Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wooden Washington


One of the more common things I hear when people start talking about myths and George Washington is that they know that Washington didn't actually chop down a cherry tree, and then they  go on to inform me that Washington did have wooden teeth -- occasionally with the elaboration that the teeth were made from cherry wood, and thus the origin of the tree chopping myth. 

So did George Washington have wooden teeth, cherry or otherwise? 


George Washington started losing his teeth when he was only 19. I guess it's just proof that you can't have everything -- height (he was just a tad over 6' 3" {191cm}) [*], being unanimously voted in as President (twice), and an attractive wife [**] -- I suppose having all his own teeth would have just been too much of a good thing. By the time he became President, he only had one natural tooth left. [***]

However, while Washington had false teeth, he never had false teeth made of wood as far as we know. Instead they were made from things like hippopotamus ivory and elephant ivory. [****] We know of four pairs of dentures that were his, and all of them were made from metals like gold and lead, and with ivory teeth or real teeth from humans or animals.[*****]

And instead of looking like the dentures at the top, they looked like this:


They looked exactly like those -- because those are three of the four pairs of dentures that we know about.

So while there were wood dentures, George Washington didn't use them. The ones he used were a lot more intimidating looking. 

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