Historical Notes: In October 1790, while serving as George Washington's secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson made his first of at least six visits to Mount Vernon, Washington's plantation home on the Potomac River.1 On one occasion, Jefferson, his daughter Maria, and James Madison stopped by on their return to Philadelphia, and Maria completed the trip with Martha Washington.2 Jefferson visited Mount Vernon for the last time in 1801, two years after Washington's death.3
Washington first acquired land at Mount Vernon in 1754. Over the course of thirty years he transformed a one-and-a-half-story farmhouse into the mansion shown in Birch's view. His estate grew to more than eight thousand acres, which were divided into five farms. Washington was keenly interested in agricultural experiments such as crop rotation, which he discussed with Jefferson at Mount Vernon in 1792.4
William Birch was an English-born painter who came to America in 1794. He is best known for The City of Philadelphia, a series of engravings published in 1800, to which Jefferson subscribed. Jefferson displayed Birch's view of Mount Vernon in the Dining Room at Monticello; his copy is unlocated.
1. Jefferson recorded in his memorandum book paying "vales," or tips, to servants at Mount Vernon. MB, 1:766, September 15, 1790; MB, 1:768, November 12, 1790; MB, 2:836, October 16, 1791; MB, 2:879, October 1, 1792; and MB, 2:902, September 22, 1793.