Since the discovery of the Americas, explorers have surveyed the land searching for areas suitable for settlement and trade. This compilation of first-hand travelers accounts of Alexandria, Virginia spans nearly three hundred years from the early seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. These accounts have been gathered from a wide array of sources and represent multiple perspectives, including those of women, businessmen and explorers. This variety of perspectives has become an extremely important tool for contemporary research. The observations of life in Alexandria that have been recorded by each author are the closest researchers can get to the reality of the historic town. Despite the presence of certain biases or other prejudices, these records have preserved a range of historic voices and help to trace change over time as new cultural or technological influences were introduced to Alexandria. The combination of different perspectives and observations has helped to present a cohesive timeline of Alexandria during this three hundred year period and effectively illustrate the history and culture of the town.
This compilation is the result of years of hard work done by Alexandria Archaeology volunteers, as they have extracted important passages relevant to the Alexandria waterfront from an assortment of primary sources and other sources, including Pen Portraits by T. Michael Miller. Although there is variation among the citations for each source, every passage has been cited as accurately as possible with the information available. For example, passages from Pen Portraits have a citation for the book, (Miller, Michael T., ed. “Deposition of John Muir, Age 57.” Pen Portraits of Alexandria, Virginia, 1739- 1900. Maryland: Heritage Books Inc., 1987, p. 12.), as well as a citation for their original source (Prince William County, Virginia, Land Causes, 1789-1793.) Another example of variations within this document are the terms used for the Alexandria newspaper, because different authors have cited the same source but changed the order of the words, e.g., Virginia Gazette versus Alexandria Gazette.