George Washington: Biography, About, Facts, & Things You Didn't Know

By | February 20, 2021

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George Washington (1732–1799), first president of the United States, 1789–97, in an engraved portrait after 1792 painting by John Trumbull. (Stock Montage/Getty Images)

George Washington was many things: a plantation owner, a land surveyor, a general, a statesman, and of course, the first president of the United States. As early as kindergarten, American children are taught about the Founding Grandfather—along with a hefty dose of untrue legends.

Washington Didn't Have Wooden Teeth

In his youth, G. Dub had a bad habit of cracking walnuts open with his teeth that caused them irreparable damage by the time he was a young adult, but contrary to legend, his false teeth were not made out of wood. It was actually grosser than that: They were made out of human teeth pulled from the mouths of poor people in exchange for a few coins or forcibly taken from slaves and corpses. He also occasionally wore dentures made from cow's teeth, elephant ivory, and lead, but no matter the origins of his falsies, they were so painful that he could only eat soft food like pancakes, soup, and bread unless it was cut into tiny pieces. In fact, Washington's false teeth caused him so much discomfort that he rarely smiled.

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Residence of the Washington Family on the Rappahannock River. (Hays/Wikimedia Commons)

The Cherry Tree Incident Never Happened

One of the more popular myths about George Washington is that he chopped down a cherry tree for fun as a child, and when he was confronted, he told his father, "I cannot tell a lie." It first appeared in the 1800 book The Life Of George Washington by Mason Locke Weems, who invented or exaggerated much of its content to fluff up Washington's image as a paragon of virtue with the hope that everyday Americans would follow suit.