Debunking Three Myths About George Washington

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George Washington, our nation's first president is one of the most prominent figures in American history. For many Americans, he is known as the "Father of our Nation" because he became the greatest American legend involved in the freedom and development of our country in numerous ways: military hero, first president, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence, just to name a few. What happened to such men like Washington is that myths were created that enhanced fame and honor. However, most myths become such tall tales they become exaggerations or lies. Such is the case with three of the most popular myths about Washington's life.
1. The Cherry Tree: Young George Washington used his new hatchet and chopped down his father's prized cherry tree. When his father found his tree had been cut down, he asked his son if he was the perpetrator. George said that he did indeed chop it down and his father embraced him as an act of forgiveness. This story is probably the most popular myth about Washington, but it is a fable. This tale originated in a book written by a minister named Mason Locke Weems, or "Parson" Weems who was an American author who wrote several biographies of historical figures. His most famous biography was The Life of Washington, written in 1800. Weems also wrote about other lesser-known myths about Washington. Most who read the book thought they were absurd.
2. False Teeth Made of Wood: Washington's false teeth were not made of wood. Our first president appeared to be cursed with chronic problems with his teeth most of his life. He wore dentures made of human, and probably cow and horse teeth, ivory, lead-tin alloy, copper alloy (perhaps brass), and silver alloy. So, it seems he wore just about every alternative type of element that could have been made into a tooth. At his home in Mount Vernon, visitors can see a display of his last set of dentures, apparently made of ivory. Interestingly, these dentures are the most prominently displayed items there.
3. The Silver Dollar Thrown Across the Potomac River: Did Washington throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? The width of the river runs from 1,300 feet to 11 miles. It is humanly impossible to throw a coin from one side to another. Also, the colonial government did not mint silver "dollars" until 1794. Before that date, the Spanish dollar, or "Piece of Eight" had circulated in the original colonies. Besides Washington was 67 years old when he died in 1799. So he would have been a fairly old man, at 63, when the first dollar was released.
Myths about famous men and women are invented to make their lives seem greater and more interesting than they already are. Whether myths begin as tales written in books, or are created among drunken men in taverns, it is unnecessary gossip. Washington was such a famous American figure, creating myths did little to enhance the deeds that made him such a legendary American hero. These three myths spread about him certainly pale in comparison to his enormous list of accomplishments.
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