Mount Vernon: Little Parlor

Music played an important role in the Mount Vernon household, as it did in other genteel Virginia homes of the period. Music masters traveled from plantation to plantation, instructing the young, and their presence often inspired lively social gatherings filled with music and dancing. George Washington loved to dance, and he is reported on one occasion during the Revolutionary War to have done so for three hours.

When Washington returned home from the presidency, he decided to convert what had been a first-floor bedchamber into a music and family room, thus allowing more space for informal entertaining.

Though by Washington’s own account he could neither sing nor “raise a single note on any instrument,” he helped ensure that his stepchildren and step-grandchildren were instructed in music. Early in his marriage, he ordered a spinet for Martha’s daughter, Martha (Patsy) Parke Custis, and a violin and German flute for Martha’s son, John (Jacky) Parke Custis.

In this room, you will find a harpsichord which was purchased by Washington in 1793 for his step-granddaughter Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis.

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