Rebecca Harper

Composer, Musician, Music Director

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A Whiff of History

March 24, 2017


Ok, this sounds strange, but I got to smell George Washington yesterday.

Picture this: You are in Philadelphia in 1787 at a lively party. You’ve had a glass of Madeira, and several glasses of the spiked fruit punch-1. The musicians are playing, the crowd is rowdy and suddenly you find yourself standing behind a very tall, imposing man - at 6 feet, two inches he stands head and shoulders above everyone else. It’s General George Washington who will be elected the first President of the United States in just two years. He will most likely have his wife, Martha Custis Washington-2 by his side, and he’ll be tapping his feet, ready to dance a minuet as soon as he hears one.

He’s most probably dressed in brown wool, with matching breeches that end fashionably at the knee and white stockings-3, and suddenly you catch a hint of fragrance wafting away from him. You lean forward, inhale, and smell the fresh scent of a gentleman in the 18th century: lavender with citrus-y orange mingled with other aromatics. How do we know it’s Caswell Massey’s Number Six cologne? Because the cologne first landed on the market in 1780 and George Washington presented a bottle as a gift to the Marquis de Lafayette, his good friend and loyal patriot fighting in the American Revolution-4. Lafayette fought with George at Valley Forge, and even managed to ward off an insurrection among George’s troops-5. Now, that’s a good friend, deserving a special gift just for getting through the war.

I’m a history buff. I love Williamsburg and Monticello. Even our Village is modeled after 19th century Connecticut Western Reserve architecture. How could I resist buying my darling husband a bottle of Number Six? How could I resist buying him TWO bottles of Number Six? This past Valentine’s Day, he spritzed some on, and smelled divine. So, my handsome James, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette all have something in common.

And I got a whiff of history.


1 http://www.neatorama.com/2014/02/26/George-Washington-Knew-How-to-Party-Hard-Heres-His-Bar-Tab/

2 http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/martha-washington/george-marthas-courtship/

3 http://georgewashington.si.edu/portrait/dress.html

4 https://www.caswellmassey.com/products/number-six-cologne-spray-3-oz

5 http://www.ushistory.org/Valleyforge/served/lafayette.html

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