America’s Founders and Their Arts (1700-1800)
In addition to studying our Founding Fathers’ political achievements, we can learn a lot by looking at their lives outside of politics. Many of those founders were skilled tradesmen – tanners, coopers, blacksmiths. Some were farmers, and some were scientists. In Colonial times, the useful trades were highly valued.
But the arts also play a big part in studying our Founding Fathers. The arts were valued, and we can see that most vividly perhaps in paintings and writings of the time. The paintings of John Trumbull and Charles Wilson Peale document some of the most significant events of the time. And one of the most prominent musicians of the time, William Billings, had a strong connection with the silversmith Paul Revere. Engravings and poems tell the story.
We look also at dance, using George Washington as a strong example: he reportedly excelled in what we’d today call ballroom dancing. Dance was an important aspect of social life. Today we have opportunities to dance those same steps to the same music.
Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Common, Boston, Massachusetts
Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia
Things To Consider
A. Because our Founding Fathers had foresight, many important documents and artistic works were preserved for future generations.
- In today’s electronic and technologically savvy era, how are important materials preserved?
- Do you see problems arising in the future as people try to look back and study our lives today?
- How important is preservation in your own city, community, neighborhood. What do you see that has been carefully preserved? Buildings? Artistic structures? Historical landmarks? Parks and scenic roadways?
- Look for something or some place that you believe is worthy of more careful preservation. What would you do to set that in motion? How would you bring it to the attention of others, and create momentum for whatever would be needed (fund-raising, volunteer labor)?
B. We have talked about how people like George Washington loved social dance and music. What was Thomas Jefferson’s relationship to the arts? Did he enjoy music?
C. Do we think much about the musical tastes and artistic accomplishments of political leaders today? What about their tastes in “sports”-are we more aware of that? Why do you think that is the case?
Things To Explore
The Colonial Willamsburg official history site.
In the interview on the streets of Williamsburg, Dr. Mooz mentions the ships on the Chesapeake. Visit this site explaining the Battle of the Chesepeake and its significance to the American Revolution.