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George Washington died on December 14, 1799. February 22, 1800, [Washington's Birthday] was set aside as the official national day of mourning. This book of sacred songs was published in anticipation of the services that would be held in honor of the man who led the nation in the Revolutionary War and who was the first President of the United States. Some of the songs included in this collection had already been used in a memorial service held in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 9, 1800. An advertisement in many Boston area newspapers states that "several of the Dirges are MASONIC, to be performed at their Grand Funeral Procession on the 11th of February." While the book is attributed only to "A Citizen of Massachusetts" it was most likely the work of the Boston area singing master Oliver Holden.