A Georgetown Life

The Reminiscences of Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon of Tudor Place

Grant S. Quertermous, Editor

"The stories and vignettes are often compelling in detail, but ultimately their value lies in their larger historical context. Quertermous has done an exemplary job in editing and knitting these fragments together."
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An invaluable primary resource for understanding nineteenth-century America.

As a Georgetown resident for nearly a century, Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon (1815 – 1911) was close to the key political events of her time. Born into the prominent Peter family, Kennon came into contact with the many notable historical figures of the day who often visited Tudor Place, her home for over ninety years. Now published for the first time, the record of her experiences offers a unique insight into nineteenth-century American history.

Housed in the Tudor Place archives, "The Reminiscences of Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon" is a collection of Kennon’s memories solicited and recorded by her grandchildren in the 1890s. The text includes Kennon’s memories of her mother Martha Custis Peter and spending time at Mount Vernon with her grandparents George and Martha Washington. It also includes her recollections of childhood in Georgetown, life during the Civil War, the people enslaved at Tudor Place, and daily life in Washington, DC.

Edited by Grant Quertermous, this richly illustrated and annotated edition gives readers a greater appreciation of life in early Georgetown. It includes a guide to the city's streets then and now, a detailed family tree, and an appendix of the many people Britannia encountered—a who's who of the period. Readers will also find Britannia's narrative an essential companion to the incredible collection of objects preserved at Tudor Place. Notable for both its breadth and level of detail, A Georgetown Life brings a new dimension to the study of nineteenth-century America.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Capturing Memories to Preserve a Family’s History

Britannia W. Kennon: A Biographical Sketch

The Reminiscences of Britannia W. Kennon


1. Georgetown Street Names

2. The Custis-Peter Family Tree

3. Enslaved Individuals Mentioned in the Reminiscences



About the Author


"As curator of Tudor Place, Grant Quertermous is uniquely qualified to tell this special American story of life in the oldest neighborhood in the nation’s capital. His well-annotated edition of Britannia Peter Kennon’s Reminiscences with an introductory biography is a significant addition to the history of Georgetown and the surrounding Washington city during the nineteenth century. It illuminates the daily life of the prestigious Peter family of Tudor Place in Georgetown and their enslaved and free servants. It documents the family’s close relationship with their distinguished friends and famous relatives, such as Britannia’s great grandmother Martha Custis Washington and President George Washington and her cousin by marriage General Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee. The Peter family’s ancestral home Tudor Place, now an historic house museum open to the public, connects to many seminal figures and events of early American history."—Kathleen Menzie Lesko, coauthor of Black Georgetown Remembered and executive producer of the companion documentary

"A Georgetown Life opens a window onto the world of America's nineteenth-century aristocracy. Carefully edited and annotated by Grant Quertermous, Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon's recollections reveal the social network, material culture, and memory-work of a formidable woman at the heart of one of Washington's most historic homes, Tudor Place. This volume is a valuable contribution to the history of the nation's capital."—Adam Rothman, professor, Department of History, Georgetown University

"A rare gem in the literature of Washington, DC, history. Grant Quertermous has meticulously and brilliantly annotated Britannia Peter Kennon’s charming biographical reminiscences—oral histories compiled by her grandchildren—which shed light on her life and her network of friends, employees, neighbors, and many relations."—Matthew B. Gilmore, editor, H-DC (Washington, DC History and Life)

"The stories and vignettes are often compelling in detail, but ultimately their value lies in their larger historical context. Quertermous has done an exemplary job in editing and knitting these fragments together."—Washington History


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Grant S. Quertermous is the curator of Tudor Place Historic House and Garden. He holds a graduate degree in anthropology and has worked in the museum field, specifically focused on historic house museums and their inhabitants, for twenty years.

242 pp., 8 x 8
43 color plates
ISBN: 978-1-64712-041-2
Oct 2020

242 pp., 8 x 8
43 color plates
Oct 2020

242 pp.
43 color plates
ISBN: 978-1-64712-042-9
Oct 2020

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