George Washington, also known as the “Father of His Country”, was the first President of the United States. He was born in England and came from quite humble beginnings but was very ambitious and quickly rose through the ranks of both the British and Patriot armies. President George Washington was a skilled politician and tactician who shaped the United States of America. Read on to hear facts about him most people don’t know.
No Wooden Teeth
This is a common misconception, so let us get this out of the way first. George Washington did not have wooden teeth! It used to be a common practice, but it was not one he ever took part in. Even though he did get his teeth removed and replaced, they installed teeth made of gold, ivory, carved animal bone, and human teeth. Purchase records show that he bought teeth from his own slaves. As you can see, Washington knew that using wood for his chompers would not be a good idea whatsoever.
Fell In Love With Friend’s Wife
Before he married Martha, he first professed his love to a woman called Sally Fairfax. She was the wife of George William Fairfax, a good friend of his. In 1758, he wrote a letter to her and said, “‘Tis true I profess myself a votary to Love. I acknowledge that a Lady is in the case; and, further, I confess that this lady is known to you. Yes, Madam, as well as she is to one who is too sensible of her Charms to deny the Power whose influence he feels and must ever submit to … You have drawn me, my dear Madam, or rather I have drawn myself, into an honest confession of a Simple Fact.”
Might Have Been Infertile
It is strange to hear that he never had any children of his own. In 2007, a University of Washington School of Medicine researcher called John K. Amory suggested that he suffered infertility as a result of an infection related to tuberculosis. He said, “Classic studies of soldiers with tuberculous pleurisy during World War II demonstrated that two-thirds developed chronic organ tuberculosis within five years of their initial infection. Infection of the epididymis or testes is seen in 20 percent of these individuals and frequently results in infertility.”
Died On Accident
Even though Washington suffered various illnesses throughout his life, it is believed that his death has been caused by medical malpractice. He caught a common cold and underwent bloodletting, which was a common medical practice at the time. However, the procedure was carried out on him at least 4 times! This was clearly way too much, and he even ended up losing an estimated 40% of his blood. He died not long after he underwent the final procedure.
Only President Who Went Into Battle
Did you know that George Washington is the only US President to have ridden into battle while he was in office? Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said, “On September 19, 1794, George Washington became the only sitting U.S. president to personally lead troops in the field when he led the militia on a nearly month-long march west over the Allegheny Mountains to the town of Bedford.” Even though there have been countless presidents who had a military career, no one else had actively participated in a war while they were the President of the United States.
Whiskey Distillery Owner
George Washington launched a whiskey distillery at his Mount Vernon home in 1798. It went on to be a huge success! A Polish guest by the name of Julian Niemcewcz said that the distillery made 12,000 gallons of whiskey per year. Here is an excerpt of a letter that Washington sent to his nephew: “Two hundred gallons of Whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better, as the demand for this article (in these parts) is brisk.” Sadly, the distillery is no longer around.
Named Commander-In-Chief After Presidency
Back in 178, the United States had been anxious about the possibility of a French invasion. It was then that George Washington became the commander-in-chief of the US Military. While he was no longer the president at the time, they knew that his name would help with recruitment since he was a very well-known figure. He only went on to serve as an advisor because of his age at the time, but he did say that he wished he could have helped more. In one letter, he said that he did not know much about what was happening in the military at the time.
Twice Saved The American Revolution
During the Revolutionary War, his actions proved to be successful in saving the Colonial effort. This did not happen once but twice! After suffering several defeats in New Jersey and New York in 1776, he decided to make the bold decision to cross the Delaware River even though most people would have just fallen back. It led to three key victories that helped them both beat the English and improve the morale of the American soldiers. In 1781, he decided to launch an attack on the British Army at Yorktown. The victory was a major turning point in the course of the war.
The First One To Sign The Constitution
George Washington noticed a number of issues with the Articles of Confederation during the American Revolution. In 1787, he went to Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. While he was there, they unanimously elected him to preside over the Constitutional Convention. It took him four entire months to accomplish this. There were lots of participants who wanted to share their own piece, but he was not one of them. At any rate, he got the honor of signing his name on the document as the person in charge.
After the death of his father in 1743, the family did not have a lot of money left to keep 11-year-old George in formal education. This was the reason why his formal education ended at the tender age of 16. However, he continued to educate himself after this. He was mostly on his own when he studied agriculture, warfare, politics, and everything that would lead up to his becoming the icon of the United States. He was also in touch with other intellectuals and surrounded himself with the smartest minds of his generation.
George Washington is, so far, the first and only presidential candidate to have received all the electoral votes! He never even ran for the position but got voted into power by popular demand anyway. It happened for both the terms he had, and it is fascinating to hear that he did not accept a salary during his time in the office. He even used his personal money to pay for the salaries of his cabinet members and those with positions in the executive branch. He might have been involved in the planning of the White House and Washington DC, but he did not live in either place. He was inaugurated in New York and Pennsylvania, which were both capital cities back then.
Established Presidential Traditions
During his time in office, George Washington established a lot of president traditions that continue to be used to this day. For one thing, he was the first one to say “So help me God” after the Presidential Oath of Office. These words have since been repeated by every president that came after him. He was also the one to come up with the idea of calling the chief officer “Mr. President.” On top of these, he created the two-term limit for the sitting president and issued the very first Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Had A Different Birthday
You might be surprised to hear that he was not born on February 22, 1732 but February 11, 1731! The former was what most people believe, right? The reason is that upon his birth, England had still been using the Julian calendar that Julius Caesar established in 46 BC. That calendar said that his birthday was February 11, 1731. In 1752, England decided to start using the Gregorian calendar. In this calendar, he was actually born on February 22, 1731! This is the reason it is the date you learned in school.
A French Citizenship
After he established an amicable political and personal relationship with France in the Revolutionary War, Washington received an honorary citizenship from France in 1792. He neither spoke French or stepped foot in the country, but he still received this honor. During the French Revolution, he and others started to distance themselves from the country. They even made it clear that they did not want to be associated with the executions and other horrors that had been taking place in France in those days.
His Real Hair
Back in those days, it was a common practice for men to put on wigs. A lot of people assume that his dapper hairstyle was only a wig, but this is not true. He only had his natural hair, which he grew long and tied into a queue or ponytail. However, Washington did follow a popular practice of the time: he would put powder on his hair to make it seem white! If you wanted to know, he was a redhead in his youth.
No Middle Name
Did you know that George Washington was not given a middle name? This was not strange back then. As a matter of fact, middle names only became common in the early 19th century. Only 5 of the first 20 American presidents carried middle names. Despite this, Washington’s name is and will forever be celebrated in the history of the United States. Fun fact: 30 counties, the capital, and a state were named after him!
Inherited Slaves At Age 11
In his youth, George Washington accepted slavery. His family taught him that slaves were necessary in the management of the plantation and the household. He was only 11 when he inherited his first slaves. Across his lifetime, more than 300 people were enslaved at the Washington estate in Mount Vernon. In his will, he wrote his request to free the slaves after his wife’s death. In the end, less than half the slaves received freedom after Martha’s passing since many owned by the Custis estate stayed enslaved.
Frugal About Feeding Slaves
Here was what George Washington had to say about feeding his slaves who looked after the home and plantation: “As much as they can eat without waste and no more.” Sadly, the slaves normally went a day or two without any food and begged for more. At Mount Vernon, they only gave enslaved adults a quart of cornmeal and then 5 to 8 ounces of salted fish. They tended to hunt and fish in order to supplement the food they were given.
Penned Many Letters
It is no secret that the most famous paper he ever wrote would be the Constitution of the United States. However, he actually wrote tens of thousands of letters throughout his life. The estate believes that he wrote anywhere from 18,000 to 20,000 letters. They have collected a total of 297 volumes! This would mean that he spent a number of hours a day just writing correspondence and government documents. Of course, we cannot possibly forget that he penned love letters to Martha!
A Dog Lover
Washington was a big fan of dogs and owned many of them during his lifetime. He even bred Foxhounds for hunting and had about 30 dogs on the estate on any given day. He loved the animals so much that he was dubbed the “Father of the American Foxhound.” He even documented his hounds in a journal, so we know that three of his pets were called Tipler, Tipsy, and Drunkard. If you ask us, those names do not sound like they were very good hunters!
Before Owning Mount Vernon
Isn’t it hard to imagine that the first POTUS was not the highest member of his own family? Even so, the truth is that the Washington family estate went to the eldest child. His father Augustine created Mount Vernon with the intention of making a modest property. Upon his death, George’s elder half-brother took over. This meant that the Founding Father leased space from him! While he was not yet the owner, he began to expand the house in the 1750s. It was in 1761 that he took ownership of the estate.
His Second Inaugural Address
The second time he got unanimously elected into presidency, he did not have a lot to say about the victory. He addressed the American people during a speech he gave at the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793. The speech was only made up of 135 words and lasted only 10 minutes long, making it the shortest inaugural address in American history. Despite its length, he was able to briefly touch on several subjects such as education and foreign policy. He also announced what would happen if he did not act like a proper president to the American people.
Mules Over Horses
Did you know that George Washington was passionate about mules? A lot of plantation owners think that horses are the best when it comes to farm work, but he thought differently. Remember, he studied agriculture and arrived at the conclusion that mules were best-suited for farm labor. He said that they were stronger and had better endurance than horses. On top of this, they consumed a third less food, had less maintenance costs, and needed less water.
No Cherry Tree
As a Founding Father and the first President of the United States, it is not surprising to hear that people want to learn more about George Washington. Mason Locke was among the first ones to pen a biography about the iconic man. In 1800, he released a book called The Life of Washington, which went on to become a bestseller. However, Locke made up a story about the president damaging a cherry tree in his youth. The story goes that upon confessing that he was responsible for this, his father approved of his truthfulness and integrity and did not punish him. Yes, this was completely made up and has since been repeated countless times.
A Virginian Farm
When he was only a young boy, George Washington and the family resided on a farm before they moved to Mount Vernon. His parents bought a 280-acre farm that already had dwellings on the property. They rented the 300 acres adjacent to it and grew corn, tobacco, and wheat. Only five years after buying the Ferry Farm in Fredricksburg, Virginia, the patriarch passed away at only 49 years old. The Mount Vernon estate website said that Augustine left this property to Washington, who then sold it to a Scottish immigrant for only 2,000 pounds.
The 110 Rules of Civility
When he was only a young boy, it was a common practice to write out the 110 Rules of Civility. These were social etiquette rules that one needs to follow when in the presence of others. The Mount Vernon Estate said that this is a practice that has its roots in late 16th century France. When he was 14 years old, George participated in this. It is the reason many thought he grew up with a noble background. Some of the rules are being loyal, polite, and respectful.
Fox Hunting Fan
Washington owned lots of land around the Mount Vernon estate. He liked to invite friends and neighbors to participate in fox hunting. During the fall and winter, he would often get on his horse and bring his foxhound dogs to the fields, woods, and streams on the property. During the 18th century, fox hunting was popular among men and called for stylish attire. The hunter had to be a good rider as well. In case you wanted to know, George Washington liked to jump the horses over fallen logs and streams.
Only Hunted Foxes
Washington loved nothing better than the thrill of fox hunting, which includes horsemanship and the chase. He detailed his hunting days in his journal, of course. One of the things that he wrote about was that they never killed foxes after pursuing them. They only chased the creatures across the property, pinned them in a corner, and ultimately left them in peace before heading back to the house. He had no desire to kill the fox as he only liked the chase.
His Hunting Companions
Together with spending time outside on the land, chasing foxes with his hounds, and riding horses, George Washington has also written in his journals just how much he enjoyed the companionship that his hunting pals gave him. He usually went fox hunting with the Governor of Virginia Lord Dunmore as well as a skilled rider and enslaved worker called William Lee. He would pass hours on end with them, just hunting foxes around the Mount Vernon property.
Upset About Pay
Washington had been serving the British Army during the French and Indian War. At the time, he got frustrated that British soldiers got paid twice the amount that the soldiers from Virginia did. He voiced his opinion and asked to get equal pay for equal work. On May 18, 1754, he penned a letter to Robert Dinwiddie and said, “I really do not see why the lives of his Majesty’s subjects in Virginia should be of less value, than of those in other parts of his American dominions; especially when it is well known, that we must undergo double their hardship.”
The British Army Demotion
He was already upset with the pay they were giving the Virginian soldiers of the British Army, so he must have been distraught to hear that he got demoted. George Washington had been a lieutenant colonel when he was demoted to a captain leading only 10 Virginians. The Mount Vernon estate said that he wrote this in a letter to William Fitzhugh: “I think, the disparity between the present offer of a Company, and my former Rank, too great to expect any real satisfaction or enjoyment in a Corps, where I once did, or thought I had a right to, command.”
Even though George Washington had been a man of morals, he made sure to do his best to obtain victory during the war. Back in the Revolutionary War, he even organized spy networks to extract information from the enemy and mislead the other side at the same time. He would send secret agents across the enemy lines and even supplied British officers the wrong information to support his hidden motives. As you can see, he had been a talented spymaster!
Military Intelligence Operations
During the Revolutionary War, George Washington led intelligence efforts that went on to contribute to the success of the war. With the use of book codes, ciphers, code names and more, American troops managed to communicate important information without fear that enemies would figure out the messages. Washington was able to obtain the information they needed, but he also worked hard to spread misinformation. He was good at it, although this only became public knowledge after the war.
Used Invisible Ink
George Washington had constantly been on the lookout for ways to improve and change the way American troops sent secret information. He came up with the idea to send letters that looked blank until a specific chemical was added to the surface. He asked help from James Jay to make the chemical and the special ink. Correspondence regularly got intercepted by the other side, so this method helped Washington and American soldiers to communicate securely.