From NBC's John Rutherford
George Washington showed a keen awareness of political symbolism back in 1789 when he was preparing for his first inauguration.
"The cloth and buttons which accompanied your favor of the 30th ... really do credit to the manufacturers of this country," Washington said in a letter to Acting Secretary of War Henry Knox. The letter was displayed at a news conference today at the National Archives.
Archives historian Marvin Pinkert said Washington had made a conscious decision to have his inaugural suit made in Boston instead of in one of the European fashion centers.
"It's striking that the president was concerned that he show a 'Made in America' suit to the American public," Pinkert said.
At the same time, Washington was apparently upset at the public for its apathy toward his first inaugural.
"The stupor, or listlessness with which our public measures seem to be pervaded, is, to me, a matter of deep regret," Washington wrote to Knox. "Indeed it has so strange an appearance that I cannot but wonder how men who solicit public confidence or who are even prevailed upon to accept of it can reconcile such conduct with their own feelings of propriety."
Pinkert could only speculate as to why Washington was so agitated.
"My best guess is Washington was disappointed in the fact that the public was not as responsive to the momentous character of creating the new government as he probably thought they should be," Pinkert said.
Washington's letter was one of four documents, including the first printed draft of the Constitution, that go on display Jan. 12-25 at the Archives.
Four other documents, which have been previously reported, displayed at the news conference but not to the public are wage rolls indicating the original White House was built in large part by slaves.
"These slaves certainly were bricklayers," Archives historian Reginald Washington said. They were carpenters; they were what we call joiners -- people who put the wood together. They obviously were laborers. They worked in a variety of ways."
They also toiled alongside other workers, but with one major difference.
"Their owners were receiving their pay because the owners were signing off on the actual pay that was allotted for those days and hours that were put in working on our President's house," Washington said.
Construction on the White House began in 1792 and was completed in 1800.