George Washington’s Teeth

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Photo: GeorgeWashington’s Teeth at his Mount Vernon Estate

Knock on wood. America was lucky to have George Washington as its first Commander-in-Chief, and President. The most famous of the Founding Fathers to answer the Call to Arms, he was the only U.S. President elected unanimously in electoral votes. It also seems near unanimous that George Washington’s teeth were made of wood. They were not.

Let’s quickly take a bite out of history and some myths, shall we?

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Born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, he grew to stand 6-feet, two inches tall, and weigh 200 pounds. George was truly a big gun, a strong and imposing leader. Sadly, for him and the nation, George Washington’s teeth were not very strong. He suffered from debilitating dental problems his entire adult life. It might explain why cream of peanut soup, and mashed sweet potatoes with coconut, were among his favorite dishes.

George Washington’s teeth troubles were documented in his diary, and many letters written throughout his life. In 1756, at 24 years old, he paid a Doctor Watson five shillings to have a tooth removed. Washington’s records show numerous other payments for dentists, toothache medication, teeth scrapers, cleaning solutions, and more.  His writings regularly made reference to his lost teeth, aching teeth, painful gums, and poorly fitting dentures. (His wife Martha Washington also had dentures).

It is believed rumors spread about George Washington’s teeth being wooden because people noticed his dentures were stained. They possibly appeared to have a wooden complexion.

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George Washington’s teeth were actually made of parts from various materials other than wood. They included hippopotamus ivory, bone, brass screws, lead, gold metal wiring, and even human teeth. One of Washington’s entries shows he purchased 9 teeth from “Negroes” for 122 shillings. It is unknown what he did with them. But, the practice of buying teeth from slaves was common at the time for affluent Americans who had dental problems.

President George Washington’s Teeth

Check that. Make it tooth – as in singular. By the time he was inaugurated in 1789 as the first President of the United States, George Washington had only one tooth remaining. In 1796, that last tooth was pulled. In good spirit, George allowed his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, to keep it as a memento. The dentist wore the tooth in a small glass display hung from his watch chain.

President George Washington’s teeth may have been bothering him so much when he was re-elected, it could be the reason why his second inaugural speech lasted only two minutes. Historians have noted how George was very self-conscious about the appearance of his teeth, and the makeshift dentures greatly diminished his desire for public speaking, and ability to do so successfully.

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Notice how you never see this legendary Founding Father smiling. George Washington’s teeth were the reason. The paintings of him later in life show changes in the shape of his mouth and jaw. George Washington was well aware of this as his dental issues grew more severe. In a letter to Dr. Greenwood in 1797, he wrote about his dentures saying they were, “already too wide, and too projecting for the parts they rest upon; which causes both upper, and under lip to bulge out, as if swelled.”

The pain of George Washington’s teeth and the injustice he felt from the Great Britain, gave him more than enough reason to bear Arms against the British Army. You can’t help but wonder what further greatness would have been achieved if it weren’t for the constant troubles with George Washington’s teeth.

We cannot tell a lie. George probably would have loved the new AWC Inc. Founding Father patch.

Meet the Founding Fathers at 1787 Constitutional Convention

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Long before the 1787 Constitutional Convention, our Founding Fathers lived in fear. Most of them were educated and upper class affluent. This gave them good reason to be afraid of failure and losing it all. They were afraid of big brother Britain. They were afraid of being killed, and their loved ones being killed, too. Thank goodness for the one thing which scared them most of all.

Above all, our Founding Fathers were afraid of what life would be like if they chose NOT to join the American Revolution and fight for freedom, independence, and liberty. They were legendary examples of courage, bravery, and strength overcoming fear.

As they formed a new national government of “We The People,” America’s Founding Fathers were deathly afraid of centralized power. They’d been there and done that with Great Britain. They were united in the pledge they would never lower themselves to letting it happen again. They wisely created a system of checks and balances among three branches of government. It might be slow-moving and frustrating machine at times. Yet, it would serve as a safeguard against tyranny at all times.

The Founding Fathers put their lives and their livelihoods on the line for a chance to give life to the United States of America. By answering this Call to Arms, they didn’t set out to be immortal heroes. They simply stepped up to be leaders. Many of them did in fact hold positions of command in the Revolutionary War. Then, four-fifths of them did more public service as members of the Continental Congress.

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A total of 70 delegates were appointed to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Only 55 were able to attend. The most famous absentees included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and John Hancock.

Only 39 were in fact signers of the U.S. Constitution. 81-year old Benjamin Franklin was the eldest. He was in such poor physical condition he had to be carried into sessions in a chair. 26-year old Jonathan Dayton was the youngest.

George Washington and Robert Morris were among the wealthiest men in the colonies. Most of the Founding Fathers were very well off financially. Seven ended in or near bankruptcy.

About half of them were college graduates. Self-taught Benjamin Franklin was the exception. 35 were lawyers. 12 were owners or managers of plantations operated by slaves. There were also small farmers, physicians, ministers, a scientist, and university president.

Most were natives of the 13 original colonies. However, 8 Founding Fathers were actually born in other countries (England, Ireland, Scotland, and the West Indies).

Most of the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were in fact, fathers and husbands. Only four were bachelors. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was the most fertile Founding Father. He had 15 children by 2 different wives. At least eight others of his colonial colleagues were married more than once.

Despite their stress and commitments, America’s Founding Fathers as a group were surprisingly long-lived. Proof of the power of a purpose-driven life you might say. On average, they lived until the age of 67. That’s rather remarkable considering their lack of healthcare resources. (Even Obamacare might have looked good in those times).

William C. Houston of New Jersey was the first to go. He died of tuberculosis in 1788. William Samuel Johnson lived the longest. He died at 92. James Madison was the last remaining of the Founding Fathers when he passed away in 1836.

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There were two Founding Fathers who suffered fatalities by firearms. In 1802, 44-year old Richard Dobbs Spaight of North Carolina was on the wrong end of a gun with political rival, John Stanly, a Federalist. Then in 1804, the most famous American political duel took place. The trigger was Alexander Hamilton getting in the way of Aaron Burr for President of the United States, and Governor of New York. However, Burr won the ultimate upper hand after challenging Hamilton to a duel and taking his life at 47 years of age.

Have you seen the new Founding Father patch from AWC Inc.? It’s a little late for the 1787 Constitutional Convention. But it’s just in time for Father’s Day 2015.