Colonial Williamsburg tailors will study Philadelphia museum's Revolutionary War tent

This tent used by George Washington has been on display at the National Museum of American History since 1964. Credit: Smithsonian Institution.
This tent used by George Washington has been on display at the National Museum of American History since 1964. Credit: Smithsonian Institution. (Smithsonian Institution)
Posted: April 02, 2013

On battlefields through much of the Revolutionary War and after his winter encampment at Valley Forge, Gen. George Washington worked and slept in one of two 10-foot-high, 22-foot-long tents, historians say.

On April 20 and 21, officials from the planned Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia are to host a crew of eight tailors from Colonial Williamsburg who want to examine one of the original tents owned by the museum.

That's because one of the originals will be displayed at the museum after it opens in 2016 at the former National Park Service Visitors Center on Third Street near Chestnut Street.

The Colonial Williamsburg folks are tasked with working up a reproduction tent to promote the museum before its debut. So they want to see how the original was made, ZeeAnn Mason, senior vice president of the museum, said in a Sunday phone interview.

The eight Williamsburg tailors "will be practicing stitching . . . and comparing their work with the actual tent," during their visit, she said. Mason would not disclose where that visit will take place, citing security reasons.

The reproduction will be made from 160 yards of Irish linen and 90 yards of American linen from Colonial Williamsburg weavers.

On Friday, an official from the Philadelphia museum and one from Colonial Williamsburg will pick up the Irish portion of the linen at the Ulster American Folk Park, a museum in Omagh, Northern Ireland, Mason said.

From May to August, those eight American tailors will be working on the reproduction at Colonial Williamsburg, where visitors can watch them at a site there known as the Secretary's Office.

"When the American Revolution began," Williamsburg tailor Mark Hutter said in a news release, "Williamsburg's many tailors became deeply involved in supplying uniforms, flags, and tents."

That colonial tradition will continue this summer, Mason said, as Williamsburg carpenters and joiners make poles to support the tent, and its blacksmiths will forge the iron hardware.

The reproduction is being paid for with a grant to the American Revolution museum from the Acorn Foundation Fund for History.


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 610-313-8134, wnaedele@phillynews.com, or follow @WNaedele on Twitter.

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