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The veneration of George Washington began long before his death in 1799, but in the 19th century he became what some historians have called a "secular idol." Major national celebrations around his birthday had become a national custom by 1791, rivaled only by those for the Fourth of July. The event was celebrated solemnly, with none of the riotous drunkenness typical of the Fourth. Usually the evening ended with a series of toasts to a number entities of American democracy, including the day itself, the current president, Congress, and the host of the event. But the toasts, which could run to as many as fifteen or twenty, always ended with one to Washington. The day was not so solemn, though, as to exclude dancing, as this invitation to a "Washington Ball" implies. It was held in the "Assembly Room, " a tavern run by Justus and Loren Woodbury Lawrence in their hotel, the Pocumtuck House. They owned it from 1840 to 1844. The site currently contains the Deerfield Academy's Pocumtuck Dormitory.
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