Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday with New National Archives Video Short
Press Release · Friday, February 10, 2012

Press Release
February 10, 2012

Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday with New National Archives Video Short

"George Washington and the Paparazzi" explores first President’s weariness with media

Washington, DC…In celebration of the 280th birthday of America’s first President, the National Archives today is releasing a short documentary video, “George Washington and the Paparazzi.” The three-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults”series and can be viewed on the National Archives YouTube channel []

The film series is free to view and distribute on our YouTube channel at These videos are in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages the free distribution of them.

Now on display in the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives in Washington, DC, is an original letter written by President Washington to his friend, Governor Henry Lee of Virginia, on July 3, 1792. In it, Washington turns down the request of the artist William Williams, who asked through Governor Lee to paint the President’s portrait. As Mount Vernon associate curator Laura Simo explains in the video, Washington was fed up with posing, a frequent duty when he was President. In his letter he complains that the painters frequently hawk cheap versions of his portrait to the public.

National Archives curator Alice Kamps – who chose the letter and curated its exhibit –describes the painters as the 18th-century equivalent of today’s paparazzi. National Archives paper conservator Yoonjoo Strumfels explains the conservation treatment of the George Washington document to prepare it for exhibit. William Williams ultimately painted Washington’s portrait, which now hangs in Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge 22. Lodge archivist Hans Pawlisch tells the story of how it got there.

“George Washington and the Paparazzi” was produced with the generous cooperation of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens in Mount Vernon, Virginia, and the George Washington Masonic Memorial and Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge 22 in Alexandria, Virginia.