- George Washington did not have a middle name, according to his Mt. Vernon estate.
- Washington did not attend college, per the estate.
- The first president of the US only had one of his own real teeth at the time of his inauguration.
George Washington is, of course, the very first president of the United States and the commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
While you likely know a handful of things about George Washington, there may be other details of his life that are not as well known. Here are 10 surprising things you probably didn’t know about George Washington.
He tried to refuse the presidential salary
Being the leader of the free world comes with a huge amount of responsibility and a paycheck to boot. Washington decided to forgo the presidential paycheck during his time in office, but in the end he was forced to accept it because of its implications on presidential precedent, according to Time magazine.
Article II of the Constitution states that the chief executive is required to be paid. Time reported that this rule is established to ensure that less wealthy people could run for office without relying on bribery or corruption.
Congress decided at the time that the president would be paid $US25,000 a year (roughly $US644,000 now).
Presidents now are paid $US400,000, which some, including Donald Trump, have pledged to donate to charity.
His birthday isn’t actually on President’s Day
President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every February. Contrary to popular belief, this is never on Washington’s actual birthday. The confusion doesn’t stop there.
Washington’s family listed his date of birth as February 11, but his birthday is actually February 22. When Washington was born in 1732, the American colonies followed the Julian calendar. Fast forward 20 years and the US began abiding by the Gregorian calendar, which is 11 days ahead of the Julian calendar. Thus, Washington was actually born on February 22, 1732.
He does not have a middle name
Many people are given three names at birth, but not Washington. Middle names weren’t that common in the colonies until the start of the 19th century. According to his Mt. Vernon estate, only five of the first 20 US presidents had middle names.
His false teeth were not actually made from wood
At one point or another, you may have heard a rumour that Washington’s teeth were made of wood. This is not true. While America’s first president apparently only had one of his own natural teeth in his mouth when he was inaugurated, the rest weren’t made of wood but were implants made from human teeth, cow’s teeth, metal, and ivory.
He had to borrow money to make it to the presidential inauguration
Washington’s elite political status didn’t necessarily make him rich at first. When he was elected as the first president of the US, he had to borrow money to make it to New York City for his own inauguration, according to his estate.
He owned a ton of land
Even though he was famously short on cash, Washington had plenty of real estate. He owned a whopping 50,000 acres of land and often filled his homes with fine china and silver.
Washington become an owner of enslaved people at 11
He inherited 10 enslaved people from his father and by the end of his life, he had more than 300 enslaved people at his Mt. Vernon estate. In his will, he wrote that all the enslaved people owned by him were to be freed upon his wife Martha Washington’s death. This only applied to 123 people of the 317, as he was not able to free the rest legally, according to his estate.
He enjoyed farming, but fishing made him money
Thanks to his prime location near the Potomac River, Washington became an avid fisherman. He preferred farming, but recognized that fishing made him some serious cash, according to Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate. He made more money from his fishing hauls than from his wheat and other food crops.
He was a father but did not have biological children
Washington never had any biological children, but he did serve as the stepfather to his wife’s children. Martha Dandridge Custis Washington had two children from a previous marriage. The two raised a boy, John, and a girl, Martha, at their Mt. Vernon residence.
Custis Washington’s two eldest children – Francis and Daniel – died before her marriage to Washington.
That cherry-tree story? It’s a myth
If you know anything about Washington, you probably know the story of him supposedly chopping down his father’s cherry tree and coming clean about it. But, as his estate later cleared up, the story is just that: a story.
In fact, it was invented by Washington’s biographer Mason Locke Weems. The story didn’t appear until the fifth version of the book “The Life of Washington.”
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