The Economic Significance of Cloth and Apparel: An Analysis of George Washington's Shipping Receipts, 1754-1772

  • Wendy Lucas University of Central Arkansas
  • Noel Campbell Black, Brown, Brindle & Associates


In eighteenth-century Virginia, textiles had great social and economic significance: a valuable resource and an excellent social signal (Spence, 1973). Textiles were costly to produce and purchase. We present a quantitative case study of George Washington’s commercial correspondence with his factors between 1754 and 1772. Textiles account for 32.9 percent of orders and 46.1 percent of total expenditure. Washington bought large volumes of these items and paid relatively high prices for them. Washington spent £1943 6s. 0d. on textiles over these years. On a per year basis, this spending was nearly nine times colonial annual average income over this period.