Investigations

George Washington Miniature

The Case:

History Detectives goes to the heart of Manhattan to investigate a tiny portrait which may lie at the center of some very big history.

It’s spring, 1789 and 20,000 Philadelphians pack the streets to catch a glimpse of their nation’s leader en route to New York. First in war and first in peace, George Washington has been elected President and as his inaugural procession forges north, America celebrates freedom from British rule. But for the thousands of enslaved African Americans watching the parade, liberty is nowhere in sight. If President Washington won’t pave their way to citizenship, who will?

Dave Cox of Greenville, Ohio, has stumbled across a miniature color painting of a man in profile labeled “G. Washington.” On the back of the portrait is the inscription, “Property of White Matlack, New York, 1790.” Did the artist paint this portrait of Washington from life, and what is its surprising connection to the little-known abolitionist and patriot, White Matlack?


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Aired:
Season 7, Episode 9
Season 8, Episode 7

Detective:
Wes Cowan Location:
Greenville, Ohio

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