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Note by Gem - Martha Washington

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Known as the "Martha" note because it pictures Martha Washington, the only real-life woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.


The notes' lack of direct legal tender status was a sore point for some critics. The Aug. 19, 1886, issue of the Galveston Daily News called the Martha Washington $1 Silver Certificate "an insult to the memory of the Washington family." After all, the newspaper claimed, it was George Washington who said, "I cannot tell a lie." But by their very nature, Silver Certificates were dishonest. Not only did they lack direct legal tender status, but the silver dollars for which they could be redeemed contained less than a dollar's worth of silver.


The portrait is the only existing likeness of Martha Washington by Gilbert Stuart. He painted it in 1796, along with a companion portrait of George Washington. They are known as the "Athenaeum portraits" because the Boston Athenaeum owned them for more than 150 years.


Stuart deliberately left the portraits unfinished so he would not have to deliver them to the Washingtons. The portrait of George Washington in particular proved to be a steady source of cash for Stuart, who made and sold many copies. Stuart kept both of the original paintings until his death. Today the Martha Washington portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian Institution. It is owned jointly with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Pictured is a 1891 Fr. 223 graded PMG 67 EPQ. The 'Martha' note is a most important type note for the large size collector.




Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), 1796, Oil on canvas by Gilbert Stuart.

Gilbert Stuart painted this portrait of Martha Washington at the same time he did that of the president. Both paintings were commissioned by the Washingtons. They were never completed, however, and the artist kept them in his possession until his death. Although Stuart made many copies of the president's portrait, no other likeness of Martha Washington by Stuart is known to exist


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