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Stony Brook University

George Washington and the Culper Spy Ring: Stony Brook University's George Washington Letters

Research Materials about George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring, and the American Revolutionary War

George Washington Letters at Stony Brook University

Special Collections is the steward of two historically important American Revolutionary War-era letters authored by George Washington that document spy activities in Setauket, New York.

The letters can be viewed here online or in person by appointment

George Washington letter, September 24, 1779

George Washington letter, September 16, 1780

Acquisition of the letters laid the foundation for the establishment of a Long Island Historic Documents Collection. The collection includes primary and secondary source material on the history of Long Island from the earliest settlers through the present, with a strong emphasis on the period of the American Revolution through the War of 1812 (1764-1812).

Preserving the Letters

The acquisition of the letters presented SBU Libraries with new opportunities to utilize external professional conservation services. A fine arts mover transported the letters to the Conservation Center for Art and Historical Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia. Both letters were brittle at the edges and the iron gall ink writing medium was actively corroding the paper and forming holes. Surface cleaning, deacidification baths, hole mending, and humification were performed. Housings needed to be fabricated for stability and for exhibition purposes. The letters were encapsulated between two sheets of polyester film, sealed, and then matted. The matted letters were then inserted into custom fabricated packages consisting of ultraviolet-filtering acrylic glazing and Marvelseal (a nylon, foil, polyethelene laminate) sealing the sides of the package. The packages were designed to protect them from particulate matter and help mitigate environmental changes.