This week is Presidents Day, when we celebrate our great country in which we have all the freedoms we can want — most importantly, the freedom to practice our religion until we’re perfect at it.
Unfortunately, no one really knows how to celebrate Presidents Day. No one says, “Yeah, we’ll be spending Presidents Day with my in-laws this year. I don’t love their minhagim, but my wife pointed out that we spent Groundhog Day with my parents, so … At least I don’t have to decorate.”
So I think that maybe we should celebrate by brushing up on our presidential facts. My plan is to cover one president per year until I run out of presidents or until this country hurtles into the sun, whichever comes first.
But we’re going to start with one of the only presidents most people can name, aside from Abraham Lincoln and our current president, Whatshisname.
- George Washington was a man of many talents — president, general, honest politician, woodcutter, and I think he built a bridge between New York and New Jersey for some reason, which — wouldn’t you believe it? — is currently for sale.
- George Washington ran for president under the slogan “Make America.”
- He also ran uncontested, largely because nobody else wanted to go first.
- When George Washington was elected president, he set up the nation’s first capital in New York City, because it creeped him out to live in a place called Washington.
- Eventually, he decided to move the capital out of New York City, because of traffic. He spent so much time sitting still on the GW that they decided to name it after him.
- For a while there, in an attempt to avoid bridge traffic, he just moved to Washington Heights, after which he was somehow always on time to work. It must be something about Washington Heights.
- George Washington’s stretch limo was actually just an abnormally long horse. Which had problems doing corners. He sat in the very back. The secret-service guys would jog alongside the horse, and if somebody wanted to shoot George Washington, the bullet would hit one of them instead, because guns back then had terrible aim. That’s why everyone was allowed to bear them.
- In George Washington’s days, there were no news broadcasts. He found out most of his news from his sheitel macher.
- Actually, George Washington did not wear a wig. He just powdered his actual hair to look like one, for some reason. (As opposed to presidents who wear wigs that are meant to look like real hair.) Whenever he sneezed, he powdered the whole room.
- That said, George Washington was our first president who had a ponytail. Come to think of it, I could do this “first” thing a lot and fill the whole article.
- George Washington was our first president to wear pants.
- He was also our first non-Jewish president. Ever.
- George Washington was a friend of the Jews, but not all the Jews. There were some Jews he didn’t even know. Even I’m not a friend of all the Jews.
- The color of George Washington’s white horse was brown. Like his teeth.
- Actually, George Washington’s two most famous horses were named Blueskin and Nelson. Blueskin was a gray horse, somehow, and was Washington’s favorite, except that it panicked when people started shooting. So in battle, he would more often ride Nelson, who was brown and not scared of gunfire, which might have said something about his intelligence. There’s bravery, and there’s not seeking cover when people start shooting even though you were not issued a gun. Nelson was given to him by Thomas Nelson of Virginia, a fellow founding father who probably would not have done so if he’d known that Washington would name the horse after him.
- Although Washington was against the British, he felt that the Boston Tea Party was a juvenile act of vandalism, and that, quote, “Somebody owes somebody some tea.”
- Despite numerous requests by the British to hold more of the Revolutionary War battles closer to where they lived, Washington would not give in, on the grounds that his horse could not swim. He wouldn’t even agree to meet at a halfway point in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Over the course of his battles, George Washington had two horses shot out from beneath him. But he needed height to see what was going on in the battle, and stilts were not really an option.
- His coat was also pierced by musket balls on four separate occasions, giving him the draftiest coat at Valley Forge.
- Washington and his troops had no supplies through much of the war, because the local farmers chose to sell their goods to the British, who were paying with silver, as opposed to the colonists, who were paying with misshapen paper colonial money that was not only devalued, but its slogan, instead of “In G-d we trust” was “Mind your business.” I am not making this up.
- Everyone knows that George Washington crossed the Delaware, but what everyone doesn’t know is that he crossed a lot of other rivers, too. He just didn’t always stop to be painted.
- It took them three weeks to pose for that boat painting, during which several of his boat-mates froze in that position.
- In the famous Delaware painting, George Washington was wearing his pants tucked into his socks because there was water at the bottom of the boat.
- The reason he’s standing in the painting is that there aren’t enough seats. That was the only boat they could rent on short notice in the middle of the night.
- Known as the father of our country, George was the first child born to Mary Ball Washington, the grandmother of our country.
- When he was six, George confessed to chopping down a cherry tree, which we have chosen to use as a story about telling lies instead of a story about letting six-year-olds play with hatchets.
- Washington’s father died when George was 11. His cause of death is uncertain, but I would not rule out falling trees.
- According to historians, the story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree and then saying, “I cannot tell a lie” is a lie. Despite this being personally witnessed by Shnooky Shapiro in a dream.
- Washington inherited the famous Mount Vernon Estate from his brother, Larry Washington, the weird uncle of our country.
- Washington was also a general on the British side of the French and Indian War, even though, as far as we can tell, there was no British side. He lost a lot of battles, and was fired and subsequently rehired by the colonists. During that war, he also sparked the shot that set off the Seven Years’ War, which lasted seven years, because rules are rules.
- George Washington’s “cannot tell a lie” business would get him into a lot of shalom bayis issues, which is why he chose to spend so much time on the road.
- After the war, Washington fully expected to retire to Mount Vernon, before he was convinced to attend the First Continental Congress by Thomas Jefferson. There’s nothing like spending years in exciting battles only to then go home and spend the rest of your days arguing about taxes with your stupid friends.
- George Washington had a plantation in which he mainly grew wheat and tobacco. And yes, the tobacco stained his teeth, but then he’d just buy new ones.
- Over his lifetime, Washington had over 30 dogs. In case you wonder how he went through so many, the dogs’ names that we have on record are Drunkard, Taster, and Tipsy.
- Another true fact that may be related was that he made his own whiskey.
- George was also one of the most successful liquor salesmen of the new nation, which might explain why everyone kept electing him.
- George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood. That’s gross. They were made of his own teeth that had fallen out, some animal teeth, and some human teeth that he’d paid people for. Don’t be disgusting.
- The Washington monument looks nothing like George Washington.
- The average American can name approximately the same number of presidents as George Washington could.
- Washington died in December of 1799 when he came down with something after refusing to change out of his wet clothes. When he took ill, several doctors were brought in, and the general consensus was to try bloodletting. They let out about five pints (80 ounces) of his blood that day, but, weirdly, it didn’t help.
- Doctors were not the best back then. Before he died, Washington requested that he not be buried for three days after his death, just in case.
- George Washington borrowed a book from the New York Library in 1789 that was returned in 2010. His overdue fines would theoretically amount to $300,000. The book was called “The Law of Nations,” which is colonial for “Presidenting for Dummies.”
- George Washington did not have any kids, so he could not pass the dynasty down to his son. Instead, as is the case when this happens with a Rebbe, his chassidim have been fighting about it for generations.
- Everybody liked George Washington as president, possibly because they had no previous presidents to compare him to. He might have also been good, but we’ll never really know.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.