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Native Dress

February 2024
1min read


I enjoyed Joseph Ellis’s article “Inventing the Presidency” (October 2004). It came at an opportune time for me, as I have been reading Ron Chernow’s new biography of Alexander Hamilton. It is interesting to compare Chernow’s and Ellis’s views of Washington’s first term. Between the two I now have a far better knowledge of those years than I ever got in school. I think very few people appreciate what a touch-and-go situation we had, and how fortunate it was to have had such men as Washington and Hamilton to set the country on the right course.

It is a small point, but there is a minor discrepancy in the descriptions of Washington’s inaugural. Mr. Ellis says Washington wore a “simple suit of black velvet.” Mr. Chernow has a more detailed description, including “he also wore a plain brown suit of American broadcloth woven at a mill in Hartford.” He notes that this carried a special message: “that America should encourage manufactures, especially textiles.”

Chernow adds that “Washington hoped it would soon ‘be unfashionable for a gentleman to appear’ in any dress not of American origin.”

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