Nearly a half-century after Mark Twain wrote, in an indirect way, about this unique element of the folklore of black Washingtonians it remained in currency…
“GEORGE’S BODY SERVANTS”
Washington, February 4,
There is one unique institution in Washington and I must speak of it briefly or explode.
The institution referred to is George Washington’s personal body servant. He is a numerous and ubiquitous institution and can be found in the most surprising walks of life. The first one I discovered was running the elevator in our hotel.
He is the only surviving body servant of George Washington. It is unnecessary to prove it on him, for he is perfectly willing to admit it. There are believed to be eighty-five or one hundred other only surviving body servants of George Washington in this city, but they are said to be scattered about through other portions of the south quite discriminately. I have met twenty or twenty-five only surviving body servants, and I have been here only a short time, and will probably meet the rest of them before I leave. George Washington must have been surrounded by a standing army of body servants.
As I have stated, the first personal body servant of George Washington I met was running the elevator in our hotel. He told us about it while we were going from the first floor to the second. Personal body servants of the late George Washington lose no time. We sighed deeply and handed him $1 in grateful appreciation of services rendered the truthfrul George. There may be something in environment, but none of George’s well-known truthfulness ever soaked into any of his body servants. The body servant running the elevator looked to be about forty years old.
“What’s your name?” we asked, a fiendish Sherlock Holmes idea having penetrated our dome of thought.
“Abraham Lincoln Jones,” he replied with a face as innocent of guile as that of a standpat congressman making a speech in his home district.
“Ah ha! If you are old enough to have been George Washington’s body servant how could your name be Abraham Lincoln?”
“Well, boss, you see it’s dis yere way. I ‘herited it from my fathah and he ‘herited it from my gran’fatha, so I have got de job now. I am Washington’s body servant. My fathah done tole me do. My grand’fathah he though of it first and held de job till he die, den he turn it over to my fathah an’ he turn it over to me. My son will be de personal body servant of Marse Washington in a few years now.”
There was no argument to be used against that. It runs in the family like cauliflower ears, pug noses or wooden legs, and the only thing to do is to hand over the price. When we see a personal body servant of George Washington look up on the horizon now we simply dig and ask no questions.
“Letter from Washington – Roy K. Moulton.” Bisbee Daily Review, 23 February 1912, p. 4. http://1.usa.gov/QZdARK
More on Moulton: Our American Humorists (1922) http://bit.ly/Ujvbla