GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE: Colonial Revivals and American Culture, 1876-1986 by Karal Ann Marling

GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE: Colonial Revivals and American Culture, 1876-1986

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A George Washington reliquary by art historian (Univ. of Minnesota) Marling, with a view to inferring the nation's self-perception through its various styles of homage to the father of our country. Marling began collecting various Washington memorabilia for the fun of it, only to find that she was soon carting home bagfuls of the stuff. From this seed grew the idea to study how the ubiquity of Washington relics, statuettes, coins, books, sagas, etc. reflect how the people at large view themselves. Marling begins with the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where scenes of Washington's camp at Valley Forge spurred a strong colonial revival after the miasma of the Civil War days. Not long after, a complete restoration of Mount Vernon also lent respectability to revivalist trends that were regnant throughout most of the 20th century. Marling is not only concerned with the imagery found in flea-market schlock. Her review encompasses mid-cult items, such as profiles and silhouettes, and high-culture expressions found in paintings and architecture, as well as styles of pagentry (society balls, parade floats, civic ceremonies, and patriotic displays). Through it all, we see distinct phases of Washington-worship: in the 1920's, for example, public opinion polls continually placed Washington alongside Christ and Ford as the most significant people in history, while similar exercises in the 1980's placed him in seventh place, behind such flashes in the pan as Walter Mondale. Thus, ""the hitherto ever-popular Washington. . .was. . .a casualty of the baby boom and a postwar technology with no further need for the stoic hero of Valley Forge."" A solid presentation of the significance of Washington in American culture and iconography, laced liberally with myriad photos of Marling's examples.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press