Government

On July 4, 1776, George Washington Bought A Broom

George Washington refused a salary during the Revolutionary War but kept extremely detailed financial records in order to claim his expenses from Congress. i i
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
George Washington refused a salary during the Revolutionary War but kept extremely detailed financial records in order to claim his expenses from Congress.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 4th, 1776, representatives from what were then British colonies met in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence. Also that day, George Washington bought a broom.

When Washington became Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775, he said he wouldn't accept a salary for the position. But he did say he would accept reimbursement for his expenses.

So he documented everything, from payments to spies to his daily meals. (Apparently, he was a big fan of mutton.) And he was extremely meticulous.

George Washington's expense report from July 4th, 1776. i i

hide captionGeorge Washington's expense report from July 4th, 1776.

Library of Congress
George Washington's expense report from July 4th, 1776.

George Washington's expense report from July 4th, 1776.

Library of Congress

Washington's expenses for July 4, 1776, included a broom (which cost 6 pence) as well as mutton, veal, beef, cabbage, beets, beans, potatoes, and lobster. He also paid for the mending of his "Chariot" — a type of carriage.

In 1783, Washington submitted his expense report. He had spent $160,074. It's hard to adjust for inflation since then, but that number today would certainly be in the millions of dollars.

After a careful audit, the United States Treasury determined that Washington had cut himself short. The US still owed him 89/90 of one dollar.

You can see the entire expense report here.

Thank you to historian Julie Miller at the Library of Congress for her help with this post.


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