We have the best job: We’re constantly scouring the land for cool places for our scavenger hunts and fascinating facts for hunters to uncover. Recently we visited George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia, to update our hunt there for a corporate group that needed a team building activity in the Washington, D.C., area. Here are five surprising facts about the Father of Our Country we discovered along the way.
1. The Loneliest Tooth
Contrary to legend, Washington did not have wooden false teeth. The dentures on display at Mount Vernon were made with a lead base and fitted with cow and human teeth, elephant ivory, brass, and steel. He actually practiced excellent dental hygiene: At the age of 23, for instance, he purchased the first of dozens of toothbrushes, along with tooth powders and pastes. And yet by the time of his inauguration as president in 1789 he had just one tooth left. At that time he received a set of dentures featuring human teeth and hippo ivory. Remember that the next time you see George on a dollar bill.
2. A Toast to Washington’s Pickled Supporters
Washington knew politics before his name became synonymous with politics. In 1758, when he campaigned for a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses, he followed the custom of the day and picked up the tab on more than 150 gallons of liquor imbibed by potential voters. He won, with 307 votes.
3. A River of Whiskey Ran Through It
In 1797 Washington created a distillery on his property, at the suggestion of his farm manager, who conveniently was a trained distiller from Scotland. At the peak of production, the facility produced more than 11,000 gallons of whiskey.
4. A Close Call for POTUS
When Washington became president, alternate titles suggested for his position included “His Exalted High Mightiness” and “His Highness the President of the United States of American and Protector of Their Liberties.” Good thing: HEHM and HHTPOTUSOAAPOTL don’t have quite the ring of POTUS.
5. The Midas of Manure
Mount Vernon included a “dung repository,” the first known structure in the U.S. devoted to composting. Washington wrote that he considered a knowledgeable farmer to be one who, “Midas like…can convert everything he touches into manure, as the first transmutation towards gold.” Fortunately this version was not adapted into any children’s books.