Handwritten notes on farming by George Washington, unsigned, penned on both sides of a 4 x 6.5 sheet, evidently made while studying a book on the subject; the notes are headed "Vol. II," and run from "Chap. XLI" to "Chap. XLVI." Washington's agricultural interests and practical approach are demonstrated in these notes. In part: "But if the Land be for wheat, let it lye unplowed til the grass of weed begin to grow, then plow…and in a proper time after sow wheat, and plow it in." He then makes note of the topics of the next few chapters: "Directions how to raise rape & cole seed," "Directions for making a new invented threshing floor. Note, If the above Chapter is founded on experimental, not theoretical knowledge, it may be useful," "The management of tobacco," and "The managem't of Indian corn."
The last entry is the longest, summarizing the preparation of land for growing barley, in part: "General directions for Plowing, sowing, harrowing and mowing, or harvesting Barley. In October begin to plow your land for the winter fallow, which is intended for Barley, except Turnip land which must be ploughed as soon as the Turnips are eaten off. Raise ye ridges high in the middle of ye winter…to keep it dry, by wch means it may be ploughed any time in winter & the more it is plowed the better & richer it is made. Take care that the Land be got into sowing order by the first of March." Nicely matted and framed to an overall size of 8.25 x 17.5, with a window in the backing so that both sides can be viewed. In fine condition, with a stain to the upper corner. Provenance: Lot 92, Sotheby's, December 17, 1981.
Experimenting with farming techniques at Mount Vernon, George Washington did much to advance agriculture in early America—his hands-on approach to the craft is evident in these notes, where he values "experimental" over "theoretical" knowledge. Because cultivating tobacco depleted his soil, Washington had switched to growing wheat, oats, and barley. He sought the best methods for growing these crops—devising both his own systems and learning from others—and typically found himself on the cutting edge of American agricultural sciences. In 1760, Washington was a practitioner of Jethro Tull's horse-hoeing husbandry; by 1799 he was devoted to the methods of Arthur Young and practiced a seven-year crop rotation.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.