Did you know that George Washington — military hero and founding father, our first president — had only one tooth in his mouth when he became president in 1789?

That’s true, more on that later.

Here’s how this is going to work. I will teach you this morning, a couple of things (myths, probably; legends, for sure) about history, both in art and politics, both American and European.

Hey! Sit down. If I can spend hours researching and cutting and pasting this stuff, you can sit there with egg on your robe and listen to me.

These are stories that I learned from old, wise men while eating lunch on loading docks, and in railroad cars, and from successful writers at lunch counters. I was young and malleable and appreciative.

First, about those dead men on iron horses. Sit down. I’ll get to POTUS George in a minute.

I’m sure you’re as confused as I am about the nationwide and random destruction of these metal statues of men (Joan of Arc spared), both heroes (Ulysses Grant) and saints (St. Louis, spared.)

The protesters’ anger is centered on the belief that the monuments glorify white supremacy, memorialize an unrecognized, treasonous government whose founding principle was the perpetuation of slavery. The presence of these Confederate memorials over a 100 years continues to disenfranchise and alienate African Americans.

That’s true. I’m sure you agree. Now, the interesting part.

According to the urban legend, if the statue shows the horse posed with both front hooves up in the air, the rider died in battle. If the horse is posed with one front leg up, it means the rider was wounded in battle or died of battle wounds. And if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider died from causes outside of battle, like being thrown from the horse while competing in a rodeo.

None of this is related to deceased Maine Supreme Court Justice Melville Fuller’s statue outside Kennebec County Courthouse, who allegedly died in bed and never competed in a rodeo. Just leave Mel’s statue as it is.

Then there are the historical legends backed up by the work of serious scholastic scholars.

And we come to George.

Yes, George Washington — military hero and founding father, our first president — had only one tooth in his mouth when he became president in 1789.

Sister Rossana told us that that his false teeth were made of wood. The truth is, his dentures were made from the pulled teeth of his slaves. Sister, by the way, cast me as George in a class presentation. Picture included.

Sister Rossana cast a young J.P. Devine as George Washington in a class presentation. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

I’ll bet you also were never told that POTUS UNO and Martha owned more than 300 humans, African slaves. Sit down. It gets worse.

All of this is from a report in the Washington Post written by Opinions contributor Michele L. Norris on June 26, 2020.

Michele culled this data from Erica Armstrong Dunbar, professor of history at Rutgers, who wrote the book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.” You can probably order that online.

Ona, the book makes clear, was only one of the Washington’s 300 collection. These were slaves, human beings “employed” by our nation’s First Family as “chamber maids, postilions, cooks, waiters, laborers, seamstresses and valets. All without union representation, minimum wage, health benefits or weekends free.”

It truly gets worse. I’ll bet your teachers, grandparents, history books and Sister Rosanna forgot to tell you that when Ona escaped, Martha was heartbroken because she had “promised to gift her granddaughter as attendant.” So she had George send men with dogs to bring Ona back. Dogs. Dogs like the Germans used in the death camps. That was George, the guy on the dollar bill, the cherry tree kid who never told a lie. That George.

So there it is. Skeptical? Read Professor Dunbar’s book for yourself.

All of the facts have been laying around in the dark for centuries.

I understand. What with COVID-19, the cost of erasing WASHINGTON from the capitol, state, currency, buildings, libraries, schools, streets and avenues, and that big obelisk on the National Mall that POTUS Temp wants to put his name on, the cost would be staggering.

And how about “The Washington Post” that brought down Richard Nixon, and is currently aiming its guns at the administration temp?

And the people? They would include black and white, like Booker T. Washington, educator, author and orator, whose real name was Taliaferro.

And there’s Dinah Washington, Kerri Washington. OK, lets see some hands. Who’s gonna volunteer to tell Denzel?

Imagine the next Oscar night when Denzel would have to sit in the first row as the host announces, “Best Actor … DENZEL Truman.”

I guess George is going to get a pass.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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