WILL THE REAL GEORGE WASHINGTON
PLEASE STAND UP?
There are some myths about George Washington that have never been believed. He never threw a coin across the Potomac River. The river, south of present day D.C., is anywhere from a several hundred yards to a several miles across. Many of the myths about him came from the writings of Mason Weems, author of “The Life of George Washington,” including his chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Weems later confessed that he made up parts of his book.
So what aspects of his real life are true? George Washington was a big man. He was at least six feet tall and weighed over 200 lbs. He was what we call “big-boned” with large hands. He is usually depicted wearing a white powdered wig but his hair was actually reddish-brown. His eyes were blue.
His birthday is February 11th of 1732, not February 22nd as usually believed because the Julian calendar was still in use at the time. He grew up on a farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of Augustus and Mary Washington. Augustus died when George was eleven years old. His mother was a demanding and contentious person. Unable to get along with her George, at sixteen, went to live with his half-brother Lawrence. He travelled with Lawrence to the Caribbean where he contracted smallpox. This left George’s face scarred for the rest of his life.
At 29, he married Martha Dandridge Custis, a very wealthy widow. They had no children of their own, but Martha had two children from her prior marriage (she also had an illegitimate step sister who was a slave).