George Washington with Ham

George Washington with Ham

1st PRESIDENT

NAME: George Washington. He was probably named after George Eskridge, a lawyer in whose charge Washington’s mother had been left when she was orphaned.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Washington was a large powerful man – about 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds in his prime, up to more than 200 pounds in later years. Erect in bearing, muscular, broad shouldered, he had large hands and feet (size 13 shoes), a long face with high cheek bones, a large straight nose, determined chin, blue-gray eyes beneath heavy brows and dark brown hair, which on formal occasions he powdered and tied in a queue. His fair complexion bore the marks of small pox he contracted as a young man. He lost his teeth, probably to gum disease, and wore dentures. According to Dr. Reidear Sognnaes, former dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry, who has made a detailed study of Washington’s bridgework, he was fitted with numerous sets of dentures, fashioned variously from lead, ivory, and the teeth of humans, cows, and other animals, but not from wood, as was popularly believed. Moreover, he was not completely toothless. Upon his inauguration as president, Washington had one of his own teeth left to work alongside the dentures. He began wearing reading glasses during the Revolution. He dressed fashionably.

PERSONALITY: A man of quiet strength, he took few friends into complete confidence. His critics mistook his dignified reserve for pomposity. Life for Washington was a serious mission, a job to be tackled soberly, unremittingly. He had little time for humor. Although basically good natured, he wrestled with his temper and sometimes lost. He was a poor speaker and could become utterly inarticulate without a prepared text. He preferred to express himself on paper. Still, when he did speak, he was candid, direct, and looked people squarely in the eye. Biographer Douglas Southall Freeman conceded that Washington’s “ambition for wealth made him acquisitive and sometimes contentious.” Even after Washington had established himself, Freeman pointed out, “he would insist upon the exact payment of every farthing due him” and was determined “to get everything that he honestly could.” Yet, neither his ambition to succeed nor his acquisitive nature ever threatened his basic integrity.

SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

George Washington with Ham

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