Bottled fruit cache discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Archaeologists have discovered a cache of 35 glass bottles at Mount Vernon, the former residence and plantation of President George Washington.

Construction of the current mansion began around 1734 under Augustine Washington’s supervision. Initially called Little Hunting Creek, the estate was renamed Mount Vernon (after Edward Vernon) by Washington’s older half-brother, Lawrence Washington, who inherited it after Augustine’s death in 1743.

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The estate would eventually pass to George in 1761 and remained in several successive generations of the family before being taken over by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in 1858.

Known today as the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, the MVLA is a non-profit historic preservation organisation (as well as the oldest patriotic women’s society, in the United States) that continues to preserve and maintain the Mount Vernon estate.

From 2023 to 2026, the Mansion Revitalisation Project is undertaking a landmark preservation effort to protect the Mansion’s original structure and ensure the long-term stability.

During phase 1 of the project, archaeologists conducted small-scale excavations in the Mansion cellar where they discovered two intact European-manufactured bottles which date from the 1740s to 1750s.

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Further exploration of the cellar has led to the discovery of five storage pits containing a cache of 35 bottles that date from the 18th century. The contents of 29 bottle are still intact and hold preserved cherries and a type of berry (possibly gooseberries or currants).

Image Credit : MVLA

The contents of each bottle has been carefully extracted and is slowly drying in the Mount Vernon archaeology lab in preparation for off-site conservation and scientific analysis by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Mount Vernon Principal Archaeologist Jason Boroughs said, “These extraordinary discoveries continue to astonish us. These perfectly preserved fruits picked and prepared more than 250 years ago provide an incredibly rare opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of the 18th-century environment, plantation foodways, and the origins of American cuisine.”

“The bottles and contents are a testament to the knowledge and skill of the enslaved people who managed the food preparations from tree to table, including Doll, the cook brought to Mount Vernon by Martha Washington in 1759 and charged with oversight of the estate’s kitchen,” added Boroughs.

Header Image Credit : MVLA

Sources : MVLA

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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