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There's A Spelling Error In One Of White House's Most Famous Paintings

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In the largest room in the White House hangs an iconic full-body portrait of George Washington renouncing a third term as president of the United States. There is a small but obvious spelling error contained within the portrait—and it's actually there for a very specific reason.

Top image via Wikimedia Commons.

The portrait of Washington that hangs in the White House's East Room is actually a copy of the Lansdowne portrait, painted by Gilbert Stuart under a commission from Senator William Bingham. Stuart's original hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. The White House purchased a copy of the painting from Stuart, one of several copies in existence. In order to distinguish the original from the copies, the copies contain a deliberate spelling error: the spine of one of the books in the lower left-hand corner reads, "Constitution and Laws of the United Sates." The original has no such error.


Image of the original portrait via Wikimedia Commons.

The White House portrait may be a copy, but it has a storied history all its own. When British soldiers invaded Washington, DC, the portrait was hurried out of the White House before the soldiers took control of the building and subsequently burned it down. Although First Lady Dolley Madison is often credited with rescuing the painting, James Madison's slave and personal servant Paul Jennings wrote that the White House doorman John Susé and the gardener Mr. Magraw actually rescued the painting, spelling error and all.


[via The Presurfer]