Among its rare books and documents, Special Collections has presidential letters authored by George Washington and a letter addressed to Thomas Jefferson by the first governor of New York, George Clinton. The first Presidents Day was an unofficial holiday on February 22, 1800, two months after the death of George Washington. In 1879, the day became a federal holiday, but was not officially observed on the third Monday of each February until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1971.
Correspondence authored by the George Washington during the American Revolution in 1779 and 1780 document spy activities in Setauket and Stony Brook. In the letters, Washington gives precise instructions for how to gather and conceal intelligence on British activities in New York City and Long Island.
In a 1793 letter, George Clinton writes to Thomas Jefferson (then Secretary of State) and transfers land in Montauk to the United States. The Second United States Congress under president George Washington subsequently appropriated $20,000 on March 2, 1793 to build a lighthouse in Montauk. Construction of the lighthouse began on June 7, 1796 and was completed on November 5, 1796. With New York State through Governor Clinton “ceding the Jurisdiction of certain Lands on Montauck Point” to the infant United States, the establishment of one of the nation’s earliest historic national monuments was made possible.
For more information about Special Collections and University Archives, please visit the website for the department. -Kristen J. Nyitray, Head, Special Collections and University Archives, University Archivist
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