George Washington's Uniform

George Washington's Uniform

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Physical Description
This blue wool coat is part of a suit of regimentals made for George Washington in 1789. It has a buff wool rise-and-fall collar, buff cuffs and lapels, and buff lining; there is a row of yellow metal buttons on each lapel, as well as on each cuff.
The waistcoat and breeches are matching buff wool, with gilt buttons.
Specific History
This uniform consisting of coat, waistcoat, and knee breeches was initially donated to the Columbian Institute; in 1841, it was transferred to the National Institute and housed in the Patent Office. It came to the Smithsonian in 1883 from the Patent Office collection, and has been on display almost continuously. (From the years 1942 to 1944, during World War II, the Smithsonian packed up many of its treasured artifacts, including this uniform, and sent them to the Shenandoah Valley for safekeeping.)
This uniform was worn by George Washington from 1789 until his death in 1799; the small clothes, or breeches and waistcoat, date from the revolutionary period.
Washington often posed for life portraits during this period, and was often depicted wearing this uniform. An example is the watercolor portrait on ivory painted by John Ramage in 1789; it is the first known depiction of this uniform in a portrait of Washington.
In December 1798, Washington was recorded wearing this uniform when he visited Philadelphia on Provisional Army duty. He wore a similar uniform when he was commissioned by the Continental Congress as commander in chief of the Continental army.
None of his uniforms from the Revolutionary War period are known to have survived.
General History
When George Washington was an aide to General Edward Braddock he paid special attention to the way the British general maintained his rank and deportment. Washington believed that in order to command effectively, an officer must convey character and leadership through appearance as well as action. As the leader of the Continental army, Washington wanted these troops to present themselves as a professional military organization and a proper uniform was one way of showing a unified front. In commemoration of Washington’s attention to detail, the colors of blue and buff remained the accepted pattern for U.S. Army uniforms until the beginning of the Civil War.
Object Name
Other Terms
coat; Man; Army; General Officer; Officer
Date made
associated date
1780 - 1785
Washington, George
used in
United States: Virginia
Physical Description
wool (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 72 in x 36 in x 36 in; 182.88 cm x 91.44 cm x 91.44 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Revolution and the New Nation
See more items in
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military
National Treasures exhibit
Price of Freedom
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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John McMullan is my 5th great grandfather, he and His son Patrick are buried in Georgia. All others in my line are buried here in Newton County, Mississippi. I have a family book that was researched by Albert McMullan that shows an article from a newspaper stating that John had made this uniform. It is to my delight that I discover it has survived and is in the Smithsonian.
I just found out that I am the 5th great grand daughter of John Mcmullan by way of his daughter Lavina, this was an amazing find while researching my tree.
I'm using this for a research project, and this is really cool how they've kept it in such good condition! I'm sure George would be proud lol
John McMullan is my Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Grandfather on my Guilford County North Carolina mothers side (Mary McMullan). I too have seen documentation and cited it in the McCluskey My Heritage Tree, that John came from Ireland to to Colonial Virginia as a sail maker and tailor. He is documented as fighting with George Washington at Valley Forge, Pa., as well as, making G.Washington's uniform during the Revolutionary War. This is wonderful family history and I would love to hear of further evidence to this apparent factual info.
"The story of John McMullan making the first uniform George Washington wore as Commander in Chief is most likely true. John's daughter Catherine married my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Powel Shiflett. John left Virginia with the Shiflett's in 1797 and moved to Georgia. I have the story in print which was included in some Shiflett Family genealogy that was given to me."
"I read that my DAR patriot John McMullen fought beside George Washington and was a tailor by trade, bringing his wares from Ireland.. His daughter, my third great grandmother, Lavina McMullen was said to have told a relative that her father made the uniform and it was documented in the Hart Co. Ga Library. I called there and told that many papers were burned during Sherman's march. and it was not there. I called the Smithonian and told that there was no record of who made the uniform but could be possible looking at the time table of their being together. . "
John McMullan is a distant relative of mine. I have a book on the Mcgarrity's and there it a passage in it about John McMullan being from Ireland and being a Taylor by trade and that he did indeed made the uniform that Washington wore when he was the commander of the contanental army. There was supposed to be a marker somewhere in Dekalb county georgia honoring him
"Hello; I love this museum and have visited it several times; this part of our American History fascinates me and I am a big fan of our First President. I'm not a historian, but I like reading about him, the Revolutionary War and how the Army moved from place to place. I'm in awe of the logistics, and Washington's tenacity and use of intelligence from the field. I would like to know more about Washington's physical size-he was tall, but what kind of body size and type would you say he was based on measurements from his clothing? Were his family members tall? Robust? What was his shoe/boot size? I am interested in his commanding presence-would he have been as effective a leader had he been a shorter or fatter man? We can only speculate. The uniform speaks volumes about his leadership style and I was humbled in its presence the first time I saw it. That he specifically had this made---tells a lot about his insights into being a leader as well. Thank you for the opportunity to as a question that has been on my mind a long time. Best Regards, Deb "
Mount Vernon lists Washington's height as 6'2 ". See

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