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Francis Dana

Francis Dana (1843-1811) was born in Massachusetts to well-to-do parents. He entered Harvard College in 1758 and graduated in 1762. He then studied law and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1767. In 1773, he married Elizabeth Ellery, daughter of William Ellery, a prominent resident of Newport, RI.

Beginning in 1777, he became a member of the Continental Congress, serving as chairman of the Congress's committee on military reorganization. He met George Washington in 1778. His letter of introduction from John Adams to George Washington described him as "a gentleman of family, fortune, and education." While in Congress, he signed the Article of Confederation for Massachusetts. His disillusionment with Congress led him to resign in August 1778.

In 1780, he was appointed minister of the United States to Russia, and in 1781, he started the long journey there. According to family tradition, the waistcoat shown here went with him to Russia. After his return to the U.S. in 1784, he was briefly a member of Congress. In 1791, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He retired from public life in 1806. (He was also the grandfather of Richard Henry Dana, author of "Two Years Before the Mast.")

 


Waistcoats, 1700s

Like suit coats, waistcoats were cut with armholes toward the back to reinforce the wearer's training to carry his shoulders back and down. In some respects, a waistcoat served a function similar to that of a woman's stays (corset). Visually, the waistcoat transformed the torso into a single, long smooth line by uniting the rib cage to the pelvis. The close-fitting waistcoat also reminded the wearer to move as he was taught and bend from the hips, not from the waist. Unlike a woman wearing stays, however, a man could decide to break this line, as he waistcoat produced much less resistance to bending at the waist.

 


George Washington, First President, 1789-1797

It was almost inevitable that George Washington, one of the most respected men in the colonies and the hero of the Revolutionary War, would be unanimously elected the first president of the United States. Washington was well aware of the importance of the example he was setting for all presidents to come, and performed his duties with this is mind. It was Washington who decided that the president should live in the same place where he worked, his New York lodgings becoming the precursor to the White House; he created the presidential cabinet, with whom he met regularly to go over matters of state; and he helped to select the site and design the city that would become the capital of the new nation. Washington's courage in battle, dignified bearing, and universally admired strength of character earned him the name "Father of His Country," and to this day we recognize the importance of his contributions to the United States.

 


John Adams, Second President, 1797-1801

John Adams was one of the most fervent proponents in the colonies of independence from Britain, and used is eloquent writing and speaking style to persuade other members of the Continental Congresses to move with determination toward freedom. Adams helped draft the Declaration of Independence and negotiate the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, and in 1789 he was elected vice president under George Washington. Eight years later he succeeded him as the second U.S. President. During his presidency, Adams came under fire from his countrymen for his attempts to protect the shipping rights of the United States and keep the country out of the growing hostilities between France and Britain. But by establishing a naval department during this period, he was honored as the "Father of the Navy." At the beginning of his presidency, Adams and his family moved into the unfinished residence in the new federal city, Washington, DC. His wish for the future of what was later to be known as the White House was "May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under the roof."

 

Related Images

The waistcoat's profile illustrates the ideal elongated men's figure.
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The waistcoat's profile illustrates the ideal elongated men's figure.
Fine embroidery adorns the front panels and buttons.
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Fine embroidery adorns the front panels and buttons.
George Washington (1732-1799)
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George Washington (1732-1799)
George Washington (1732-1799)
Enlarge
George Washington (1732-1799)


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