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George Washington’s Uniform
Division of Military History and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History

George Washington’s Uniform

Date: 1789
Catalog #: 16148-16150    Accession #: 13152
Credit: Division of Military History and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History

Dimensions / Weight

Dimensions: 72" H x 36" W x 36" D

Physical Description

This blue wool coat is part of a suit of regimentals made for George Washington in 1789. It has a buff wool rise and fall collar, buff cuffs and lapels, and buff lining; there is a row of yellow metal buttons on each lapel, as well as on each cuff.

The waistcoat and breeches are matching buff wool,with gilt buttons.

Specific History

This uniform consisting of uniform coat, waistcoat, and pair of knee breeches was initially donated to the Columbian Institute; in 1841, it was transferred to the National Institute and was housed in the Patent Office. It came to the Smithsonian in 1883 from the Patent Office collection, and has been on display almost continuously. During the years 1942 - 1944, during World War II, the Smithsonian packed up many of its treasured artifacts and sent them to the Shenandoah Valley for safekeeping.

This uniform was worn by George Washington from 1789 until his death in 1799; the small clothes or breeches and waistcoat, date from the revolutionary period.

In paintings of Washington during this period, he often posed for life portraits and was often depicted wearing this uniform. An example of this would be the watercolor portrait on irovy painted by artist John Ramage in 1789; it is the first known depiction of this uniform in a portrait of Washington.

In December 1798, Washington was recorded wearing this uniform when he visited Philadelphia on Provisional Army duty. He wore a similar uniform when he was commissioned by the Continental Congress as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

None of his uniforms from the Revolutionary War period are known to have survived.

General History

When George Washington was an aide to General Edward Braddock he paid special attention to the way the British General maintained his rank and deportment. Washington believed that in order to command effectively, an officer must convey character and leadership through appearance as well as action. As the leader of the Continental Army, Washington wanted this troop to present themselves as a professional military organization and a proper uniform was one way of presenting this unified front. In commemoration of Washington’s attention to detail, the colors of blue and buff remained the accepted pattern for U. S. Army uniforms until the beginning of the Civil War.


Country: United States
State: Virginia
War: War of American Independence
Service: Army
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