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Dale’s Daily Data: George Washington

(Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

We always recognize George Washington’s birthday as February 22nd, but he was actually born on February 11th, 1731.  The confusion is because when he was born Great Britain and the colonies used the Julian Calendar.  It wasn’t until 1752 when Britain went to the Gregorian Calendar with the new year starting on January 1st that his birthdate was adjusted. 

 He was pretty sickly during his life – suffering from malaria, smallpox, pleurisy and dysentery all before he was 30.  He almost drowned twice when he fell into an icy river on his way back from an expedition to the French Fort le Boeuf in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The story of how he cut down a cherry tree with his new axe never happened.  It was made up by a biographer years after he died.

Washington was a slave owner and when the national capital was moved from New York to Philadelphia he brought with him Hercules – his favorite cook.  But according to Pennsylvania slavery law, slaves would become free after staying in the state for six months.  But Washington was able to circumvent that law by sending Hercules back to Mount Vernon just before he reached the six month mark, then after a couple of weeks would call him back down.  That went on for awhile until Hercules caught on, disappeared and never came back.  In Washington’s will – he granted freedom to all of the 124 slaves he owned.  He was the only slave-owning president to do it. 

Washington was the only American President who never attended college. 

His inaugural speech is the shortest in American History.  It was only133 words long.

SOURCE: George Washington University History Department

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