Harpers 1853 Celebration Of A National Treasure, Arlington House

JPK Huson 1863

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harpers 1853 cover arl.jpg

1853 Harper's Magazine illustration of Arlington House. By the 1850's Arlington was a draw for hundreds of tourists. How could be that be, without a General Lee, Meigs and Civil War? Pre-Lee, pre-war, pre enshrined memorial, Arlington overlooked our National Capitol on purpose. It was " Washington ".

harpers tea set.JPG

Unclear if this set was taken with the family ( one cart at least escaped ' South ' ) or is in DC somewhere- or back at Arlington? GWP allowed viewing of our nations's heirlooms.

Please no one go up in smoke, resent our nation's deepest History or feel this thread is in any way pointed, anti Lee or contentious. These moments in Time are what they are. Besides, shooting the messenger changes nothing. Wearing my pink Kevlar today.
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Yet another reason to tie George Washington Parke Custis, Arlington House ( as we see, his ' Seat' ), Washington and Custis' daughter Mary Randolph Custis ( Lee ) into a neat, documented, historical package is to solve a mystery. Why in blazes has she been, if not vilified, uglified, dismissed and IMO deliberately set at an historical distance from her husband? Beginning to see daylight.

Harper's lengthy ( lengthy... ) spread replicates old treasures at Arlington. This journalist was indefatiguable; as GWP Custis opens to him both house and estate, he not only replicates oil paintings depicting our great battles of the Revolution, each is given a wonderful narrative. Since this private/public museum is precisely what GWP Custis had planned, it's amazing we have this portrait of Arlington. So committed to our nation's collective History, he included George's mother in his conversations at Arlington- one section

Harpers ball 1.JPG

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Mary Lee was Pro-Glue. You could say ' Pro-Union ' but it's erroneous. Because her family rested forever in a nearly sacred past it broke her heart when torn apart.
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Part of a letter from a master's thesis, turned in in 1939. Boy did she pay for this, as did Arlington House. You can see why she is pro-GLUE. Inevitably, it became ' anti-South '.


custis kids.JPG

Harpers journalist is led on a tour of GWP's home. Seeing his own portrait, with his sister ( who had just died in 1852 ) must have been surreal. With Lord Baltimore as a relative, George Washington, stepfather and their deceased, Custis father, these children were as close to being American royalty as our Constitution allowed.

custis.JPG

Little boy, grown up We somehow, for some reason, managed to ' forget ' these deeply entrenched icons, each holding up some hugely important joist framing out ' America '. And cannot.



Why does it get swiped for Ladies Tea? Because Mary Randolph Custis ( Lee ) 's grgrgrandchildrenm whomever they are, have the vast good fortune to be forever emeshed in America's deepest History. Until our tragic war they knew it.

When our government entitles Arlington House ' The Lee Mansion ' despite its origins, built by the venerated grandson of our Nation's founder and visited on that basis, at his behest, by up to 200 visitors a day, there's a denial so abysmal as to be shocking.
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One of the masterpieces collected and ' given ' to our nation by Custis- viewed by Harpers.

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And another, our Martha.

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Not Harper's, just a reminder the article is there, always in 1853, putting runaway myth to rest and giving our nation back two National Treasures- George Washington Parke Custis and his seat, Arlington House.

GWP's little boat ( called the " GWP Custis ) shuttled tourists to the shores beneath Arlington. One attraction? GWP and Harper's took ' us ' to Arlington's spring. he built these enclosures for the general public and would go anonymously to watch people just, plain having fun.
harpers spring.jpg
Meigs accidentally chose a more than perfect spot for a sacred, national cemetery. Our kinda sacred, national History is here, from Day 1, really, through George Washington. He made war on Mary Custis Lee, a woman, and his actions were spite , IMO. But. History won.
 

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James N.

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George Washington's relations with Martha's children and grandchildren (and his own mother Mary Ball Washington) caused him no end of grief and resulted in a spate of various myths. The son and grandson of Mary and her first husband Parke Custis were almost as big wastrels as their father had notoriously been. "Jackie" hated school and caused a lot of disappointment when George attempted to send him away to school, partly to try vainly to sever him from Martha's apron strings. He was a slovenly scholar and showed no interest in learning or trying to advance himself, remaining content to goof off his entire (short) life as the stepson of a famous and indulgent stepfather. "Patsy" (who shared this nickname with her mother Martha) was a lot better than her brother, but unfortunately died suddenly at age 17, sending poor Martha into grief and further entrenching her doting on Jackie.

To me, the truest test of Jackie's elemental worthlessness came during the Revolution when he displayed absolutely no interest whatsoever to join his stepfather in the army. Even when his mother did so for the long winter months, Jackie and his family remained on their plantation in Virginia enjoying the mild climate while his parents froze at Valley Forge and Morristown. Only when the war actually came to his doorstep at Yorktown in the summer into fall of 1781 did Jackie decide to cash in on his relationship and secure a cushy position on Washington's staff where he contributed nothing and soon contracted the camp fever spoken of and which soon killed him. I can imagine it was with mixed feelings that Washington made the funeral arrangements, taking time from what certainly were more important matters! Fairly soon afterward, Jackie's wife followed him, throwing their own two children onto grandparents George and Martha who adopted them. Once again, the girl was a proper ornament to society, while George Washington Parke Custis followed in the footsteps of his father and natural grandfather.

George's relationship with his mother was as tortured and she seems to have delighted in embarrassing him; once during the Revolution, she petitioned the State of Virginia for assistance because she was being "neglected" by her children for support. When George found out, he quickly squelched the appeal, assuring everyone she in fact had plenty of her own money and didn't need public assistance! She also seems to have never appreciated what he was doing in the way of public service because she thought it took him away from supporting her, so never praised any of his military adventures either before or during the Revolution or later as statesman and President, popular legends to the contrary.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Oh dear! Poor George and Martha! Well, you put pigeons wings wigs on men and their problems were the same as someone whose mullet graced a 1980's yearbook. Difficult relationships with mothers is almost a cliché, spoiled trust fund babies, same and step-family relationships put therapists’ children through college all over the world. Then they get to retire early. Our George Washington herded the worst political cats our country threw at him as President. Before that a lot of extraordinarily good soldiers sailed back to Britain in defeat- because of him. Crabby females and rotten kids? Colonial speed bump, in comparison.

I do respect GWP’s Historical preservation, more so since it became clear to me Mount Vernon had had to be rescued- and it was not considered important enough by the state or our Federal government to do it. And the Pamunkey White House accidentally got torched. After orders were issued it not be torched. Hate it when that happens. In a day when there existed a gulf between The General Public and those whose social positions placed them in another hemisphere, opening Arlington to the public was a little astonishing. GWP would anonymously hang out on the dock, just enjoying folks enjoying themselves.


Here’s what is so odd? Search any thread on Arlington, and we have a gazillion. Threads just, plain relating plain, old History , containing who built it and why, ( and trivia like ‘ It was not old enough to be the Custis or Lee Family Ancestral Home, being one generation up from the ground ) are a big snore. As the mostly erroneous ‘ Lee Mansion ‘ or wholly erroneous, ‘ Lee Family Ancestral Home ‘, it’ll generate vast interest. We’ve had quite a lot of conversation here on CWT lately, some blasting Foote’s work. OH the made-up stories, OH the lack of footnotes, witnesses and proof. There’s been applied science, toboot, in order to keep History safe, well and far away from myth- and myth makers. It's nice, the Lee kids were here, Lee lived there, etc.- a surgical excision, this Arlington-ectomy removing all traces of anyone but a ' Lee ', is veritable Historical malpractice.

Which is all great, sincerely. We could not have a larger, more preposterous ( it's quite a preposterous building ) bizarre and intrusive missing, marble footnote casting a larger shadow over that argument if say, a government site sourced Arlington erroneously, too. …….. oh, wait. It's only a little snarky- mostly baffling.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Here's something not at all meant to be divisive or contentious, revisionist or negative. History is almost never easy- its' always just, plain there, waiting where we left it. So maybe a little easy? Guessing it would be how on earth each of us perceives something.

It's quite a lovely thought that that old George unwittingly gave us such an obvious place to come to, as military cemetery. More steeped in American history beginning to end than anywhere save Plymouth Rock ( which is a little small and lacking George Washington ), almost part of our nation's capitol and connected with some of the oldest names we can own? Seems about right.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Came across another image of Arlington House during the time it was still owned, and lived in by George. There was a lot of fascination - we were not that far away from the Revolution, GWPC was a kind of relic of our greatest hero himself and had built this massive shrine to George Washington. It's too easy forgetting what Arlington was because a later resident became iconic himself.

1861 pre.JPG
 

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