Captain John Pratt's Commission from George Washington

DATE:
1791
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Letterpress, ink on paper
CLASSIFICATION:
Works on Paper
DIMENSIONS:
Sheet dimensions: 12 × 14 5/8 in. (30.48 × 37.15 cm) Framed dimensions: 17 3/4 × 21 5/8 × 7/8 in. (45.09 × 54.93 × 2.22 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
American Art
LOCATION:
Not On View
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation
OBJECT NUMBER:
1990.146.2

General Description

This document appoints John Pratt (1753-1824) to the rank of Captain in the First Regiment in the United States Army under the authority of President George Washington (1732-1799). Washington's signature appears below the typescript passage. Along with the location (Philadelphia) and date (March 4, 1792), the commission reveals American pride in the young nation by allowing space to note the number of years the nation had been independent from Great Britain. In this case, Pratt's commission came fifteen years into the country's existence. In his new position, Pratt moved to Middletown, Connecticut, and oversaw recruitment efforts.

The left side of the page shows the seal of the United States War Office. It was created in 1778 during the Revolutionary War and remained unchanged until 1947 when it became the Department of the Army Seal. Symbols on the seal include a Roman cuirass, various weapons, a Phrygian cap, flags, and a rattlesnake holding a scroll with the motto, "This We'll Defend."

Source

"Department of the Army Emblem," US Army Center of Military History, 25 February 2000, http://www.history.army.mil/reference/Heritage/Emblem.htm. Accessed 2 February 2015.

Fun Facts

  • This certificate appears in the foreground of the portrait of Captain John Pratt (1753-1824) by Ralph Earl. (1990.146.1) Painted the year following Pratt's promotion to captain, the full-length portrait uses the commission paper as both an identifying feature and an object of great pride for the sitter.

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