Saturday will mark the anniversary of George Washington’s birth. He was born 288 years ago, on Feb. 22, 1732 – sort of, anyway.
Washington was actually born on Feb. 11, 1731. When he was born, England and its colonies followed the Julian calendar, which was instituted in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar. By that calendar, Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731. In 1752, England switched to the Gregorian calendar, which is still used today. It’s according to that calendar that he was born Feb. 22, 1732, which is the date that most people know as Washington’s birthday.
Here are some other fun, interesting facts about the country’s first president and the man called “The Father of Our Country”:
• Washington lost his first tooth in his 20s, and by the time he was in his 50s, he had lost of all of his teeth. His dentures were not made of wood. They were actually made of a variety of other materials, including ivory, tin, copper, silver and even human, cow and horse teeth.
• Washington didn’t have a middle name. It wasn’t common practice until the 19th century, and, in fact, only five of the first 20 presidents have a middle name.
• Believe it or not, Washington’s hair was real. Unlike many of his time, he didn’t wear a wig, but he did liberally powder his hair to make it white. And that perfectly-coiffed hairstyle? It was actually a style favored by military officers, and it required quite a bit of work to put together. He had to pull his hair into a perfect ponytail and fluff those side curls.
• Although several universities and other educational institutions bear his name, Washington did not attend college. He is the only major founding father without a college education. He left school at the age of 15 because his family could not afford his college education. As a result, he was self-taught in many fields.
• Washington led troops in numerous military engagements, but despite commanding several well-known victories, Washington lost more battles than he won during the Revolutionary War. In the French and Indian War, Washington had two horses shot out from under him and received four bullet holes in his coat as well as one in his hat. This perceived immunity to bullets led one Indian chief to remark that some higher power must be guiding his life.
• The only president to unanimously receive all electoral votes, Washington never actually ran for president. Instead, he was drafted by popular demand. This feat was accomplished for both his terms. He refused to accept a salary as president and even spent some of his own money to pay the salaries of cabinet ministers and other members of the executive branch.
• Washington added the phrase, “So help me God,” to the end of the Presidential Oath of Office during his inauguration, and it has been delivered in that manner ever since. It was also his idea to the call the chief executive “Mr. President.”
• Only Washington and Abraham Lincoln are featured on both a U.S. coin and bill currently in circulation. While a likeness of Lincoln adorns the penny and $5 bill, Washington is honored with the quarter and the $1 bill. Washington was also featured on the country’s first postage stamps.
• One of the myths associated with Washington, that he chopped down the cherry tree, traces back to a biography written shortly after his death. The book’s author, Parson Weems, told several tall tales. True or not, the story of the cherry tree has led to the tradition of celebrating Washington’s birth with cherry pie instead of cake.