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True/False Game on George Washington


Today's Snack: Since one of the best-loved stories about George Washington had to do with cherries, let's make a snack with cherries when we celebrate Washington's birthday, Feb. 22.

Note that the cherry tree story ("I cannot tell a lie") was made up about Washington by a biographer, after Washington's death, to teach children about Washington's honesty. It was included in the McGuffey Readers, which were books that were used to teach children to read for decades in America.

Well, Washington really WAS honest - but apparently, he never chopped down a cherry tree in his childhood. But let's enjoy a snack in his memory, anyway:


Cherry Salad

1 can cherry pie filling

1 lg. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 C. pecans

1 C. mini marshmallows

C. sugar

3 bananas


Mix all but bananas. Let stand in the refrigerator. Before serving, cut up three bananas into the bowl and gently stir. Serves 6-8.



New toothbrush

Silver dollar

Baby powder

Covered elastic hairband

Crushed chocolate wafers in a small cup

14 mini marshmallows in a small cup

Mini diploma: roll up a dollar bill in a small piece of white paper

and tie with a ribbon

Zip-lock bag of crisp cut-up vegetables

Small sack of peanuts

Small sack of mini marshmallows



Let's bust some myths about the Father of Our Country. He was our general in the Revolutionary War that freed us from Great Britain, and he was our First President . . . George Washington. He was born on Feb. 22, 1732, and lived until 1799.



Let's take a quiz about him. Select one student to ask the questions. The others should compete to be first to raise a hand with the right answer, true or false. The winners get the prizes listed below each question.


These are from historians at President Washington's home and museum, Mount Vernon, our nation's most-visited historic site, which is in Virginia a few miles outside Washington, D.C.:



1. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington had wooden teeth. 


FALSE. He had false teeth, but they were not made of wood. As a matter of fact, the materials used in his false teeth were probably more uncomfortable than wood. In one set of teeth, his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, used a cow's tooth, one of Washington's teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs. They fit poorly and distorted the shape of his mouth.


(For the winner, a new toothbrush!)



2. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River.

FALSE. This myth is often told to demonstrate his strength. The Potomac River is over a mile wide. Even George Washington was not that good an athlete! Moreover, there were no silver dollars when Washington was a young man. His step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, reported in his memoirs that Washington once threw a piece of slate "about the size and shape of a dollar" across the Rappahanock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Rappahannock River at the site of the Washington family homestead today measures only 250 feet across, a substantial but perhaps not impossible distance to throw.


(For the winner, a silver dollar!)



3. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington didn't wear a wig, though it looks like it in the paintings of him.


TRUE. Even though wigs were fashionable, Washington kept his own hair, which he wore long and tied back in a queue, or ponytail. He did, however, powder his hair as was the custom of the time.


(For the winner: sprinkle baby powder on the winner's hair and tie with a covered elastic band if it's long enough for a "queue," or ponytail)



4. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington is buried under the U.S. Capitol building.


FALSE. Congress built a burial vault under the Capitol building, planning to bury George Washington there. But in his will, Washington specified that he wished to be buried at Mount Vernon. His heirs honored his wish, and the vault at the U.S. Capitol remains empty to this day.


(For the winner: a small cup of crushed chocolate wafer, representing dirt, but a lot tastier!)



5. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington had seven sons and seven daughters.


FALSE. George Washington had no children of his own, although he did help raise two of his wife Martha's children from her first marriage, and two of her grandchildren, at Mount Vernon.


(For the winner: 14 mini marshmallows!)



6. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington graduated from Harvard University.


FALSE. He did not attend college. The death of his father ended Washington's formal schooling. However, he believed strongly in formal education. In his will, he left money and/or stocks to support three educational institutions.


(For the winner: the mini-diploma with the dollar inside - showing George Washington's face)



7. TRUE OR FALSE: Besides being a general and our first president, George Washington was a farmer.


TRUE. Washington, who believed that America should become a "granary to the world," sought to improve many aspects of farming. His advanced crop rotations, use of fertilizers, experimentation with crops, and innovative farm equipment made him one of the "pioneers" of modern agriculture.


(For the winner: a zip-lock bag of crisp vegetables)



8. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington realized slavery was wrong, long before most American plantation owners did, and he freed his slaves.


TRUE. Washington's attitude toward slavery gradually changed as he grew older and especially as he fought for liberty in the American Revolution. Almost every landowner had slaves back in those days, but Washington was one of the first to realize it was very wrong. In his will, he freed those slaves belonging to him (about 124) and his estate paid for the care of former Mount Vernon slaves for decades after his death. At least nine early presidents owned slaves, but only one -- Washington -- freed all of his slaves.


(for the winner: a small sack of peanuts, since slavery is NUTS!)



9. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington only got 60 votes in the first presidential election.


TRUE. At that time, there was no popular vote for president. The president was elected only by the votes of the electoral college, which was made up of representatives from each state. The 69 votes Washington received, however, represented one vote from each elector -- thereby making George Washington the only president in history to have been unanimously elected.


(for the winner: a small sack containing 69 sunflower seed kernels)



10. TRUE OR FALSE: George Washington lived in the White House.


FALSE. George Washington was the only U.S. President who did not live in the White House, which was not completed until after his death. During his two terms as president, the capital of the United States was located in New York and, later, in Philadelphia. George Washington played a large role, however, in the development of the new Federal City named after him - Washington, D.C. -- and in overseeing the design of both the Capitol Building and the White House.


(For the winner: a small sack of mini marshmallows to build into mini columns like the ones on the front of the White House, and then eat!)





Let's get to know our first President a little better:


He grew up on a farm in Virginia. In those days, the United States wasn't a separate country. It was a "colony" owned by England.


George loved to ride his pony, Whitefoot. He even rode his pony to school, which was in a little cabin on his own farm.



Young George Washington . . .

painting by the artist Dick Smolinski



He learned about horses and farming from his father and his brothers. He was the best rider anyone knew.


When he was 11, his father died. From then on, he often stayed at Mount Vernon, which was the home of his brother Lawrence. George was tall, strong and good-looking. Lawrence and his friends treated George like a man.


When he was about 15, he decided to become a surveyor, like his father had been. To "survey" means to look at something in detail. A surveyor measures land, so that when people buy land and farms, they will know exactly where the property begins and ends. George got a job working with a surveyor, making maps for him.


He got to go out into the wilderness and camp, loved to tell stories about his experiences, and learned surveying very well. By age 17, he had passed the surveying exam, and was working full-time.


The more he went around surveying his country, the more he loved it. So he decided to serve his country in the army. By age 21, he was already a major. He was still a surveyor, too, and took a lot of long trips into the wilderness.


At about this time, the army from France was building a big fort near Lake Erie, very far away, and the English leaders were mad about that. They thought it mean that France would try to take away their colonies, too. So George offered to travel all the way to the new big fort and delivered a message from England, that the French shouldn't build a fort there. He was very brave.


Soon thereafter, war broke out between the French and the British. It took seven years. The British won, and took Canada away from the French. George fought in the war and by the time it was oven, he was a colonel. He had become the main leader of Virginia.


By that time, his older brother had died, so he owned Mount Vernon. He added on to it and got married to Martha Custis. She had been married before and had two children, so it was a blended family.


He was a very good farmer and got very rich. But he continued to serve Virginia, helping to make laws for the colony.


Pretty soon, the American Revolution began. People didn't want England to own the United States any more. They didn't want to pay taxes to England, and wanted to buy and sell things wherever they wanted to, not just in England. So they decided to go to war to win their freedom.


They chose George Washington as their general.


He had to make an army out of basically farm boys. He had to train them in how to shoot and fight, and get enough food, clothing and guns for them.


During one winter at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, the soldiers were sick and hungry. Many of them had no shoes. That was probably the low point of the war. But George Washington stuck with his troops, and encouraged them.


Even though it took eight years, and they lost a lot of battles, in the end, the American soldiers won. A lot of people think it was because of the great leadership of their general, George Washington.


Not long thereafter, he was elected the first president of the United States of America.


He rode his horse all the way to the capital, which was then in New York City, and in every town people waved flags and cheered for him. They threw flowers beneath his horse's feet. They really loved him.


It was the first time in world history that a government would be run by ordinary people, like George Washington, and not by a king or queen. It was very hard, and some Americans wanted to make George a king instead of an elected President, but he insisted that America should be governed by regular people and not get into royalty like so many other countries had.


Everyone loved him so much that this was what they often said about him:


"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."


After he served as President for eight years, he was very happy to go back to Mount Vernon and farm until he died.


By Susan Darst Williams Americanism 09 2010




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