Museum of the American Revolution: George Washington's sash disappeared for centuries. It was hiding in plain sight

Arriving in Boston to take charge of his new troops, Gen. George Washington needed something, a decoration, to identify his position. No one knew who he was.

So in July 1775, the future father of his country chose as his marker a silk moiré sash worn across the chest.

That sash vanished (after Washington replaced it with starred epaulettes) for more than two centuries until Phil Mead, chief historian at the Museum of the American Revolution, was walking down a street in Cambridge, Mass.

He was stopped by a colleague who said Washington's sash might be in the collection of Harvard’s Peabody Museum.  

Intrigued, Mead began studying the Peabody sash. He spent months researching moiré construction and French military decorations, and studying the Washington sashes depicted in paintings by Charles Willson Peale. In fact, Washington had given the sash to Peale, who displayed it in his famous Philadelphia museum. 

Mead's conclusion? George Washington’s sash was, indeed, hiding in plain sight at the Peabody.

Very few textiles remain from the Revolutionary War period, so to find something that Washington wore during the 1775-79 period is highly unusual, according to Mead. The Peabody has now lent the sash to the museum.