George Washington's reception at Trenton
|Date||April 21, 1789|
|Venue||Bridge over the Assunpink Creek|
|Location||Trenton, New Jersey|
George Washington's reception at Trenton was a celebration hosted by the Ladies of Trenton social club on April 21, 1789, in Trenton, New Jersey, as George Washington, then president-elect, journeyed from his home at Mount Vernon to his first inauguration in the then capital of the United States, New York City. A ceremonial triumphal arch was erected on the bridge over the Assunpink Creek to commemorate his two victories here, the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 and the Battle of the Assunpink Creek on January 2, 1777.
On April 6, 1789, after the 1788–89 United States presidential election, a joint session of Congress counted the votes of the Electoral College and reported that George Washington had been elected president. The president-elect then left Mount Vernon on April 16 for his journey to the capital. By April 20, he had reached Philadelphia and was greeted by a large crowd and a decorated arch at Gray's Ferry Bridge.
The next day, by about 2 pm, he crossed the Delaware River to the Trenton Ferry landing and entered the city riding on a white horse. He then proceeded to the Eagle Tavern, where he was met by General Philemon Dickinson, Major Richard Howell, Rev. James Francis Armstrong, Chief Justice David Brearley, Dr. Isaac Smith, and other dignitaries. The reception in Trenton was described contemporaneously in a letter to the editor dated April 25, 1789 and published in the May 1789 issue of the Columbian Magazine. Washington next advanced to the bridge over the Assunpink Creek where a large triumphal arch had been erected. On the arch were two dates referring to his victories at Trenton: the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 and the Battle of the Assunpink Creek on January 2, 1777. The arch had thirteen pillars, wrapped with laurel greenery and flowers. A banner at the top of the arch had "The Defender of the Mothers Will Also Protect Their Daughters" written in gold letters. The ladies of Trenton and their daughters, dressed in white, were positioned past the arch, along the way into town. As Washington passed by, the daughters sang a special sonata, starting with "Welcome, mighty Chief!" and spread flowers before him.
General Washington cannot leave this place without expressing his acknowledgments, to the Matrons and Young Ladies who received him in so novel & grateful a manner at the Triumphal Arch in Trenton, for the exquisite sensation he experienced in that affecting moment. The astonishing contrast between his former and actual situation at the same spot—The elegant taste with which it was adorned for the present occasion—and the innocent appearance of the white-robed Choir who met him with the gratulatory song, have made such impressions on his remembrance, as, he assures them, will never be effaced.
View of the Triumphal Arch, engraving attributed to James Trenchard, 1789
Washington's reception at Trenton has been depicted by many artists since Trenchard. In 1792, John Trumbull created a charcoal sketch, Bridge and Arch at Trenton. Between 1823 and 1835, Thomas Kelly created the engraving Washington's reception on the Bridge at Trenton in 1789 on his way to be Inaugurated 1st President of the U.S.. In 1840, plans were announced to create a pedestal for the statue of Washington by Ferdinand Pettrich. One panel was to display the Ladies of Trenton greeting Washington. However, these plans were not executed. In 1845, Currier and Ives printed the lithograph Washington's Reception by the Ladies, on Passing the Bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on His Way to be Inaugurated First President of the United States. In 1897, John Jacob Hipp produced a chromolithograph with the same title. Louis Kurz's painting of the reception was printed as a lithograph George Washington entering Trenton 1789 in 1907 by Kurz and Allison. In 1930, the American artist N. C. Wyeth painted the large-scale work, Reception to Washington on April 21, 1789, at Trenton on his way to New York to Assume the Duties of the Presidency of the United States, now on display at Thomas Edison State University. In 2019, the painting was donated by Wells Fargo to the university, the most expensive gift ever given to the university, valued by Sotheby's at $4 million.
- Washington, George (April 21, 1789). "From George Washington to the Ladies of Trenton, 21 April 1789". Founders Online, National Archives.
- "President-Elect George Washington's Journey to the Inauguration". Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
- "Account of the Manner, of receiving, at Trenton, his Excellency George Washington, President of the United States, on his Route to the Seat of Federal Government". Columbian Magazine: 288–290. May 1789.
- "Presidential Election of 1789: A Resource Guide". Library of Congress.
- "George Washington: Journey to the Presidency". We the People: Newsletter of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. May 1989. pp. 1–8.
- Stryker, William S. (1882). Washington's reception by the people of New Jersey in 1789. Trenton, New Jersey. pp. 5–6.
- Stryker (1882), p. 18.
- Messler, Mary J. (1929). "CHAPTER IV: Some Notable Events of Post-Revolutionary Times". A History of Trenton: 1679–1929. The Trenton Historical Society.
As Lafayette stepped from his barouche in front of the State House and advanced through an aisle formed by the military and the citizens, he was greeted by a sight of the Washington arch which had been erected at the gateway to the Capitol.
- Jacobs, Muriel (April 16, 1989). "Retracing 1789 Inaugural Journey". The New York Times.
- Mancuso, Michael (July 27, 2018). "Sign made over a half century ago – to mark an event in 1789 – finally gets a home". NJ.com.
- Trumbull, John. "Bridge and Arch at Trenton". Yale University Art Gallery.; Trumbull, John (1841). Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of John Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841. New York: Wiley and Putnam. p. 340.
- Thomas Kelly. "Washington's reception on the Bridge at Trenton in 1789 on his way to be Inaugurated 1st President of the U.S." Library of Congress.
- "About the Artwork: Washington Resigning His Commission" (PDF). Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Ladies of Trenton greeting General Washington and strewing his path with flowers from a triumphal arch erected on a bridge crossing Assunpink Creek.
- Currier and Ives. "Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on his way to New York to be inaugurated first president of the United States". Library of Congress.
- John Jacob Hipp. "Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on his way to New York to be inaugurated first president of the United States". Library of Congress.
- Kurz and Allison. "George Washington entering Trenton 1789". Library of Congress.
- Dan Aubrey (February 1, 2020). "Here to stay: Thomas Edison State University new home for historic Trenton mural". Community News.
- Duke, India (December 16, 2019). "$4M painting is most-expensive gift ever given to this N.J. university". NJ.com.
- "Wells Fargo Donates Historic N.C. Wyeth Painting to TESU". Thomas Edison State University. December 13, 2019.