"In the Beginning, all America was Virginia."
William Byrd II
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Van de Vyver Institute Diploma
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Becoming Americans Gallery

Take a virtual tour of Becoming Americans, Part I
Take a virtual tour of Becoming Americans, Part II
George Washington's Land Plat
In this video VHS Vice President for Collections E. Lee Shepard discusses George Washington's 1749 survey.
Patrick Henry (1736-1799) Enter Fullscreen More information
Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Patrick Henry (1736-1799) by Thomas Sully, 1851, after a miniature from life. Henry was as complete a master of Virginia politics as Samuel Adams was of Massachusetts politics. Both were early advocates of independence. When independence came, Henry became the Commonwealth of Virginia's first governor. One of his most important acts was sending George Rogers Clark to expel the British from the Illinois country, then part of a Virginia county. Clark's success ensured that the Midwest became part of the United States rather than part of British Canada. VHS accession number: 1851.1)
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778) Enter Fullscreen More information
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778)
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778). Needing spoons for his home, Sabine Hall in Richmond County, Carter ordered a set from London, stipulating that if the Stamp Act was repealed they be of silver; if not, of lowly horn or bone. The act was repealed and Carter's agent had the silver spoons engraved with Carter's initials, the date 1766, and the triumphant inscription "Repeal of the American Stamp Act." (VHS accession number: 1972.12)
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris Enter Fullscreen More information
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were named to a committee to prepare a declaration of independence. Jefferson (standing) did the actual writing because he was known as a good writer. Congress deleted Jefferson's most extravagant rhetoric and accusations. (VHS accession number: 1996.49.15)
Lafayette rallying troops of the 8th Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine Enter Fullscreen More information
Lafayette rallying troops of the 8th Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine
Lafayette rallying troops of the 8th Virginia Regiment, by Frank Schoonover, 1921. At the Battle of Brandywine, to prevent a rout, Lafayette dismounted and rallied the 8th Virginia. Moments later he was wounded in the leg. On December 1, 1777, he was assigned command of the division of Virginia light troops with the rank of major general. (VHS accession number: 1994.86.1)
Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) by Charles Willson Peale Enter Fullscreen More information
Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) by Charles Willson Peale
Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) by Charles Willson Peale. Morgan had come to the Shenandoah Valley from New Jersey by age eighteen. As captain, he commanded Virginia riflemen in the assault on Québec. As colonel, his corps of sharpshooters was critical in Saratoga, New York—the turning point of the war. As brigadier general, he and troops under his command annihilated a whole wing of the British army at Cowpens, South Carolina, on January 17, 1781. He retired to his Clarke County home, Saratoga. (Gift of Percy Robert Blythe; VHS accession number: 1960.1
Surrender of the English Army at Yorktown Enter Fullscreen More information
Surrender of the English Army at Yorktown
Surrender of the English Army at Yorktown. The surrender at Yorktown was known in Paris by December 1781, and prints of the scene were hastily produced by artists who had never seen Yorktown or even America. The town appears as a medieval walled city and the French army and navy dominate the scene. (VHS accession number: 1993.213)
George Washington (1732–1799) by Charles Peale Polk Enter Fullscreen More information
George Washington (1732–1799) by Charles Peale Polk
This depiction of George Washington (1732–1799) was painted in the 1790s by Charles Peale Polk. Washington was as attentive to his demeanor as to his dress. Gifted with an extraordinary personality and presence, he knew how to project those qualities and make the most of them. It was by the force of that personality that Washington held together the Continental army in the face of overwhelming odds, limited enlistments, and shortages of materials. Somehow Washington could be both formal and warm at the same time. Abigail Adams said, "he has a dignity that forbids familiarity, mixed with an easy affability that creates love and reverence." Washington commanded the Continental army from June 14, 1775, until December 23, 1783. He fought only nine major battles, often losing, but he held the army together until the French alliance tipped events in his favor. (VHS accession number: 1905.10)
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) Enter Fullscreen More information
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was entrusted with drafting the Declaration of Independence. This ensured his place as an apostle of liberty. In the Declaration, Jefferson was perhaps the best spokesman we have had for the American ideals of liberty, equality, faith in education, and in the wisdom of the common man. But Jefferson was not himself a common man. He never really worked a day in his life and his very uncommonness—his extensive library and his dabbling in architecture—were made possible by the labor of his slaves, most of whom were never freed. To Jefferson, the radical "spirit of '76" seemed under attack during the conservative administration of President George Washington and his secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson also thought they were not supportive enough of the French Revolution. For these reasons he founded what now is called the Democratic Party and he became its successful candidate for president in 1800. But what Jefferson wanted to be remembered for, besides writing the Declaration of Independence, was writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and founding the University of Virginia. (VHS accession number: 1978.22)
Tom Molineaux (1784–1818), a slave on a Virginia plantation Enter Fullscreen More information
Tom Molineaux (1784–1818), a slave on a Virginia plantation
Born a slave on a Virginia plantation, Tom Molineaux (1784–1818) fought fellow slaves while plantation owners wagered on the contests. After winning one of these matches against a rival, Molineaux was granted his freedom and the sum of $500. By 1809, he had traveled to New York and subsequently to England where he pursued a title in London's boxing rings. Two notorious fights with English champion Tom Cribb in 1810 and 1811 won him a place in boxing history. Molineaux is considered the second notable American boxer, preceded by his Virginia-born trainer, Bill Richmond. A hand-colored etching of Molineaux at an English boxing match (London, 1812) is now part of the VHS collection. (Purchased with funds provided by the Carrie Wheeler Buck Fund; VHS accession number: 2002.351)
James Armistead Lafayette Enter Fullscreen More information
James Armistead Lafayette
James Armistead Lafayette was manumitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia for his services as a double agent during the Yorktown campaign. This engraving couples his portrait by John Blennerhassett Martin with a facsimile testimonial by the Marquis de Lafayette. (VHS accession number: 1993.215)
Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebellion Enter Fullscreen More information
Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebellion
This broadside recounts Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. A native of Southampton County, Turner learned to read, probably from his master's son. He always was religious and became a lay preacher, but after he was twice sold he became convinced that God wanted him to liberate the slaves and punish the guilty white world. The revolt began on August 21, 1831, when Turner and four or five associates killed the Travis family that owned Turner. By August 23, when the militia crushed the insurrection, Turner's followers had grown to 80, and his white victims—men, women, and children—numbered between 57 and 65. For six weeks Turner eluded capture. Then he was tried and executed at the county seat of Jerusalem (now Courtland). In the aftermath, militiamen killed about 120 innocent blacks , a legislative proposal to gradually end slavery was narrowly defeated, and a harsh new slave code was instituted in Virginia and throughout the South. (VHS call number: Broadside 1831:2)
Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison (1768–1849) Enter Fullscreen More information
Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison (1768–1849)
Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison (1768–1849) lived through three wars, knew eleven presidents, and was a gracious and influential personality in the political landscape of Washington for fifty years. She was raised at Scotchtown near Ashland, Virginia. Dolley first married John Todd, Jr. Her husband and infant son both died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1793, and Dolley and her other son, John Payne, barely survived. A year later she met James Madison, whom she soon married. Dolley, outgoing and socially skilled, was a contrast and a complement to James, a brilliant yet reserved statesman. Her abilities enhanced her husband's popularity. Dolley’s genuine graciousness and political tact made her a popular, if unconventional, figure on the Washington scene during her husband's two presidential administrations. During the War of 1812, she ensured her place in history textbooks by rescuing a portrait of George Washington when the British set fire to the White House. (VHS accession number: 1967.14)
Martha (Dandridge) Custis Washington (1731–1802) Enter Fullscreen More information
Martha (Dandridge) Custis Washington (1731–1802)
This portrait of Martha Washington (1731–1802) is the work of Charles Willson Peale, who also painted the sitter several times earlier. Martha Dandridge was born in New Kent County. At age 18 she had married a wealthy heir of the region, Daniel Parke Custis. Soon she was busy as a mother caring for the couple's four children, two of whom died in infancy. At her husband's death eight years into their marriage, Martha Custis was suddenly an eligible young heiress. At age 27 she selected George Washington from a host of suitors. George and Martha indulged her two young children—and after their premature deaths, two of her grandchildren–in lieu of the Washington offspring they never would produce. George Washington's social ascent was not only financed with her Custis fortune, but also took place with Martha by his side. She even wintered with him at Valley Forge. She was everywhere accepted as the respected wife of the renowned general and president. (VHS accession number: 1857.3)
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Enter Fullscreen More information
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception was the first Roman Catholic church established in Virginia. A small chapel built in 1794 by refugees from the French Revolution gave way later to a neoclassical structure called St. Patrick's. After it burned in 1856, perhaps because it held integrated services, the present structure was erected in 1858. Its stained glass windows are renowned. (VHS accession number: 2005.6.111)
Take a virtual tour of Becoming Americans, Part I
Take a virtual tour of Becoming Americans, Part II
George Washington's Land Plat
Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (1710–1778)
Stamp Act spoon made for Landon Carter (17
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1
Lafayette rallying troops of the 8th Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine
Lafayette rallying troops of the 8th Virgi
Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) by Charles Willson Peale
Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) by Charles Wills
Surrender of the English Army at Yorktown
Surrender of the English Army at Yorktown
George Washington (1732–1799) by Charles Peale Polk
George Washington (1732–1799) by Charles P
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
Tom Molineaux (1784–1818), a slave on a Virginia plantation
Tom Molineaux (1784–1818), a slave on a Vi
James Armistead Lafayette
James Armistead Lafayette
Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebellion
Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebell
Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison (1768–1849)
Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison (1768–1849)
Martha (Dandridge) Custis Washington (1731–1802)
Martha (Dandridge) Custis Washington (1731
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception