Washington's World: Frequently Asked Questions
Did George Washington have wooden teeth?
No. By the time he was President he had several sets of false teeth. One set had some of his own teeth and ivory of walrus and hippopotamus. The General used to crack nuts with his teeth as well as between his thumb and forefinger!
Did George Washington really throw a silver dollar across the Potomac?
No. His step-grandson and namesake, George Washington Parke Custis, related watching his grandfather throw pieces of slate or small flat stones about the size of a silver dollar across the Rappahanock River near their home in Fredericksburg. The Rappahanock is wide, about 250', but these tosses are possible for someone with Washington's legendary strength. This story was subsequently told by succeeding generations as Washington throwing silver dollars. However, there were no silver dollars during Washington's time.
Did George Washington chop down the cherry tree?
Sorry, but no again. This is one of the many myths promulgated by Mason Locke Weems, a great admirer of GW who wrote a book shortly after our hero's death, entitled 'The Life of Washington.' McGuffey's Reader was a popular textbook that was in virtually every school in America and it included many of Mr. Weems' stories about America's hero, encouraging the children to emulate the many virtues of George Washington.
What was George Washington's middle name?
He didn't have one. Middle names were usually only given as a means of carrying on a family name from which you were entitled to an inheritance. George Washington's stepgrandson, for example, had Parke Custis as his middle name because he would be entitled to a large portion of his deceased father's estate when he came of age, which was usually at age 18 years.
How tall was George Washington?
No one actually knows how tall he was but he was at least 6 feet 2 1/2 inches and may have been as tall as 6 feet 4 1/2 inches.
Did George Washington have children of his own?
No. It is believed that he was sterile as a result of contracting smallpox when he was 20 years of age. He raised Mrs. Washington's 2 surviving children from her previous marriage. After the death of her first husband in 1757 she married then Colonel Washington, the hero of the French and Indian War, on January 6, (twelfth night) 1759. He and Mrs. Washington also raised two of their grandchildren after their father (Mrs. Washington's son) died of an illness he succumbed to during the battle of Yorktown in 1781.
Did George Washington have a favorite horse?
Yes. He was a superb horseman and actually bred white as well as gray horses; his favorite was Nelson, who served him so well throughout the 8 1/2 years of the war that the General retired him to pasture in 1783, never to be ridden again.
Did George Washington own slaves?
Yes. George Washington was born into a slave holding family and society that thought slavery was a necessity for their way of life. During his lifetime he came to believe that slavery was wrong and in his Last Will and Testament, all 123 of his slaves were to be freed upon the death of his wife. He also took steps to teach them trades previously forbidden for slaves so that they could support themselves and set up a special fund in a bank in Alexandria to assist those former slaves who could no longer earn a living. Mrs. Washington freed them one year after his death.
How old was he when he died and what did he die of?
He died after a two-day illness on December 14, 1799 and was 67 years and 10 months old. The diagnosis was quinsy (an inflammation of tissue around the tonsils) which today is believed to be epiglottitis.
Did he have a favorite sport or hobby?
Absolutely! He loved virtually any outdoor activity and was very athletic. Fox hunting was his favorite sport, but he was also very involved in fishing (he later developed the largest inland fishing fleet in America on the Potomac River), horseback riding and throwing objects long distances (tossing the bar) just to name a few.
What was his political party called?
He regarded party politics as disruptive and divisive. Thus, he is the only President who never was a member of a political party, though he sided more with the Federalists by his second term.