Washington biographer Richard Brookhiser, who has written three books on the man, welcomes the information gleaned from recent digs, though he says considerable interpretive work remains to be done. "Facts still require us to think about them," he says. Brookhiser puzzles over the elaborate Wedgwood tea service the Washingtons purchased after the Christmas fire and two deaths dealt harsh blows to the family. "What did the Wedgwood mean?" Brookhiser muses. "A surprising level of prosperity? Or a grim effort to hang onto the signs of gentility at all costs?"
Ron Chernow, a biographer of Alexander Hamilton now at work on a biography of Washington, says that at the very least the discovery should help humanize the founding father by giving us "valuable shading and detail" and lifting "the story out of the realm of myth."
David Zax is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.