Nelly Custis's Harpsichord
Original Author: Hamilton, maker; Longman & Broderip, retailer; Gavin Ashworth, photographer
Created: 1782–1793
Medium: Harpsichord

Nelly Custis’s Harpsichord

President George Washington imported this double-manual harpsichord from London for Nelly Custis, his fourteen-year-old stepgranddaughter. Nelly Custis and her brother George Washington Parke Custis lived with the Washingtons after the death of their father in 1781. This finely made instrument, which includes floral inlays in the mahogany veneer above the keyboards, was shipped to Philadelphia—the site of the first federal capital—in 1793, and then in 1797 was moved to Mount Vernon, where it was placed in the Common Parlour (later called the Little Parlor). Nelly Custis, who studied music, entertained family and guests with her harpsichord playing.