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Reception to Washington on April 21, 1789, at Trenton on his way to New York to Assume the Duties of the Presidency of the United States by N.C. Wyeth (1930)

This 12 x 17 foot painting depicts George Washington’s triumphal entry into Trenton on April 21, 1789, shortly before his inauguration as the nation’s first president. 

N.C. Wyeth completed the patriotic painting for the First Mechanic’s National Bank, which was building a new headquarters in downtown Trenton, New Jersey.   



For much of 1929, Trenton threw itself into the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the city’s 1679 settlement.  So great was the patriotic fever of that time that planners of the new bank building at 1 West State Street, determined to highlight the site’s Revolutionary War connections. 

N.C. Wyeth came to Trenton, read history in the Trenton Free Public Library, walked along the banks of the Assunpink, and visited the Old Barracks.  In the end, he chose Washington’s reception at Trenton on his 1789 inaugural journey from Mount Vernon to New York as the subject of his painting.

The image of this reception, as well known to 19th and early 20th century Americans as well as the crossing of the Delaware is to us today, needed no label to be recognizable to bank patrons in in 1930.

The bridge over the Assunpink River where George Washington was greeted had figured in both the First and Second Battles of Trenton.

The Hessian surrendered on December 26, 1776, in the belief that the Americans held that bridge, cutting off their escape.  Cornwallis’ and Washington’s forces fired at each other across the creek on January 2, 1777. 

Washington, who wrote the “Ladies of Trenton” a letter to thank them for his warm reception, referred in that letter to “The astonishing contrast between his former and actual situation at the same spot.” 

The bridge over the Assunpink River where George Washington was greeted had figured in both the First and Second Battles of Trenton. 

After noting “the elegant taste with which it was adorned,” he closed by saying that the whole occasion had made such impressions on his remembrance as, he assures them, will never be effaced.”

The First Mechanic’s Bank was succeeded by other banks over the years as the banking industry changed.  The last bank in the grand building was Wells Fargo. 

Wells Fargo moved its retail banking operations across the street, to a site too small to accommodate the huge N.C. Wyeth painting. 

Civic leaders concerned about losing their beloved Wyeth convinced Wells Fargo to place the painting on long-term loan to Thomas Edison State University, a couple of doors down the street. 



Wanda Saez, a spokeswoman for the bank said at the time “The college has had an interest in this painting for many years.  We know they will take wonderful care of it, and they realize – as we do – how important this painting is for the city of Trenton.”

At the end of 2019 Wells Fargo gave the painting to TSEU.  A recent email from TESU’s communication office notes that “in consideration of tax implications, this gift was given to us by Wells Fargo Bank with the understanding that the university retains ownership for three years.” 

Those 3 years are about to run out and Trenton may lose one of its civic masterpieces.

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