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The French and Indian War, also called the Seven Years War, was unwittingly started by a 21-year-old George Washington.
In 1754, Washington led an attack on French forces and subsequently had to surrender to the French at Fort Necessity— which sparked the French and Indian War. One British writer noted:
"The volley-fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire."Wikimedia Commons
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Although George Washington's birthday is celebrated on Feb. 22, he was actually born on Feb. 11, 1731.
His birth was originally recorded using the Julian calendar. But in 1752, Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved his birthday to Feb. 22, 1732 — one year and 11 days later. Wikimedia Commons
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George Washington's legacy is inextricably linked to slavery. And Washington started owning slaves as a child. He was just 11 years old when his father willed him 10 slaves upon his death. Wikimedia Commons
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Like most people in his time, George Washington did not have a middle name. Neither did his fellow Founding Fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison. Library of Congress
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George Washington didn't have a formal education. His older brothers went to Grammar School in England, but the Washington family lacked the funds to send George. Library of Congress
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One of the prevailing myths about George Washington concerns his teeth. While it's true that Washington suffered from dental problems, he did not use wood in his dentures (pictured).
The truth is actually much worse. Washington's "teeth" were made of ivory from hippos, walruses, elephants, cows, horses — and teeth from other humans. Washington paid his slaves (not much) for their teeth. YouTube
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There's a reason for the line from Hamilton that says, "Next to Washington, they all look small."
At 6'2", George Washington is one of the tallest presidents in American history. He's surpassed only by Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress
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As president, George Washington presided over the country from private houses in New York City. He never lived in the White House — it wasn't yet complete when he was president.
His successor, John Adams, would move into the White House in November 1800. Wikimedia Commons
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George Washington holds the record for the shortest inaugural address. His second was only 135 words long. Library of Congress
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George Washington was known as an excellent dancer. Once in 1779, he's reported to have danced with a general's wife for three hours without sitting down. Mount Vernon
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Although Jefferson and Washington were initially on good terms, their friendship soured after Washington's presidency.
Jefferson said this about Washington:
"His colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. In public when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short, and embarrassed."Wikimedia Commons
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George Washington was a major general in the Revolutionary War. After his presidency, he was promoted to lieutenant general, which awarded him three stars.
But in 1976, it was decided that Washington should outrank even the four and five-star generals of today. So, he was promoted to "general of the armies"
President Gerald Ford, who approved the rank, said: "No officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington.”Library of Congress
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George Washington contracted smallpox while in Barbados in 1751 — and it may have saved his life during the Revolutionary War.
By 1776, 20 percent of Washington's army had gotten sick or died from smallpox. Washington called smallpox "the most dangerous enemy." He ordered mass inoculations of his troops, which caused smallpox rates to drop. Metropolitan Museum of Art
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George Washington named one of his dogs Cornwallis, after the British General Charles Cornwallis — whom Washington had defeated during the Revolutionary War.
Washington loved dogs, and they often had unusual names. Others were called were "Madam Moose" and "Sweetlips."
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George Washington never had any biological children. This is possibly because he was infertile. His wife, Martha, had two children of her own during her previous marriage.
But Washington happily raised Martha's children and considered some of the young men he met, like the Marquis de Lafayette, as surrogate sons. Public Domain
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Of the 16 battles George Washington fought during the Revolutionary War, he won just six of them. The rest he lost, or were decided as draws. Metropolitan Museum of Art
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George Washington did not wear a wig, which was in fashion at the time. Instead, he had his hair gathered, fluffed, curled, and powdered white.
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Under all that powder, George Washington naturally had reddish-brown hair.
Mount Vernon Ladies Association
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Elected president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was the first one to sign the new U.S. Constitution — and probably was the first person to leave Philadelphia. He thought he'd be returning to his private life, but Alexander Hamilton and James Madison had other ideas. Wikimedia Commons
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Although he never lived in Washington D.C., George Washington did take the — literal — first step in building the U.S. Capitol Building. On Sept. 18, 1793, he lay the first stone for its construction.Wikimedia Commons
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George Washington was rich in land, but poor in cash. "My estate for the last 11 years have not been able to make both ends meet," he complained in 1787. Washington even had to borrow money to attend his first inauguration in New York. Wikimedia Commons
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In retirement, George Washington was convinced by his Scottish plantation manager to start making whiskey.
His distillery became one of the biggest in the country. Today, Mount Vernon distills whiskey using Washington's 18th-century techniques. Wikimedia Commons
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The British, pictured here surrendering to American and French troops at the Battle of Yorktown (1781), consider George Washington one of their most formidable foes.
In a 2012 poll, Washington beat out Napoleon Bonaparte as Britain's "greatest enemy commander." U.S. Capitol
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In his life, George Washington appeared impressively immune to death. He survived diphtheria, malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, dysentery, tonsillitis, pneumonia, and other ailments — plus fighting in war. Library of Congress
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When George Washington started feeling sick in December 1799, he thought it was just a cold. But he got worse and worse — to the point that doctors turned to bloodletting. They bled nearly a third of his blood — five pints — in their attempt to save him.
George Washington died on Dec. 14, 1799. His last words were likely, "Tis well."Wikimedia Commons
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As George Washington neared death he instructed those around him to make sure that he was actually dead. "Do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead."
He was eventually laid to rest in a tomb at Mount Vernon — although Congress tried for a while to move his body to the US Capitol. Flickr
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By the time George Washington died in 1799, he had over 300 slaves at Mount Vernon. He promised them freedom — but with two big caveats.
First, Washington's will stated that his slaves would not be freed until his wife Martha died. Secondly, it said nothing about the slaves that belonged to her (more than half of them).
Martha Washington freed her late husband's slaves a year later — more because she was worried that they'd kill her than out of the goodness of her heart. But her slaves remained at Mount Vernon and were divided among her grandchildren when she died. Metropolitan Museum of Art
27 George Washington Facts That Paint America’s First President In A New Light
Every American knows George Washington was the first president, and many likely have heard that he "could not tell a lie." They have heard about a cherry tree, and likely his battlefield prowess. What many may not know, however, is that Washington was also a slave owner — and not a particularly repentant one.
These 27 George Washington facts give an astounding inside look into good, the bad, and the ugly truths behind the Founding Father.
Enduring Myths About George Washington
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 persisted for centuries.
One of the most common myths has to do with George Washington and a cherry tree. In this story, a young George Washington allegedly damaged one of his father's cherry trees. When was caught, he immediately admitted to what he had done, saying:
"I cannot tell a lie ... I did cut it with my hatchet."
As the story goes, his father proudly told 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 enduring "fun fact" about George Washington's teeth maintains that they were made of wood. However, the truth of Washington's dentures is far from fun.
Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 58: Fun Facts About Washington And Lincoln, also available on Apple and Spotify.
In reality, 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.
FlickrGeorge Washington did not use wood in his dentures, but instead teeth from other people, including his slaves.
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 Facts About George Washington Behind The Myths
Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Washington commanding the Continental Army.
Although myths about America's first president have endured, the true facts about George Washington are fascinating in their own right.
For starters, 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 beat out the likes of Napoleon in a poll that asked Brits to rank their "greatest enemy commander."
Still, Washington actually won only six of the 16 battles he fought during the Revolutionary War, with the rest either lost or called as draws.
As for the best fun facts about George Washington? He may be remembered 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 defeated in battle.
Washington was also an excellent dancer. He once danced with a general's wife for three hours without sitting down.
Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 44: The Secret Lives of Presidents, also available on Apple and Spotify.
"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 President Washington's Storied Life
Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Washington's legacy is tied to his ownership of slaves.
Although the facts about George Washington 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 might try to kill her, knowing her death would mean their freedom.
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.
The facts about George Washington 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.
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.