"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." ~ George Washington
George Washington held many titles in his life, even titles that had never been held by anyone else before or since. Here are some of the most intriguing facts about the first president of the United States.
George Washington Facts
1. Younger Than He Seemed
George Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731, not on February 22, 1732. When Washington was born, England and its colonies followed the Julian calendar, which was instituted in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar. By that calendar, Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731. In 1752, England switched to the Gregorian calendar, which is still used today. It's according to that calendar that he was born February 22, 1732, which is the date that most people know as Washington's birthday.
2. Not Wooden, But...
Washington lost his first tooth in his twenties, and by the time he was in his fifties, he had lost of all of his teeth. His dentures were not made of wood. They were actually made of a variety of other materials, including ivory, tin, copper, silver and even human, cow and horse teeth!
3. What’s In A Name?
Washington didn’t have a middle name. It wasn’t common practice until the 19th century, and, in fact, only five of the first twenty presidents have a middle name!
4. Yes, It's Mine
Believe it or not, Washington's hair was real. Unlike many of his time, he didn’t wear a wig, but he did liberally powder his hair to make it white. And that perfectly coiffed hairstyle? It was actually a style favored by military officers, and it require quite a bit of work to put together though: he had to pull his hair into a perfect ponytail and fluff those sexy side curls.
5. Oui, Oui!
In 1792, just as the French Revolution began, Washington was made an honorary citizen of France. He didn’t speak French and would never visit the country that adopted him. Later, he and several of the other Americans awarded the status would distance themselves from the revolutionaries as they became increasingly intolerant and violent.
6. The Recruiter In Chief
Washington actually held the presidential title of Commander in Chief long after he was no longer president. John Adams appointed him to the position in 1798. Unbeknownst to the former president, the title was apparently a recruitment stunt to try to use Washington’s name to attract more soldiers. Washington was very frustrated with the position since even though he was Commander in Chief, no one really told him much about what was going on in the army.
7. Salutes Everywhere!
He has the highest military rank ever awarded. To anyone. Ever. When he died, Washington was a lieutenant general, but over time, the U.S. military felt that the rank did not reflect his tremendous military achievements. A law was passed that posthumously granted him the rank of General of the United States Armies.
8. Hoarding Wealth
In 1789, his salary was 2% of the national budget. In modern terms, that would translate to about $80 billion a year. Wonder how modern presidents feel about their $400,000 per year now?
9. Can I Borrow A Tie?
Washington had to borrow money so that he could afford to attend his own inauguration. Maybe they held back his pay for the first two weeks?
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10. Tough but sickly
Despite his athletic image, Washington was one of the unhealthiest presidents ever. He suffered from numerous illnesses, including diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, dysentery, malaria, tonsillitis, carbuncle, pneumonia, and epiglottitis.
11. Struggles Down-Under
Washington may have also been infertile. His wife Martha already had four children from a previous marriage, but the presidential couple never had children of their own. Modern scientists speculate that he may have been rendered infertile due to an infection linked to the tuberculosis that he suffered as a child.
12. Longing For Home
Congress begged his family to allow him to be buried on the Capitol grounds, but the family respected his wish that he be buried at Mount Vernon.
13. Not A Man Of God
Washington was a very moral man, but contrary to some of the legends that emerged about him, he wasn’t a very religious man. Although he would attend church, he refused to take communion. Many of those stories–like the one about him kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge to pray–were made up by an early biographer named Parson Weems. He was, however, an ardent believer in freedom of religion for all faiths, and he spoke frequently about the subject.
14. Keep It Simple
Unlike most presidents, he didn’t enjoy making speeches. At a mere 134 words, George Washington’s second inaugural address was the shortest one ever given by any president. It took less than two minutes to deliver. Almost short enough for Twitter…
15. A Letter A Day
A prolific letter writer, Washington apparently wrote 18,000 letters to friends and colleagues over the course of his life. That is a letter a day for 50 years!
16. Wins And Losses
He may have a well-deserved reputation as one of America’s best generals, but he actually lost more battles than he won. In fact, he lost more battles than any victorious general in modern history according to most accounts.
17. Grave Mistake
One of his losses occurred when he was 21 and still fighting for the British. He was sent to lead British troops against the French in Ohio. This battle sparked the beginning of the Seven Years War between the British and French.
18. It’s Unanimous
Washington was the only president in the history of the United States to receive 100% of the electoral votes. He did this in both of his elections.
19. An Officer And A Gentleman
When a terrier was found wandering the battlefield during the harshly fought Revolutionary War, Washington saw the name Howe on the dog’s collar. He immediately called a halt to the fighting until the dog was returned to its owner, the British commander on the other side of the battle field.
20. This Man's Best Friends
Washington loved his dogs and treated them like members of his family. As a breeder of hunting hounds, he is considered the Father of the American Foxhound. He owned more than thirty dogs and often gave them unusual names including TrueLove, Sweetlips, Tipsy, Drunkard and Tipler.
21. A World in Mourning
When Washington died in 1799, Americans weren’t the only ones mourning. Napoleon immediately called for ten days of official mourning in France. Even his enemy, the British, had the entire Royal Navy lower its flags to half mast.
22. His Lucky Jacket
During the ill-fated Braddock expedition when Washington was still fighting for the British, he had two horses shot from under him. When the battle was over, it was discovered that no less than four musket balls had pierced his jacket. None of them actually hit Washington.
23. The fighting president
Washington is the only sitting American president to actually lead his troops into battle.
24. Gifted But Not Educated
Although gifted at mathematics, Washington never attended college because his mother could not afford to send him. Instead, he became a surveyor at the age of 15, and before becoming president, he completed over 200 land surveys.
25. First Loves
Before he married Martha, Washington fell in love with Sally Fairfax, the wife of one of his good friends. He actually wrote a thinly disguised love letter to her entitled “Votary to Love.”
26. Married with Children
Washington married Martha Dandridge Curtis when he was 26 and she was 27 on January 6, 1759. Martha had already given birth to four children with her first husband, all of whom she would outlive and two of whom died as infants. Washington adopted her two other children, and his marriage to Martha would last 40 years. And yes, he wrote love letters to her as well.
27. First Signature
He was the first to sign the U.S. Constitution. As President of the Constitutional Convention held in Virginia in 1787, Washington helped draft The United States Constitution and was offered the opportunity to be the first to sign it.
28. Growing the Nation
Five new states were added to the United States during Washington’s presidency: North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee.
29. The Richest? Almost.
Washington was one of the richest president in U.S. history. His net worth was estimated at $525 million (adjusted for inflation and in 2010 dollars). Most of his wealth was tied up in his extensive land holdings.
30. Big Man
At 6’2” and 200 lbs, Washington was one of the largest presidents. He towered over most of his contemporaries as the average height for men in the U.S. at that time was around 5’7”.
31. What Doesn't Cure Him...
Washington died from what can only be called medical malpractice. After catching a simple cold, he endured no less than four rounds of bloodletting in an attempt to cure him. Bloodletting was a common "cure" at the time that involved placing leeches on the patient. The doctors went a little too far, and by the end of the last round, Washington had endured an estimated 40% loss of blood. He died shortly afterward.
32. Bootlegging President
Washington owned a very profitable distillery at Mount Vernon that produced a whiskey very similar to the kind of whiskey produced by bootleggers today. This distillery was entirely legal, and at its height, it was producing over 12,000 gallons per year.
33. The Real Dealmaker
George Washington was the only president who did not belong to a political party. Although political parties formed during his first term, he refused to join one. In fact, his farewell address focused on partisanship among other ethical issues.
There is 1 state, 7 mountains, 8 streams, 10 lakes, 33 counties, 9 colleges, and 121 towns and villages named after George Washington, including the capital city of the United States. There is even a town called George Washington.
35. Presidential Gingers
Washington was one of five presidents who boasted red hair. The others were Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin van Buren, and Dwight Eisenhower.
36. Capital Acts
He helped plan the new capital city that would eventually be named after him, but he never lived there. New York City and Philadelphia were the capital cities while he was president.
37. No Cherry Trees
He did not chop down his father’s tree, or any other cherry tree. This was a story invented by an overzealous biographer.
38. Dancing Man
Washington loved to dance and was considered an energetic and excellent dancer by his contemporaries. He frequently danced well into the night with his female guests.
39. Real Estate Baron
In addition to the 8,000 acres he owned at Mount Vernon, Washington also owned 50,000 acres in Virginia and West Virginia and additional lands in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky and Ohio. This made him one of the largest landowners in the United States.
40. No White House
Washington was the only president to never live in the White House as it was completed after his death.
41. Greatest General Ever
A 2012 British poll rated him "the greatest military enemy to ever face the British Empire." He even beat out Napoleon!
42. You Can Call Me…General
Everyone called Washington “General,” even his friends. His wife also referred to him as General in public, but no one is certain what she called him when they were alone.
43. From President to God
Washington is often revered as a hero and father of the American Constitution, but most people don't know he's actually worshipped as a god. There are a group of Japanese Shinto priests in parts of Hawaii who worship the former president as one of their gods. He is considered a Kami in Shinto Shrines: a man who becomes a god once he dies and goes to heaven.