These 27 George Washington Facts Show America’s First President In A New Light

Published April 30, 2016
Updated April 8, 2021

From his surprisingly poor record of winning battles to the material he used in his dentures, these George Washington facts will change how you see the first president.

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These 27 George Washington Facts Show America’s First President In A New Light
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Everyone knows something about George Washington, the first president of the United States. But there's more to the man than the myth. These 27 George Washington facts give an astounding inside look into the life of the Founding Father.

Common Myths About George Washington

George Washington Cherry Tree

National Parks ServiceOne of the enduring myths about George Washington is an anecdote about his honesty and a cherry tree.

There are lots of interesting facts about George Washington out there — but some are falsehoods that have perpetuated for centuries.

One of the greatest myths has to do with George Washington and a cherry tree. In this story, a young George Washington is purported to have damaged one of his father's cherry trees. When he's caught, he immediately admits to what he's done, saying:

"I cannot tell a lie...I did cut it with my hatchet."

As the story goes, his father proudly tells young George that telling the truth is worth more than one thousand trees.

It's a nice story, but likely never happened. After Washington died in 1799, the American public had a great thirst for more information about their first president. A bookseller named Mason Locke Weems decided to capitalize on their curiosity.

A few months after Washington's death, Weem declared: "Millions are gaping to read something about him... My plan! I give his history, sufficiently minute...I then go on to show that his unparalleled rise and elevation were due to his Great Virtues."

As a result, he published The Life of Washington — but didn't include the cherry tree myth until a few editions later.

Another fun fact about George Washington's life is that the Founding Father had wooden teeth. But this anecdote is neither a fact nor much fun.

In truth, Washington did suffer from dental problems. By the time he was in his 50s, he had just one of his own teeth left. But Washington's teeth were not wooden. In fact, they were a combination of animal bones and — human teeth.

George Washington Dentures

FlickrGeorge Washington did not use wood in his dentures, but teeth from other people.

Sometimes, Washington was able to salvage one of his own teeth to use in his dentures. But often he'd turn to his slaves. Washington did pay his slaves for his teeth — but not very much, and less than dentists offered in newspaper advertisements at the time.

The True And Interesting Facts About George Washington

George Washington Commanding Army

Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Washington taking command of the Continental Army, as depicted in this painting from 1832.

Although myths about America's first president have endured, true George Washington facts are fascinating on their own.

For starters, George Washington is — to this day — the highest-ranked military official in the United States. His official rank is "general of the armies." This outranks even four- and five-star generals.

He also remains the most formidable foe that the British have ever faced. In 2012, Washington won over the likes of Napoleon in a poll that asked Brits to rank their "greatest enemy commander."

As for fun facts about George Washington? Washington may be seen as the dour-faced Founding Father from his portraits, but he definitely had a sense of humor. He loved giving his dogs playful names — like Madam Moose. In a true stroke of snark, Washington even named one of his dogs Cornwallis, after a British general he'd defeated.

Washington was also an excellent dancer. He once danced with a general's wife for three hours without sitting down.

"In someone like George Washington's time [dancing] was seen as something very masculine," said White House historian Matt Costello. "To dance and dance well was part of any type of social interaction."

The Dark Side Of The First President's Life

George Washington And Slavery

Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Washington's legacy is tied to his ownership of slaves.

Although George Washington facts are often fun and interesting, it's impossible to discuss his life without considering his role as a slave-owner.

Washington was just 11 years old when he first inherited slaves. His father left Washington 10 slaves in his will. From there, Washington continued to buy (and sell) slaves. When he married his wife Martha, she brought 84 slaves with her.

George Washington is often lauded for freeing his slaves upon his death. However, the truth is much more complicated.

In his will, Washington did free his slaves — but he specifically said that they would not be freed until Martha died. Martha ended up freeing them about a year later, but not out of the goodness of her heart.

Abigail Adams, the wife of Washington's vice president and successor, John Adams, noted: "[Martha] did not feel as tho her Life was safe in their Hands, many of whom would be told that it was [in] their interest to get rid of her–She therefore was advised to set them all free at the close of the year."

In other words, Martha was afraid that her late husband's slaves — knowing that her death meant their freedom — might try to kill her.

Washington also only freed the slaves that belonged to him. He said nothing about the enslaved people whom Martha had brought to Mount Vernon when they got married. And, in fact, those people remained in bondage. When Martha Washington died, they were divided among her grandchildren.

George Washington facts like that go to show that there's more than meets the eye when it comes to the famous Founding Father — for better and for worse.

After looking through these George Washington facts, check out these 33 fascinating Abraham Lincoln facts. Or, enjoy these photos of American presidents as young men.

Kaleena Fraga
Kaleena Fraga is a French-speaking, history-loving writer based in Brooklyn. She is also the Editor in Chief for