Posts Tagged "george washington"

Bet You Don’t Know This About the Father of Our Country

Dear Kid,

He’s the Father of Our Country, the man with the cherry tree fetish, and on February 4, 1789, all 69 members of Congress cast their ballots to elect George Washington the first president of these United States.

George Washington

Perhaps not the most flattering angle…

Which clearly means we should discuss G.W. himself.

Not the stuff you learned in grade school, because you learned that already.

And not the stuff you learned in high school, because you’ve forgotten that already and why bring it up again?

No, I’m talking about the interesting stuff.

For example: Unlike many others at the time, G.W. did not wear a wig; he powdered his hair. Lots of people did that. Thank heavens we just poison ourselves with hairspray now and leave the talc in the past.

George’s favorite breakfast (the most important meal of the day) was hoecakes. Cornmeal pancakes that could be fried on the back of a hoe. No, I have no plans to try the farm implement style of cooking any time soon. He was also partial to cream of peanut soup, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut, and string beans with mushrooms.

All those veggies did not make him a healthy puppy. He suffered from diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, dysentery, malaria, tonsillitis, carbuncle, pneumonia, (and for all I know carsickness). Not only was he sick a good amount of the time, he had crazy dental problems (go floss). He had false teeth (you knew that) but they were not made of wood (cherry or otherwise). They were made of gold, ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth. Lovely.

G.W. raised and bred hunting dogs and he loved those pups. He treated them like family (duh) and gave them names like Drunkard, True Love, Sweet Lips, and Tipsy.

Did I mention he owned a distillery? He made rye whiskey, apple brandy, and peach whiskey. And he made a lot of it. The whiskey was more like moonshine, but he had a license and paid taxes so he was a legal distiller.

While George started school when he was six, he had to drop out when he was 15 because of family financial issues. He was mostly self-taught and was so good at mathematics that he became a paid surveyor at 16 years old. NOTE: Unless you plan to become a general and then the first president of our country, you need more education than that.

Washington wrote more than 20,000 letters. Think about how much effort you put into a small thank you note and you’ll begin to realize the magnitude of his writing.

George was big man, about 6’2” and 200 pounds (you can do the conversion over to metric if you like). He was so strong he could crush a walnut between his thumb and forefinger and he was widely acknowledged as the best horseman in the 13 Colonies.

George may (or may not) have died from bloodletting when he was ill. That day they took 5 pints of blood (and if you think that seems like a lot, you’re quite correct). Washington wanted to be buried at Mount Vernon (and he was) despite the hullabaloo from Congress (they wanted to bury him under a statue in the Capitol.

George lost more battle than he won, but was considered a Most Excellent General partly because of his ability to hold a not-so-well-to-do army together for so long. In 1976, George Washington was named General of the Armies of the United States, a rank so high no one in the US will ever outrank him. Makes you wonder who gets the coffee in heaven.

And about the cherry tree? That story was made up after George was dead.

Now you know.

Love, Mom

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What You Don’t Know About G. W. Himself and the Washington Monument

Washington MonumentDear Kid,

I’m guessing that since you are spending your time on collegiate pursuits like studying (maybe?), going to basketball games, playing flag football, and sleeping, you have not had sufficient time to contemplate the Washington Monument.

Not to worry. I am here—as usual—to rectify the situation.

Are you familiar with the military term BLUF? It’s a concept I learned many millennia ago, but didn’t know it had a cool military acronym until recently. BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front. In other words, tell me the point and then you can go back and fill in the details and if it’s absolutely necessary I may keep reading.

The point: On December 6, 1884, the Washington Monument was completed.

We now return to the Interesting Story.

Once upon a time (as I continue to believe all good stories should begin), there was a baby country in the throes of Revolution. There arose a Great Leader with Bad Teeth (G. W. himself) who led the country to military victory, became the first President of the new Republic, and earned the title “Father of Our Country.”

We The People thought this was quite terrific and decided there should be a statue of G. W. himself. Well, Congress decided but since Congress represents We The People….(excuse me while I giggle helplessly for a moment).

When Pierre L’Enfant laid out the new federal capital area (1791), he left a Spot for the statue. And because Congress was in charge, nothing happened.

Fast forward to 1832 (33 years after G. W. himself died) when the National Monument Society was formed. They held a contest to determine the design of the statue and chose a Greek-temple-ish design. Then they began to raise money. While they raised a fair amount (it was 1832 you’ll remember), the $230K they raised was nowhere near the $1 million they needed. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Because it was Washington, DC, they began construction anyway because why not? By the time they laid the cornerstone (a 24,500 pound block of pure white marble), it was 1848.

Six years later, they ran out of money and everything came to a grinding halt.

Then in 1876, 100 years after the country was founded), President Ulysses S Grant (who would later be found in Grant’s tomb) said WTF? and got things moving again.

Somewhere along the line the design went from Greek-temple-ish to big column of marble and on December 6, 1884, workers placed the 9 inch aluminum pyramid at the top and called it a completed statute.

It looks exactly nothing like G. W. himself, but is quite a nice tribute nonetheless.

The monument (to G. W. himself) is made of 36,000 blocks of marble and granite and towers 555 feet high. This is taller than I am. There is a city law (passed in 1910) that says that no buildings in DC can be taller than the monument.

You may now return to your previously scheduled studying (I hope), going to basketball games, playing flag football, and sleeping.

Love, Mom

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Happy Birthday to George!

Dear Kid,

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw George Washington quote DearKidLoveMom.comHappy Washington’s Birthday.

Once upon a time when I was a child, we had school holidays for both Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays. Then the birthdays were smooshed together and we had Presidents’ Day off. Now kids just take off every day for cold weather.

Today is not officially Presidents’ Day because the officially renaming never happened (federally speaking, that is. Many states choose to call it Presidents’ Day).

I do not have any earrings commemorating president’s day. You do not need to rectify that particular oversight.

The United States has been celebrating Washington’s birthday pretty much as long as the United States has been around. GW himself lost interest after he died, but the country kept celebrating and in 1885 George’s birthday became a federal holiday.

On February 22nd of almost every year since 1888, Washington’s Farewell Address has been read in the US Senate. This is partly because it’s nice for GW’s ghost to hear his words and partly because what he had to say Back Then is a good reminder in the Here and Now. The MomNotes version of the speech: be careful of political factionalism, watch out for geographical sectionalism, keep other countries out of our internal affairs, national unity is critical, and never tell a lie.

GW-ConstitutionIn 1971, lawmakers wearing bell bottom leisure suits created the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved holidays like Columbus Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day to a Monday so that department stores could spend lots of money advertising big sales and so that workers would have more three day weekends. (This only works if you have national holidays off from work.)

These days we celebrate G’s birthday with big sales and cherry pie. Which, while not reverent, may not be the worst birthday celebration I can think of.

Happy three day weekend.

Love, Mom


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