in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen."
Serving unselfishly without pay and at great
personal risk throughout the American Revolution, Washington triumphed
against all odds overcoming the most powerful nation on earth. After victory
was won there were those who wanted to make him king but Washington refused
what would have been a betrayal of the great vision which so many had
sacrificed for and opted instead to return home to Mt. Vernon. The only president to be
elected unanimously, Washington served two terms and then voluntarily stepped down. His
continued refusal to betray his convictions and grasp absolute power inspired
even his former enemy King George III to be filled with admiration and refer
to Washington as "the greatest man of the age."
In his private life he was
known as a gentleman of lofty character who thoroughly enjoyed social
occasions. Washington loved to dance. He was regarded as one of the best
dancers in Virginia and would not miss a Ball if he could help it. There were
balls held in his honor while he was a general, a ball for his inauguration as president and
often balls were held in honor of his birthday such as the one thrown for him
in 1782 by his ally the French general Le Comte de Rochambeau, just a few
months subsequent to their joint victory at Yorktown. Ladies were
known to wait for hours in order to have a dance with George and he was glad to
oblige even if it meant dancing all night. (One must be willing to make
sacrifices for the ladies!)
The friendly family of We Make History
(representing appreciative Americans of several centuries) enjoyed the
historic tradition of honoring the birthday of this most beloved American
through a Grand Ball, dancing (as we have learned) being one of Washington's
very favorite pastimes.
Please enjoy the photographs and commentary
from our celebration of George Washington's 274th Birthday Party!
Historical Notes of Interest:
In the late 18th century a season of Balls were
held each year in the City of Richmond, Virginia known as the Richmond
Assemblies. Tickets were sold in advance and guests were expected to abide by
a certain set of rules. For instance ladies needed to be at least 13 years of
age to attend and gentlemen at least 18. No apprentices were admitted. The
only alcohol allowed was for the punch and that in a "small quantity." Any
lady who abandoned her place in a set was not allowed to dance again the rest
of the evening.
One of these Balls was held each year in honor of
George Washington's Birthday. John Marshall, a future Chief Justice of the
United States, attended the one in 1783 and wrote to a friend the next day
that he had "been setting up all night at an Assembly [Ball]. We have
them in Richmond regularly once a fortnight [every two weeks]. The last
was a brilliant one; 'twas on the General's birth night. Never did I see such
a collection of handsome ladies. I do not believe that Versailles [the
Royal French Court] or Saint James's [the British Court] ever
displayed so much beauty. I wish you had been present. The Virginians would
have retained their high place in your opinion."
Kind Comments from Friends of the General
Lord and Lady Scott,
amazing night of dancing, fellowship, love and laughter. Thank you for all of
the work you both put into making it a glorious night. THE BEST
night of my life!
I thank you
and wait in eager anticipation for the 1861 Remembrance Ball. My thoughts and
prayers are with you and your family.
Love to We
B. of Prescott, Arizona
The celebration in your honor was once again a most wonderful and rewarding
experience, filled with many charming moments.
But if I had to pick one moment, one snapshot of the evening's charm and
In one part of one three-couple set dance, the lead couple waltzes up the
line. We had several options of doing this, but I chose the first
and simplest one. So now I stepped to the three-quarter time with my partner,
a beautiful lady in a floral gown, our inside hands joined. As
I would turn to face her on alternating beats, our eyes met again and again.
My smile widened. Her eyes twinkled.
Suffice it to say, those Valentine's Day heart balloons weren't the only
My hat is off, literally, to all the wonderful ladies who shared a dance with
me this evening. Attending a dance as a single gentleman can often
be a nervous and intimidating experience, but in the finest of company, my
fears are quashed.
And yes, I had afterglow and restlessness. Again. But 'tis a most desirable
affliction following an evening such as this.
Thank you and God Bless You All!
Mr. Christopher F.
so much for the wonderful ball you hosted yesterday. I had a wonderful time
dancing with you, especially for the Virginia Real. The amusing accidents
with your hat and my shoe made the evening even more enjoyable and I will long
remember the wonderful time I had.
looking forward to seeing you again at the next ball. I hope you come up here
to Prescott soon. God bless you and your family,
Miss Alia F. Prescott, Arizona
Congratulations on another successful ball. I definitely enjoyed dancing with
all the pretty young ladies present. Whether it was the serpentine "Black
Nag" or the rip-roaring "Virginia Reel" I had a ball (pun intended).
Mr. Nate M.
Thank you for the compliment regarding dance partners. You will never know how
honored I feel. I think though, that your partner is only as fun as you are
and you are also one of my favorites. Thank you for the laughs ;-P
you again for a wonderful night. Between the Duke of Kentís and the Virginia
Reel with some of the 1st Virginians, I don't think I can name a favorite
moment. As long as our jovial Captain and my father are always at the balls I
think they will continue to be splendid. (Along with a few other key
Thank you again and again for the good fun and many laughs.
God Bless You
Now and Always,
Miss Tiyrah P.
years you remain light on your feet and the life of the party. What a grand
way to celebrate your birth. How fitting that so many people from so many
different time periods came to do you honor and to celebrate the nation that
you helped to establish. After all this time you continue to remain first in
the hearts of your countrymen. My compliments also to your guests, the
musicians, and your family for making it such a grand evening. It was another
night to remember.
My Thanks for
the wonderful balls and other events that you host to being history to life.
and Humble Servant
Come. Let's Be Merry!
History Presents An Evening In Honor Of The
Original "George W."
The appointed hour approached and I switched back to
my original plan: that lace jabot did indeed look better with the rented
coat. I marveled at the comfort of my waistcoat and breeches, the finest
handiwork of My Dearest Aunt Susan. She donated her services upon learning
of my previous step back in the past. Those gold buttons at the knees -- how
fitting and proper!
One hundred and fifty were expected for The George Washington Birthday Ball.
His Excellency, hero to a nation, stood at the door greeting the crowds as
they entered, including a few members of the Continental Army -- myself
among them. Fortunately, my carriage was not delayed by any weather nor
Phoen-- uh, Virginia-- traffic.
As generations would pay tribute,
the timeline stretched to include them: a Union officer, a Confederate
officer, a couple of World War II enlisted men, a 16th Century Englishman...
but curiously, no redcoats. Were they plotting a sneak attack? In a setting
where the Blue and the Grey danced together, surely a British Regular might
fancy a turn or two. Even King George III came to respect His Excellency.
We posed for many pictures. I stood alone for a pair, but Mr. Washington was
kind enough to escort a charming young lady over to pose with me. The
shutter snapped, and then I bowed to her deeply, my three-cornered hat
removed in the utmost respect.
"Wait, wait, that's the pose!" the general cried, and he summoned us back
over to resume our honors as flashbulbs went off like rifle shots.
The ladies stood out in their finest ball gowns, accompanied by many young
men in modern-day formal attire. They could have all resembled future
presidents, a thought not lost on President Washington, who entertained them
with many historical facts as they took on the roles of presidents past.
"Let's get this party started."
The Pledge Of Allegiance, The National Anthem, and now, the promenade. As
"Hail To The Chief" and "Yankee Doodle" played, I thought I knew this dance.
But new steps are always the rule. Picture the long line of couples linking
and weaving out of the crowds, the line of partners splitting up and
rejoining and joining again in configurations that would challenge the
expert at the loom.
I still consider myself a novice to English country dancing, but I know what
"Christ Church's Bells..."
Oh joy! The first set dance of the evening was my favorite of the previous
ball. No complicated steps, no serpentine movements.
Then came "Come, Let's Be Merry" -- a three-couple set dance. This could be
trouble. I sense some complicated figures ahead. But behold, this dance
produced "the moment."
One part of the dance calls for the lead couple to waltz up the line. You
can do it one of three ways, each more or less like ballroom dancing, but
it's the man who decides. I chose the simplest means. So now I stepped to
the three-quarter time with my partner, a beautiful lady in a floral gown,
our inside hands joined as if we were performing a minuet. I would turn to
face her on alternating beats, my eyes catching hers back and forth. My
smile grew wide. Her eyes twinkled.
Many times it's not nice to tease, but in "Away To The Camp," another
three-couple dance, the women and men take turns parading around each other.
And it's quite all right, as Mr. Washington demonstrated, to tweak or tickle
a lock of a fine lady's hair as you pass behind her. And likewise, they
returned the favor!
Several breaks allowed us to cool down and seek refreshment. My costume
breathed better this time and I needed little fanning. My feet were
stronger. After the throbbing of the last night of dance and revelry, I had
sought out the sole comforts of a doctor named Scholl. Already my calves
were thanking me.
Eighteenth-century men, as the general pointed out at one point, would
sometimes augment their stockinged calves with cork to provide a more
attractive form to interest the opposite sex. I wonder though, if it did
anything to ease pain.
You can't have a birthday party without cake. And First Lady Martha
presented a fine one to her husband with the number 274 atop the white and
"I stopped counting at 200," President Washington quipped.
We also celebrated two other birthdays this night, singing and shouting a
hearty "HUZZAH" to some young people. And two women were honored for their
service to the community and the greater good: a woman with the staff of the
Fitch Center, and an outstanding teacher. Their delight: cherry pies and an
outpouring of appreciation.
"This is called 'All Haste To The Wedding.'"
Oh yes, that one I'd learned in Williamsburg and another close to my heart.
At such times I skip about in the finest of cheer, my feet aching to do more
than walk through the figures. Could I be loving this too much?
"Why is your right hand raised?" one lady asked, jesting at my joyfulness as
we performed a "left-hand star."
I am all in the moment, I replied. I think.
Even soldiers were gentlemen, men who had learned to dance respectfully in
their youth. Washington himself earned a reputation as a fine dancer. And I
could think of no better way to honor that tradition than to add an extra
touch of glee... for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, always
capped off at the end with a deep bow to my lady partners and a heartfelt
sentiment: "Thank you for a most enjoyable dance!"
You know the cliche: careful what you wish for. I wondered if we might try a
quadrille or the Virginia Reel. We did.
My little group of four couples agonized through the first few steps of the
quadrille. Were we doing this right? Is that partner supposed to end up over
there? Are we supposed to switch off or something? Turns out we were doing
right all along, and relief washed over us.
Then came the reel, and my set ran into trouble. The reel sent myself and
others, well, reeling as the head couple worked the way down the set, left
hand turning our partner, right hand down the line, left turn... wait, that
was supposed to be a right turn. Fall behind, even for a moment, and you
fall out of synch.
"Reels are a lot of fun," I recall a Colonial Williamsburg interpreter
saying, "but they can be absolutely painful."
No pain here. We messed up, we continued on and laughed it off. My nightmare
scenario did not come to pass, one where a lady or gentleman would turn away
in a huff, silently grumbling at the lack of a partner's grace if the other
should trip all over the floor.
A slow waltz with "your favorite partner" closed the evening once again.
Without a partner, I once again sought out another lady I had not danced
with that evening, keeping true to my tradition of trying to dance with as
many different women as possible. We stuck to simple steps, her not being
that much of a waltzer, but I had to throw in a couple of twirls.
"Your friend dances much better than she knows," I said as I escorted her
back to her friends.
Goodbye. Good night. God Bless You All.
* * *
Several people in the motel room parking lot spotted me making the walk back
to my room, fully costumed, haversack over my shoulder.
"The British are coming! The British are coming!" shouted one, leaning
outside his second-floor room with a buddy. I saluted them, and I gave
another one to a woman talking on a cell phone who waved.
The stroke of midnight found me back in my car and re-clothed in my 21st
Century attire. My mission was not to roust the militia to arms but find a
late-night snack. Still, my three-cornered hat laid in the empty seat beside
Perhaps it was hunger, or a touch of fatigue, but a nattering question
loosed itself from the back of my mind.
Francis, why do you do this?
Look at yourself. What compels you to dress
in a style 200 years prior to your birth and perform dances seven times
older than you? You're in your thirties and you're prancing around out there
like an overgrown kid.
Maybe. But I'm not a juvenile delinquent, either.
Because it uplifts me.
Lord Scott, at one point in the evening, talked about "raising the bar" for
our culture using the talents and gifts that we have. I am not sure how
being a TV news producer in 2006 fits with stepping into the role and
accoutrements of an 18th Century gentleman.
But this much I know: If I put on a tricorn and breeches in this day, it's
with the intention of being a better person for it. If my joy on the dance
floor rubs off on others, if it improves my disposition to life and my
family, friends, co-workers and even a stranger or two, that counts as a
So come, let us be merry.