The Marriage of Washington to Martha Custis
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George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis were wed in January of 1759. Both were twenty-seven years old, and they had spent a total of fewer than three weeks together. Junius Brutus Stears recreated the scene in a 1849 painting called The Marriage of Washington to Martha Custis, one in a series of five paintings representing Washington as Citizen, Farmer, Soldier, Statesman and Christian.
The painting shows the couple at center. Behind them stand Martha's two children from her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis, and other guests. Washington adopted the children as his own.
On her wedding day, a woman in the colonies could expect to relinquish control of any property she owned to her husband. At the time of the marriage, Martha Custis was rumored to be one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia. Washington was a military hero with a promising career in politics. The marriage allowed Washington to increase his slaveholdings nine times over, adding 266 slaves to the 30 he already owned. In addition, he gained control of 17,000 acres of farmland, placing him among the ten wealthiest planters in Virginia.
The marriage lasted 40 years, until Washington's death in 1799. In his final will, he stipulated that upon his wife's death the 125 slaves that he owned outright would be free. His wife's slaves would be parceled out to her heirs according to the terms of her will. Martha Washington died three years later.
Image Credit: Virginia Musuem of Fine Arts
George Washington crossing the Delaware River by Sully
George Washington crossing the Delaware River by Leutze
Washington's letter to Robert Morris
The Washington Family
The Constitutional Convention, 1787
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