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To supplement their often bland military rations, officers of means invested in canteens: small, lidded cases divided into lined compartments harboring glass bottles filled with wine, liquor, and condiments. George Washington is believed to have owned the three canteens featured here. Heavily worn, they may have been acquired during his military service during the French and Indian War or the American Revolution. They were among the handful of original Washington objects left at Mount Vernon when the Association purchased the property in 1860.

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Geography Possibly made - EnglandProbably made - United StatesRetailed - United States
DimensionsOverall: 13 3/4 in. x 15 7/8 in. x 13 13/16 in. (34.93 cm x 40.34 cm x 35.08 cm)
Credit LineTransferred to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through the generosity of John Augustine Washington III, 1860
Object numberW-350/B
DescriptionCanteen with infrastructure of sawn and planed wood panels and leather covered exterior. The main body is composed of two rectangular front and rear walls, two round shouldered side walls, and a rectangular base; all are joined with iron nails. The exterior walls support a series of internal walls that slide into planed channels. The walls divide the interior into seven compartments of varying sizes; the planed remains of two additional interior walls are seen on the rear wall suggesting the canteen once featured nine interior compartments in total. The exterior of the front wall is faced in fabric, but only fragments remain. In the top left hand corner of the front wall is an iron escutcheon that is secured to the face with four iron nails; two additional escutcheons once graced the center and right hand side of the wall face, but only their nail holes remain. The exterior of the main body is covered in leather; all of the seams are reinforced with an additional strip of leather. A continuous piece of leather covers the lid, rear wall, base, and bottom of the pocket. The pocket front is a separate piece of leather sewn to the base and sides, at its center is a reinforced vent flanked by two cut and reinforced holes. The leather exterior of the side walls are pieced to the body. Attached to the face of the left hand side wall is the end of a leather strap that cants to the bottom right-hand corner of the right-hand side wall and is sewn and nailed into place; the strap is nailed along the base of the canteen to the left-hand side wall where it terminates. The lid is made from two layers of leather: the top layer is made from the continuous piece of leather that covers the rear and base and it also serves as the lid hinge, while a second layer underneath provides strength and shape. The shaped sides of the lid are pieced to the top; the lid is lined in white linen twill. The lip of the lid once supported three iron escutcheons as evidenced by punch marks and losses, but only the center iron escutcheon remains. An additional strip of leather lined in linen is sewn just above the edge of the top layer of the lid.
Published ReferencesJames C. Rees, Treasures from Mount Vernon: George Washington Revealed (Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 1999), 49.

Mount Vernon Ladies Association, General Washington's Swords and Campaign Equipment (Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 1944), 34-35.

Benson J. Lossing, George Washington's Mount Vernon or Mount Vernon and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Pictoral (New York: W. A. Townsend & Company, 1859), 39.
Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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