The Washington Winter Show
Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall is one of the great houses of American history and is the focus of the Loan Exhibition. Its magnificent setting on a high bluff above the Potomac River and its bold architectural style set it apart from any other colonial house, but its highest distinction is the family of patriots who lived there, the Lees of Virginia. Stratford is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and the home to the only two brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.

Great House - aerial view

Great House

Great House from the east

Great Hall


Blue Room

Scenes in a Nursery
William Redmore Bigg (1755-1828), England
Oil on canvas, 1780-1800
Gift of William Fahnestock, Jr. in memory of Mrs. Harry B. Hawes [1955.031.001]
(On view in the Great House's Chamber)

In this scene, a new mother sits in an easy chair with a baby in her arms, and props her foot up on a little stool. A young boy and girl examine the sleeping baby, presumably their newest sibling.

The painting is quite an intimate portrait of new motherhood and family relations within the bedchamber or nursery. The artist, William Redmore Bigg, was a popular genre painter in the late-18th and early-19th centuries and often depicted children in his works.

Scenes in a Nursery

William Redmore Bigg (1755-1828), England
Oil on canvas, 1780-1800
Gift of William Fahnestock, Jr. in memory of Mrs. Harry B. Hawes [1955.031.002]
(On view in the Great House's Chamber)

Southeastern America, Possibly Virginia
Mahogany and pine, ca. 1770-1780
Gift of Mahlon H. Janney [1938.38]
(On view in the Great House's Blue Room)

This cradle was an early important acquisition made by the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. It was accepted into the collection January 15, 1938 and arrived at Stratford on January 28. At that point, the board was just refurnishing the rooms of the house and this cradle found an immediate home in the "Birth Chamber" or main bedchamber of the house, where it was outfitted with a quilt and pillow made from antique material.

Aside from being an early acquisition, this cradle has an important family connection. It was used at Peckatone, the nearby plantation home of the Corbin family of Westmoreland County, Virginia. Hannah Lee, born in 1728, married Gawin Corbin and made her home at Peckatone (Hannah's paternal grandmother was a Corbin as well). Hannah was having children into the 1760s, so depending on the cradle's dating, this cradle may have been used to rock her babies and later her grandbabies, great-grandbabies, and so on.

Egg Boiler
Tin and brass, 1830-1870
Gift in Memory of Mrs. Charles Edward Stuart [1986.018]

This oval egg boiler features lion face handles and hairy paw feet - quite wild for something that cooks a dozen eggs. Egg boilers in the 19th century came in silver versions as well, often with even more intricate detailing than this one. Eggs were placed whole in the container and boiling water added, the result being soft "coddled" eggs, rather than hard boiled. Once done, eggs were served in the shell (the tops cut off) in an egg cup and eaten with a spoon.

This particular boiler was used at Stratford when the property belonged to the Storke and Stuart families. When the Stuart family sold Stratford to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, they also transferred a handful of objects. This boiler was one of those original objects and it was officially given to the museum in 1986 along with other original Stuart family pieces.

Waffle Iron
Likely America
Iron, late-19th or early-20th century
Gift in Memory of Mrs. Charles Edward Stuart [1986.023]

The Stuart family was the last private owner of Stratford before it became a museum. A number of original Stuart family kitchen items remained on site when the family moved out in the early 1930s, and were later donated to the museum for the collection.

This particular object is a waffle iron, a precursor to our modern electric versions. The two waffle plates probably originally were hinged together face-to-face. The batter was then poured into the plates, sandwiched, and cooked horizontally over hot coals.

Pair of Pot Hooks
Likely America
Iron, 1750-1850
Gift in Memory of Mrs. Charles Edward Stuart [1988.006]
(On view in The Lees of Stratford Gallery, Visitor Center)

Following the death of Elizabeth McCarty Storke in 1879, the estate was divided between her great-nephews, Charles E. and Richard H. Stuart.  The main house became the property of Richard, who lived at Stratford with his family.  Charles Stuart, the son of Richard and last private owner of Stratford, sold the property to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation in 1929.

Along with the house came a handful of original objects that date to the Lee family occupancy.  Pot hooks were valuable at a time before gas or electric stoves and this tool was likely used by enslaved cooks in the Stratford kitchen to lift large pots from the fire.

Music Book

Circa 1850
W: 25.5cm   H: 34.5cm
Belonged to Mary Randolph Custis Lee; on permanent loan from Lee family descendants [LE2013.001]

A collection of sheet music bound in modern black quarter-leather binding with red cloth; gilt-stamped floral banding alongedges where leather meets cloth; double gilt-stamped linear banding on spine at top and bottom. 

Conserved in part, with many small tears along page edges patched with archival tape.  Some foxing.  Conserved flyleaf with penciled inscription by Mary Custis Lee: "I send this old music book of mine for any one who plays the piano.  Aunt Lucy does I know & I think Katherine's girls are also musical.  Mary Custis Lee."  Parts of some signatures were cut off when the music was trimmed for its initial binding.

Some individual sheet music selections are signed "M CLee" in top corner; others "M C Lee from her Cousin Markie [Martha Custis Williams]" or "M CW."  Souvenir d'Ole Bull is signed and dated "M C Lee March 1847."  The bound volume includes The Arlington Waltzes, composed & dedicated…to George Washington Park Custis, Esq. (Mary Custis Lee's father) by John H. Hewitt, Baltimore, 1845.


Gate-leg Table
Coastal Virginia (Likely Petersburg/Richmond)
Mahogany and Yellow Pine, c. 1770
Bequest of Christine G. Long [1959.117]

Dining tables were ubiquitous in the 18th-century household – moved about from room to room as the season and occasion warranted.  When not in use, such tables would have been folded down and placed along the perimeter of the room, along with lines of chairs.  This table was crafted locally by a trained cabinetmaker and would have been fitting for Stratford's dining room.

Bottle Case

Southeastern United States
Walnut and yellow pine, c. 1790-1810
Bequest of Julia B. Andrews [1970.005]

Bottle cases were commonly seen in Southern dining rooms in the last quarter of the 18th and into the 19th century. Usually their interiors were outfitted with wooden grids to hold square glass bottles of wine or other alcoholic beverages. These special dining forms were often seen with unfinished backs, indicating that they sat against the wall (so that the rough back wouldn't be seen). Ours, however, appears to have a finished back and therefore could be freely used pulled up to the table or used in the middle of a room.

Wine Coaster
Maker EA, England
Silver and walnut, 1775-1785
Purchased with funds provided by the General Society of Colonial Wars in Memory of Herbert W. Jackson [1938.052.001-002]
(On view in The Lees of Stratford Gallery, Visitor Center)

Wine coasters were also sometimes referred to as "bottle sliders" in the 18th century and were used to hold bottles at the dining table. When Philip Ludwell Lee's estate was appraised in 1776, the inventory takers noted "4 Silver sliderds" in storage in the Smokehouse along with Virginia Wine, Claret and Medira Wine. The Lees used the family crest, a squirrel, to mark their silver, and you can see it engraved in the front of the silver coaster.

This wine coaster is one of a pair that was still here at Stratford when the estate was purchased by William Somerville from Henry Lee IV in 1822. The coasters passed down in the Somerville family until purchased by the museum in 1938 from a descendant.

Nutmeg Grater

Aug. Le Sage, London
Silver, c. 1770
 Gift of Mrs. Beaudric Howell [1981.075]
(On view in the Visitor Center, The Lees of Stratford Gallery)

Hannah Philippa Ludwell, niece of Hannah Ludwell Lee of Stratford, married her cousin William Lee in 1769.  This grater, made around the time of their marriage, is marked with Hannah Philippa Ludwell's initials and would have been used to add spice to punch – a fashionable beverage in the 18th century. 


Calling Card of Col. Robert E. Lee 
W: 8cm H: 5cm
Overall (frame dimensions) W: 12.8cm  H: 11.4cm
Provenance: Unknown [M2013.001]

Plain ivory card stock with "Col. R E Lee U.S.A." in pencil script; some fragments of ink script at bottom edge; in modern frame with simple black-painted wood molding; paper with light foxing throughout and slightly darkened; Robert E. Lee was assigned the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1855 and became a full colonel in March 1861, just weeks before he resigned from the U. S. Army.

Shoe Buckle
Likely George Burrows, London, England
Silver and paste (glass), 1775-1790
Gift of Mrs. Beaudric Howell [1981.074]
(On view in the Visitor Center, The Lees of Stratford Gallery)

Clothes, shoes, and personal accessories were as important to the 18th-century gentry as they are to today's socialites and celebrities. This buckle (originally one of a pair) has a family history of belonging to Richard Henry Lee. When it came into the collection it was labeled with a tag that read "Knee buckle / other one was stolen / used by Richard Henry Lee ..."

Crescent Brooch
Butterfly Brooch
Metal and paste (glass), c. 1790
Gift of Cornelia Lee Post Niver [1981.054.001-002]
 (On view in the Visitor Center, The Lees of Stratford Gallery)

Paste (glass) stone buckles and brooches were extremely popular ornaments in the 18th century.  These examples, belonging to members of the Lee family, would have indicated the wearer's wealth and knowledge of fashion.

Pocket Watch and Key
Attributed to M. Tobias & Co., Liverpool, England
Silver, c. 1818
Gift of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union [1981.012]
 (On view in the Visitor Center, The Lees of Stratford Gallery)

When Robert E. Lee married Mary Anne Randolph Custis (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington), he became part of the illustrious Washington-Custis legacy.  Lee found inspiration in his new family and during the Mexican War carried the same camp chest used by George Washington during the American Revolution. 

This watch was another special family object, passed from George Washington Parke Custis to Lee, his son-in-law, who carried it during the Civil War and finally passed it on to his son, George Washington Custis Lee.