John VonReison was Emily Mason’s personal tutor from 1813 until her marriage to William Mason McCarty in 1816. According to the Mason account book, VonReison’s tutoring sessions with Emily included an emphasis in music, as demonstrated by his procurement of a piano, “music strings,” and “music Books” on behalf of the family. VonReison garnered a substantial income from his services, earning nearly $200 in 1813 alone.
While VonReison left a very thin paper trail in the archival record, his appearance in the Mason account book provides some key insights into the Masons’ world in Loudoun County. As elites, the Masons had the resources to procure the services of a private tutor and to purchase the materials—such as the aforementioned musical instruments—that would facilitate their daughter’s education. Emily’s father, Stevens Thomson Mason, alluded to this fact in his last will and testament, where he directed that “proper attention” be given to the education of Emily and her sisters, specifying “that no proper expense may be spared, even to the full extent of my property (if necessary) to render them good and useful members of society.”
Like other upper-class Virginia families of the early nineteenth century, the Masons hoped that their daughters’ education would help them attract a husband of a similar social rank. This, in turn, would enable their daughters to raise refined, educated, and patriotic children. Young ladies were taught how to read and were also instructed in grammar, geography, and bookkeeping. According to Benjamin Rush—a person with whom S.T. Mason was acquainted—these skills would help them become "the stewards and guardians of their husbands' property" that could be passed on to the next generation. In other words, by hiring John VonReison to tutor their daughter, the Masons were taking the necessary steps to protect their social and economic hegemony in Loudoun County and in the early republic.
By David Armstrong