval career as well as that june 1775 letter from george to martha washington. today the family archive that
existed at tudor place is split among three institutional collections, a portion inherited by armstead jr. is found in the tudor place archive with mr. peter's papers and those of later generations of the family that lived attitudor place. other portions of the papers are found at mount vernon at the fred w smith national library for the study of george washington and at the university of virginia at the albert and shirley small special collections library, two institutions that i visited numerous times to utilize those portions of the family archive for my book project. in addition to keeping original notes, tribing the conversations with britannia about the family's history, armstead jr. compiled a handwritten version seen here where he put a portion of the notes into a single document. in 1920, he created a typed script version. however, i learned during the
process of my probably that not all of the notes were included in this anthology that were made. it was a process of discovery to find the additional notes. given that many of the reminiscences were committed to paper in 1894 and britannia was recalling events that had kurd 60 years earlier, her accuracy is impressive. in many instances, receipts or papers found in the tudor place archive or in the other collections that i mentioned made it possible for me to precisely date an event that britannia described to her grandchildren such as the funeral of her maternal grandmother, a receipt for which from the undertaker survives in thomas peter's papers. in fact, one of the best clues to help me determine the date of an event she described during her civil war travels came from materials held in the national
archives in one of the collections. the records of the provost marshall at fort monroe, a union held fort in hampton roads, virginia. to provide a bit of context. britannia and her daughter were traveling when the civil war began in april of 1861. they first settled in stanton in the shenandoah valley of virginia for several months and moved on to richmond, petersburg and norfolk. britannia and markie were able to leave norfolk aboard a neutral ship that took them to fort monroe. all passengers board the boat were registered and luggage was searched. she described the event to her grandchildren. the mention of a mrs. beverly kennon and a mis-kennon helped
me establish an exact date for this event, december 6 of 1861. following the inspection, britannia and markie were allowed to remain on the boat which traveled up the chesapeake bay to baltimore and went to maryland and then on january 1 of 1862, britannia returned to tudor place. later that spring is when she decided to take in boarders as part of her effort to prevent house of being seized which is an equally interesting facet in the tudor house story given the southern sam pathies. as i suggest, when reading this historical document, the reader needs to keep several things in mind. first, the britannia's primary audience for this document was her grandchildren and other members of her immediate family, thus personal opinions are frequently included and information that was sometimes of a rather gossipy nature makes its way in there. always proper, britannia undoubtedly would not have made some of these comments if her intended audience was more
public. second, the reader should also understand that britannia was a product of the time and place in which she grew up. the antebellum south and that her family owned numerous enslaved individuals and used their labor attitudor place and ago cattle really land in the district of columbia. an unapologetic southerner, she was a slaver and due in relative comfort due to enslaved labor force to cultivate tobacco and other crops. britannia's mother received two large bequests of more than 100 slaves from the custis estate, the first group in 1795 at the time of her marriage, a number of which were sold the following year in 1796 by thomas peter noted here in his account book, something that actually displeased george washington and a second group in 1802 after martha washington's death.
now according to 17th century virginia law, any child born became a slave them. they owned multiple generations of slaves. they were inherited by britannia or her brother at the time of martha's death and remained in their ownership until the abolition of slavery in the district of columbia in maryland and. following her husband's death and her move back to tudor place, britannia hired out a number of enslaved individuals previously used in the house hold meaning for lack of a better term, other washingtonians literally rented these slaves from britannia paying her monthly for their labor. and in her role, she approved the sale of some 50 enslaved individuals from her late husband in virginia plantation, here is the newspaper advertisement for that sale. her attitude towards slavery is
apparent when she discusses several of the individuals attitudor place prior to the civil war. in an aside about hannah, the daughter of her enslaved lady's maid, britannia recalled to her grandchildren that hannah belonged to me, of course. her statement is especially interesting because hannah was likely fathered by one of britannia's brothers. in addition to being owned by britannia, she was also a blood relative. her attitude toward slavery was clearly one of matter of fact acceptance as it was an institution that she had been known and surrounded by for the first five decades of her life. her surviving letters and information she provided to her grandchildren suggest that from her point of view, she was kind the individuals she owned. however, we're only hearing one side of the story. we don't have the perspective of the enslaved on working attitudor place or britannia as an enslaver. however, it should be noted that she maintained relationships with her former slaves more than three decades after the
abolition of slavery in the district of columbia. her account looks, includes notations of charitable gifts to former slaves and in the first passage, she discusses hannah and the man who would become her husband alfred pope, alfred and hannah remained in georgetown following their 1850 emancipation and britannia described them to her grand children as a most respected couple. one of the most intriguing relationships of her life was role of employer to long time tudor place gardener, an escaped slave from virginia who she hired when slavery was still legal in the district of columbia. he remained in britannia's employ attitudor place for more than 44 years until his death in 1906. in 1899, he recounted the story of his escape from slavery to armstead jr. who wrote about it. while residing on a fairfax county plantation, he and others
were seized by the union army as contraband, not wanting to drive the army supply wagon he was assigned to drive, he escaped escaping from virginia into the district of columbia. while walking down the street in front of tudor place, he saw britannia kennon in her garden, called out to her and asking if she needed to hire anyone. it appears their relationship evolved from employer and employee to friendship. he would take his children fishing and hunting and attended important events. upon hearing the news of the birthday of armstead peter jr.'s son, iii seen here with john in 1898, luckett asked britannia to pass along the message to say he was proud that armstead has a son and i live long enough to drag around like i did armstead
jr. despite numerous offers to secure housing for luckett and his family in closer proximity to tudor place, he declined stating that his wife preferred where they lived on capitol hill. britannia is quoted in the obituary if i was asked to name a fault in john, i could not do so. it's a pity there are not more like him. in the late winter of 1911 when the contents of tudor place were inventoried after her death, the list of objects included a photograph of john, the only photograph in that room who was not a member of the family. for all of the wealth of information that britannia provides to her grand children in these reminiscences, she is relatively quiet about the transitional period in 1862, 1863 when enslaved labor was no
longer used attitudor place and she began employing paid servants. in the district of columbia, the emancipation of slavery occurred in april of 1862 when president lincoln signed the district of columbia's act. this act provided for compensated emancipation whereby slave owners who made an oath of loyalty to the union involuntarily emancipated their slaves would receive financial compensation, up to $300 for each individual they eman's paided. the act was passed nearly nine months before president lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation on january 1 of 1863. it's not surprising that britannia kennon's name cannot be found along the surviving names as it's doubtful she would be willing to sign a loyalty oath to the issue given her southern sympathies. when she took in boarders in 1863, she hired two irish
immigrant certificate -- servants, a maid and cook. she does not address the death of her husband beverly kennon when she was 29 years old. commodore kennon was one of the six victims killed when a gun exploded during a firing demonstration on february 28, 1844. britannia herself was onboard the boat as were a number of very important individuals, president of the united states, john tyler, former first lady dolly madison, a number of other cabinet members, but britannia did not directly witness the explosion that killed her husband. she was likely below decks enjoying the dinner, the food that was served as part of this day sailing excursion. the funeral for the victims was held two days later in the east room of the white house. one can only imagine the loss that britannia must have felt after just 16 months of
marriage, thus widows, she was also a single parent to her infant daughter. she spent nearly two weeks confined to her room after the loss of her husband. it's possible that the events surrounding the 1844 disaster on the princeton represented such a dark and painful time of her life that she couldn't even bear to speak of it more than 50 years later. another incident from february of 1904 further illustrates the lasting effect that her husband's death and funeral likely had on her. that month britannia received an invitation from president and mrs. theodore roosevelt to attend an event at the white house. this invitation now in the archives suggesting that she did not return them or attend the event. she was quite advanced in age by 1904, 89 the previous month she
was spry and in excellent health, it's likely she had other reasons for not attending. it was a accepts held in the public rooms of the white house. now, i think it's very possible that britannia associated these spaces especially the east room with that very dark time in her life as it was the location for the march 1, 1844 state funeral held for her husband and the other cabinet members who died aboard the princeton. in 1893, "washington post" reporter george alfred townson visited tudor place. he asked her whether a clever woman should submit to an inferior husband. to this, britannia replied, "i believe that women by putting themselves forward in the world do not elevate but degrade themselves. it's a woman's part in life to live where she loves." while this statement might be construed by historian today as anti-feminist, it further
illustrates the mindset in which britannia kennon was raced and the philosophy to which she adhered. britannia never remarried after her husband's death in 1844 and during that 67-year period of her widowhood, she was afforded by privileges not typically granted to married women at the time. her son-in-law said as a widow, she received no less than three proposalses of marriage. britannia kennon has been called the first constitutor of tudor place and it's a title well deserved. in addition to providing these reminiscences to her grandchildren, she labeled many of the objects in the family's collection, especially pieces that her parents acquired at the 1802 sale following martha washington's death. during the five decades she owned tudor place, britannia carefully displayed these objects in the house and lived among the various heirlooms and
relics, her daily correspondence, she sat at the writing desk formally owned by her grand grandmother. this was a piece of furniture that george washington originally purchased in new york city by the outgoing french ambassador. mrs. washington used it at the executive mansion in philadelphia and in mount vernon. here you can see britannia's grandson seated at the writing table where it was placed in the tudor place parlor and an image of the piece that is now back in mount vernon's collection. she provides a fascinating insight into life not only in the tudor place property but in georgetown. she included history of some of the adjacent houses and properties and the fascinating individuals she had interacted
with. britannia actually recalled that she attended visitation with several of the express's daughters, the former royal princesses. another interesting person she discusses is harriet williams who as a school girl of 16 married the much older widower russian ambassador in 1840. britannia also focused on 19th century washington. she discusses the early infrastructure of the city describing pennsylvania avenue as a mud hole prior to its paving and going on to discuss several variations of road surface materials used on it during the 19th century. she also talks about early public transportation systems including the horse-drawn omnibus line that came through georgetown until it was replaced by horse-drawn street cars in 1862. in the five years i was indicatoror, there was a wellth of information to me about room
use within the house and other important facts for interpreting tudor place. in addition to the basic information, she includes more macabre details such as specific rooms in which various family members passed away, as in which rooms that are no longer bed chambers were formally used as bed chambers earlier in the 19th century. she provided details about the landscape for the tudor place property and what plants were found in the garden and in the conservatory during her childhood. these clues along with materials found in her papers in the tudor place archives continue to give staff a more complete picture of life at the estate during the 19th century. following britannia's lead, each subsequent generation further insured the survival of tudor place. armstead jr. conducted a sympathetic restoration of the house in which he addressed
several decades worth for maintenance and added modern conveniences such as electricity and bathrooms bringing it into the 20th century. his grandmother had largely shunned those conveniences preferring to use gas lighting throughout the house. armstead j- continued the tradition of making notes about the objects and this one about the dinner service that he received from cousin mary lee who's grandfather had received the service after washington's death in 1802. following armstead jr.'s death in 1960, his only child, armsteadpeter iii was the owner. it was britannia's first great grandson. she was always eager for news of him or when he visited tudor place as a young boy. he in turn was captivated business his grand grandmother, the stories she would tell and
the long ownership of tudor place. here they are a few months before her death in 1910. this is one of my favorite images, you see britannia, a woman who met lafayette as a young girl with her great grandson armstead peter iii, the last owner of tudor place and would live there until 1983. in addition to preserving the house collection and 5 1/2 acre property, he further documented the family's historic ties to the house and garden with a publication of his book, "tudor place" in 1969. and as a further measure to insure the preservation of tudor place, he had placed the entire property in a conservation easement with the national park service in 1966. this action insured that the property would never again be reduced in size and then when portions were sold off by britannia in 1854 and 1866.
president johnson's secretary of the interior, stuart udall seen here called the easement a gift to the nation. in 1972, armstead peter iii wrote about the first time that he came back to tudor place after his great grandmother's death and the division of her collection was completed. 15 years old, he found the house stripped of every picture, every stick of furniture, everything that i known and only a lone packing box empty in the center of the living room. i sat on the box and looked around me and born at that moment, never again would that happen in the house. armstead peter iii spent much of the 23 years of his ownership of tudor place acquiring furnishings and engravings that were identical to the ones found throughout the house during his great grandmother's ownership.
it was armstead peter iii who with his wife made the decision to create a foundation to bequeath tudor place to the public, a foundation that would operate the estate as a historic house museum and garden following his death, not only would this once private house being public, but the family's unparalleled collection. objects and manuscripts would be made available for visitors to enjoy and scholars to ult lies. all of this was made possible because of britannia kennon, with her stories and lifetime of work on the house and collections who instilled this love of tudor place and an appreciation of its history to these later generations of the family preserving the house through the civil war and into >>6 let is in his rate, martin luther king jr.'s upbringing. professor carson's class took
place at ebenezer baptist church in atlanta where mlk and his father were both pastors. the class was part of a seminar that included field trips. in one hour, david hogan with the u.s. army center of military history examines world war ii and its lasting impact on america's image and how it sees it self. in two hours, a nasa film. mr. carson: who is martin luther king? when we look at martin luther king, there is one side of him is a famous individual. he is the 1964 winner of the nobel peace prize. he is the person who was the most influential leader of a great social movement.