Mount Vernon Distillery and Fishery Ledger
A page from the distillery and fishery ledger kept at Mount Vernon shows accounts kept in 1799 dealing with whiskey production on the estate. Columns on the left list George Washington's expenditures, including purchases of grain (even from his own farms), casks, cork, and other supplies. In 1797 Washington began building a rye and corn distillery at the urging of his new farm manager, a Scotsman named James Anderson. Business grew quickly: the ledger records that in 1799 Mount Vernon sold 10,942 gallons of whiskey valued at $7,674. A fishery was also operated on the site of the distillery. That operation involved salting herring from the Potomac River, which was then put into barrels and sold.
This ledger was kept by the farm manager, but on several pages, Washington signed off on the accounting. Tobias Lear, Washington's personal secretary, wrote the last few pages of the book, in which he gave a detailed acount of all the dwellings and structures on the estate, noting their precise dimensions, number of stories, and building materials.