George Washington is perhaps one of the most influential figures in US history. He was appointed as the Commanding General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and he served as the first president of the United States. You may think you are familiar with the life of this Founding Father, but how much do you really know about him? In this article, we are going to look at 10 interesting facts that you may not know about the first president of the United States.
1. Washington was mostly self-taught.
The first president of the United States was a decently educated man. Shortly after the death of his father in 1743, when Washington was just 11 years old, his formal education too came to an end. Nevertheless, Washington had a sincere interest in learning, which would lead him to read and learn hoping to become a more educated man all throughout his life.
2. Washington was first a surveyor.
Before any military career, George Washington first became a surveyor for the frontier county of Culpeper in Virginia. At the age of 16, Washington had acquired sufficient skills in land surveying after participating on an expedition with William Fairfax, his older brother’s father-in-law. Washington later received a surveying license from the College of William and Mary and would be appointed to Culpeper by Fairfax.
3. Washington fell in love with the wife of one of his best friends.
Washington had become a recurring face within the Fairfax family. After the death of his father, William Fairfax became a fatherly figure to Washington, and his son, George, became one of Washington’s closest friends. George Fairfax’s wife, Sally, had introduced Washington to the wealthy and powerful world of the elite, guiding him through all the nuisances. Washington would fall and eventually reveal his love to Sally, although he would go on to marry his fianceé, Martha Custis. It is not known whether Washington and Sally Fairfax had any romantic relationship.
4. Washington had an interesting relationship with religion.
The man responsible for the famous ending phrase of the presidential oath, “So help me God”, had a complicated yet interesting relationship with religion. A reserved man, Washington rarely addressed his religious views on any writings. Although he is noted for having referenced “Providence” multiple times, Washington rarely made any reference to “God”, compared to other of his Founding Father counterparts. A vestryman and churchwarden, Washington frequented religious services of different denominations but is noted for leaving said services before communion.
5. Washington is the only U.S. president to have fought while in office.
The General of the Armies of the United States is also the only president to have served in the military while holding office. His military duties came into action when in 1794, Washington led the militia on a month-long march to the town of Bedford. This relatively trivial fact is a reminder of the number of U.S. presidents who have served in the military but never really commanded the troops in the field while being the Commander in Chief.
6. Washington could have been called “Your Most Benign Highness”.
A new country comes with new offices and naturally, new titles. The newly created United States had concluded that a president would be the best type of leadership for the executive power. But how should the president be addressed? Vice President John Adams suggested exalted names such as “Highness” and “Most Benign Highness”, and while some senators found it reasonable, others found it ridiculous. Washington ended up consenting with James Madison’s demand on altering the title to a more simple “Mr. President”, which remains to this day as the official manner of address.
7. Washington did not have biological children.
Washington married Martha Custis on January 6, 1759. Custis had been married to Daniel Parke Custis, with whom she had two children, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis. After Daniel Custis’ death, the widowed Martha Custis quickly became courted by multiple militia officers, including George Washington, who eventually succeeded. Together they raised Martha’s children from her previous marriage. It is rumored that both Washington and his wife were unable to have children, as Washington may have had trouble after having contracted smallpox and Martha having had similar trouble after measles.
8. Washington loved his dogs.
The Commander in Chief would also enjoy commanding his many hunting dogs. He is known to have bred many hunting hounds and keeping some 30 dogs. Washington is considered to be the “Father of the American Foxhound”, a dog breed resulting from Washington’s constant breeding hobby. In addition to loving his dogs, Washington enjoyed a life full with many other animals, some of which he was also dedicated to breeding.
9. Washington did not have wooden teeth.
No, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. A fact that may seem to be common knowledge is in reality not true. Washington’s denture was mostly made out of ivory, brass, and even human teeth pulled from the poor and others from those enslaved to Washington. All throughout his life, Washington suffered from teeth problems, going as far as having only one tooth left during his inauguration.
10. Washington was a sick man.
Up until the moment of his death, Washington had always been a very sick man, having probably suffered from all kinds of ailments, including but not limited to tuberculosis, dysentery, and the aforementioned smallpox. Washington would develop epiglottitis in his final days, for which he would be treated with what was then a common procedure, bloodletting. It is unknown to what extent did the bloodletting affect Washington, nevertheless, he would not survive past it.