A detailed ink drawing of a clipper ship signed by George Washington has been discovered by Tom Lingenfelter of the Heritage Collectors' Society. One of America's most successful history detectives, who recently revealed what is now known to be the only True Copy of the Original Declaration of Independence, Lingenfelter has now unearthed a schoolboy drawing signed by a 10-year-old Washington who would later become the first president of the United States and is referred to as the "Father of Our Country."
The wonderfully preserved drawing is signed "March 12th, 1742, Geo. Washington." And like the image of the ship above it, the signature displays a careful and deliberate self-consciousness. While clearly revealing hints of the grace that, years later, would characterize Washington's mature autograph it is a fascinating item direct from the juvenile pen of one of America's most important historic icons.
Measuring approximately 5" by 7", the drawing and accompanying signature and date can be described as a clumsy, self-conscious but well-observed depiction of a two-masted sailing vessel. At 10 years of age, Washington, even without any real knowledge of rigging or sail mechanics, had a keen sense of detail. This is clearly demonstrated in the difficult compound curves in the image such as those in the lateen foresail. Drawn with sepia ink on laid paper, this is the earliest known drawing by Washington prior to his training at age 14 and subsequent work as a land surveyor. It is now the oldest known example of his penmanship. It was most likely produced as part of his schoolwork, a practice common in the 1700s and contains many similarities to his later school copy books now housed in the National Archives.
Washington's childhood home of Ferry Farm in the state of Virginia overlooked the Rappahannock River. Originally called Home Farm, it was renamed Ferry Farm due to the large number of townspeople who crossed the river by ferry from that point to get to the town of Fredericksburg. The Washingtons did not own or operate the ferry but used it frequently to get to and from town. Young George, with his family, moved to the area at the age of six, thus beginning his familiarity with sailing vessels. He was exposed to these sailing images on a daily basis, which clearly explains his detailed visual knowledge of ship construction. He wanted to join the British Navy at age 16 but his mother would not allow it. Four years later he would join the Virginia militia.
Lingenfelter has had this document subjected to a thorough physical and chemical forensic examination. The lifetime historian and collector learned his "trade" as a Special Agent for USA Counter-intelligence and as one of this country's most successful "history detectives" for the past 35 years. He is President of the Heritage Collectors' Society, Inc., Doylestown, Pa. 18901.
The first public exhibit will be held March 11, 2012 at the Moland House, site of George Washington's encampment in August 1777, near Doylestown, Pa. For information, call Tom Lingenfelter at 215-230-5330.