Discover true facts and not so true beliefs and myths about the first President of the United States, George Washington.
George Washington, America’s first President, was heralded as a great leader in a time when the United States faced many changes. Learn highlights about his family life, military accomplishments, political life as well as some strange rumors that many people believe today.
George Washington’s Wooden Teeth, Hygiene Practices and Pets
Many people have been taught that George Washington had wooden teeth. When he took office he had one natural tooth with dentures made from a wide variety of materials such as a walrus tusk, cow’s tooth, springs and metal. The false teeth tended to make his mouth look distorted. Washington would probably not have been a big advocate of hygienic practices. He did not bathe very often; many people of that day believed that bathing was unhealthy.
Washington’s horse’s teeth were brushed daily. Perhaps he was a bit fond of his horse after having had two horses shot out from under him in 1755 when he was an aide to General Edward Braddock. George Washington also had dogs called Sweetlips, Madame Moose and True Love.
Although Washington did have false teeth, he did not wear a wig like many of that time. He did powder his hair and tied it back in a queue, or ponytail.
Could Young George Washington Tell a Lie After Cutting a Cherry Tree?
“I can’t tell a lie…I did cut it…” young Washington replied when his father questioned him about a cherry tree…or so the story goes. Parson Mason Weems wrote a biography of George Washington shortly after the President’s death. Washington was well-known for his heroism and highly esteemed, and the author sought to highlight the late President’s honesty and true principles with a presumed tall tale that many school children later read and often repeated from the McGuffey Reader textbook.
George Washington did not attend college, and his father died when the future president was a boy. He surveyed land at age 16 and became an avid and rather progressive farmer of his time. He served as general in the Continental Army and was instrumental in helping to secure America’s independence from Great Britain and proved to be quite dependable in battle and politics.
Interesting Presidential Facts about George Washington
George Washington was the only President of the United States to be elected to office by unanimous vote (69) by the Electoral College. George Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789. During his inauguration, he said the same oath repeated by other newly elected Presidents until the present day.
Although some wanted to call him King, George Washington resisted that title. He was the only President not to live in Washington, D.C. The capital city named in his honor was not built yet but would later be founded in 1790. He resided in temporary capitals of New York and Philadelphia while serving as President.
While in office, Washington declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1789 and America had sixteen official states by the end of his second term in 1796. He kept the young United States in a neutral position during his leadership when France and England were at war and encouraged avoiding long-term alliances with foreign countries.
Washington retired to live in his home, Mount Vernon, in Virginia with his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Although Washington did not have children of his own, he helped raise his wife’s two children, Patsy and Jack, from a former marriage as well as helping to raise two grandchildren.
After riding his horse in snow and rain, George Washington suffered from acute laryngitis. Doctors attempted to treat the infection by bleeding, a common practice of the time in which “bad blood” was let out of the body but he died on December 14, 1799. Washington freed all of his slaves (over 100) in his will; he was the only American president to do so. Although an empty vault is under the U.S. Capitol building that was intended to house the body of the first President, Washington was buried at Mount Vernon per his wishes.
George Washington’s birthday (officially February 22, 1732) is a nationally recognized holiday on the third Monday in February.
George Washington – America’s First President
George Washington was one of the most liked and respected presidents of the United States. Working and surveying the land at an early age, he displayed bravery in battle yet resisted becoming King after being elected the first president of the United States. Although many rumors about George Washington are not true, many would agree that he set the precedent for future leaders in America.
- Davis, Kenneth C., Don’t Know Much About the Presidents [2002, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0-06-028615-6]
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens web site, “Facts and Falsehoods about George Washington”
- The White House web site, “George Washington”