Photos of Mount Vernon – A Long-Standing Tradition
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Mount Vernon, Virginia, home of the Washington family, has been attracting tourists for over two hundred years – even before the mid-19th century when Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association purchased it, renovated it, and turned it into one of the United States’ first historic house museums. That means it’s one of those places that pops up in museum collections all over the country, from postcards and souvenirs to photo albums and scrapbooks.
Full disclosure: I love Mount Vernon. The house, its history as a museum, and the Ladies Association all served as the basis for many of my grad school research papers, and I have a small collection of historic guidebooks and vintage souvenirs. (You, kind readers, are saved ‘enjoying’ proof of my collection only because I forgot to take photos this weekend.) I’m always delighted to find yet another vintage photo of someone’s long-ago visit to Mount Vernon. I visited the estate a few weeks ago, to help welcome a friend to her new role as Martha Washington, and afterward I was inspired to look through the JMM’s collections to see what I could find.
Photographs of popular tourist destinations have a delightful sameness across the decades. Everyone wants a good photo of the house (or the waterfall, or the giant tree, or the building shaped like an elephant), and the same views of the same places can be found in album after album after album. I noticed that a photo I took on April 21st this year is, coincidentally, pretty much the same angle as one of Mr. Klawan’s photos from October 1930:
And everyone takes a picture of themselves or their kids, as two of my colleagues helped demonstrate:
Lee Labowitz (right) had someone take this photo of herself and her friends – one of whom looks less than impressed – in 1925:
In more recent decades, as the museum added character interpretations, opportunities for visitor photographs expanded. Now, for example, on the right day you can have your photo taken with Martha Washington and her family, or one of the many other historical interpreters – though I hope you will also listen to what they have to say, and ask questions, as well as posing for a selfie.