Today is the 281st anniversary of President George Washington’s birthday.
To celebrate, the Papillion Area Historical Society will hold a birthday party for him at 1 p.m. Saturday at the historical Portal School, 242 Jefferson St. in Papillion.
A large Rembrandt Peale portrait of Washington will be unveiled.
Cherry pie will be served in lieu of birthday cake. The public is welcome with $4 admission. The cost for society members is $2.
Interesting choice, that cherry pie.
Many of us learned in school that Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree and, when confronted, young George replied: “Father, I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.”
There’s no historical record backing up this statement. Little is known about Washington’s life as a child.
Starting in the 1800s, biographers created stories about the Father of Our Country. These stories become legends, which is common with heroes.
One quote about honesty we know is from Washington is this one: “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.”
Here are some things about Washington’s younger life that historians have documented. From age 7-15, he was home schooled and studied with the local church sexton and a schoolmaster. Subjects were practical math, geography, Latin and the English classics.
Washington’s acquaintances with backwoods men and the plantation foreman taught him much of what he used the rest of his life. By his early teens, he had mastered growing tobacco, raising stock and surveying.
At 15, Washington finished his formal education and became a surveyor.
When he was 20, he inherited Mount Vernon, making him one of the largest landholders in Virginia. Washington added new land until Mount Vernon covered more than 8,000 acres.
At 26, he married Martha Dandridge Custis, a widow who had two living children, Jack and Patsy. Washington adopted his wife’s children but never fathered biological children.
The first president was the only one who never lived in the White House. The capital was in Philadelphia and New York City while Washington was president. He did help select the place for the new capital city and surveyed the area.
Washington, who began losing his teeth in his 20s, had one tooth when he was inaugurated president in 1789.
He was known to have worn four sets of dentures during his presidency. They were made by his favorite dentist, John Greenwood. The dentures were crafted from gold, ivory, lead, human teeth and animal teeth (horse and donkey teeth were common components).
The dentures had springs to help them open and bolts to hold them together.
Although Washington was born into a slave-owning family, he came to believe that this was inconsistent with the principles of the Revolutionary War. Washington’s will freed his own slaves, but, by law, he could not free those (or their descendants) whom his wife had brought to the marriage. The two groups had intermarried making emancipation of Washington’s slaves bittersweet.
Washington tried to set an example for others by freeing his slaves. He was the only slaveholder among the Founding Fathers to free his slaves.
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