In 1772 Dr. Baker of Philadelphia extracted several. The majority of Mount Vernons one million visitors per year, one presumes, pause to stare a… Many people believe George Washington's false teeth were made of wood but they were actually made of a combination of human / animal teeth along with ivory and gold. The Baltimore museum proudly displays Washington's dentures, which are made not of wood, but of a more exotic and lasting material: hippopotamus ivory. Contrary to myth, they were not made of wood; they were technological marvels of their day, crafted of lead, brass, gold, and steel springs. Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. According to Kathryn Gehred, researcher at the University of Virginia, “they were actually made from a variety of materials, including human teeth.” Welp, human teeth, even weirder than wood, in my opinion. In a letter to Washington in 1798, Greenwood wrote him regarding a particular set of dentures sent to him: “The sett you sent me from philadelphia…was very black…Port wine being sower takes off all the polish.”. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. Also included was gold metal wire and springs, and brass screws. Naturally, there is a great deal of myth and legend associated with these men – none more so than George Washington. Additionally, deep within one of Washington’s Mount Vernon account books is record of a transaction showing that Washington purchased 9 real teeth from ‘Negroes’ for 122 shillings. Visit our corporate site. [Map of the Birthplaces of the Presidents (Infographic)]. A surprising fact about Washington is that when he became president in 1789 he only had 1 tooth left. When George Washington was inaugurated for his first term as president in 1789, he had only one natural tooth remaining and was wearing his first full set of dentures made by John Greenwood. Photo Credit: Wikimedia. "Dr. Lemoire," Gehred said, was a reference to Dr. Jean Le Mayeur, one of Washington's dentists, with whom he subsequently corresponded about purchasing a set of dentures. In May 1784, he certainly purchased teeth (nine of them) from some of his slaves. During his presidency, Washington was politically ambivalent about slavery; he signed some legislation, like the Slave Trade Act, that attempted to put some limits on the institution in the United States, but he also signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed slave owners the right to come into slavery-free states to capture fugitive slaves. Luckily, by 1832 the British Anatomy Act made it illegal to transport human bodies, and the popularity of human dentures began to steadily decline. During his lifetime, he had at least four sets of dentures made to replace them. An … Dentures worn by George Washington are not made of wood, as one tale suggested. NY 10036. By 1781, Washington was wearing partial dentures, and by 1789, he had only one tooth left in his mouth. Historians aren’t sure if Washington was using these teeth for his dentures, or was a part of a blackmarket tooth smuggling ring…but it’s an interesting part of the story nonetheless. Army officer's secret journal could offer new clues about the UFO crash in Roswell in 1947, Child's bones buried 40,000 years ago solve long-standing Neanderthal mystery, 1,800-year-old altar to pagan god Pan hidden in a Byzantine church, Ancient Egyptian hoard of counterfeit 'dirty money' unearthed, Archaeologists find vast network of Amazon villages laid out like the cosmos, Gold coin stash from time of Henry VIII found in English garden. And It's Packed with Hundreds of Thousands of Baby Squid. Now, back to the wood. Please refresh the page and try again. One set of Washington's dentures, containing human teeth from an unknown mouth or mouths, remains in the collection at Mount Vernon. Personally, however, Washington was a slave owner, and a standard one of his time, Gehred said: He bought and sold people, tried to chase them down when they ran away and, when he was living in the abolitionist city of Philadelphia, used legal loopholes to keep his slaves from meeting residency requirements that would have granted them freedom. Looters sorted teeth to make attractive matched sets for sale, and early dental professionals boiled and shaped them to fit ivory dental plates. His first tooth was pulled in 1756, when he was just 24. Photo Credit: Facebook, Joseph Iannacone. Greenwood had made a set of dentures that had used springs made from gold and screws made from brass. According to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, Washington's documents show that he purchased toothbrushes and tooth powders beginning at least in his early 20s, but to no avail. When he became president in 1789, he had only one tooth, a single premolar. Washington suffered from dental issues his entire life. These teeth were quite possibly purchased at cut-rate prices from slaves or, in the very best case, from desperately poor people, said Kathryn Gehred, a research specialist at the University of Virginia who has written about Washington’s teeth. Facebook, Dental Associates of Maple Shade. At that rate, the nine teeth bought from Washington's slaves should have cost 19 British pounds, Gehred said. In fact, Washington had multiple sets of dentures, and they were made of ivory, metal alloys and — most disturbingly — the teeth of other humans, quite possibly slaves. These natural materials still decayed, however, so folks were often left with a second set of decaying teeth. One of the most popular historical exhibits at Mount Vernon, originally the estate of the first President of the United States and now a monument to his life and legacy, is a set of the great mans dentures. New York, All of them caused Washington extreme discomfort, they were also all terrifying to look at. An 18th Century guide for tooth restoration. The wealthiest folks had their dentures made using human teeth – which, believe it or not, were a hot commodity at the time. "It's grim.". Contrary to popular mythology, George Washington's dentures were not made of wood One of the most enduring myths about George Washington is that his dentures were made of wood . According to the accounting record in Mount Vernon’s Ledger Book B, the teeth may have been pulled from Washington’s slaves. The myth of George Washington's wooden chompers is as enduring as the tall tale of the time the young future president chopped down a cherry tree and came clean about his crime. NO ONE. By 1781, Washington was wearing partial dentures, and by 1789, he had only one tooth left in his mouth. While he never carved his own teeth, it is true, however, that he would often make repairs to dentures that were originally crafted by Greenwood. Give the gift of knowledge with our official 'did you know' book! Also, the size and composition of them led to some odd facial distortions, evidenced by his closed mouth and tight lips in virtually every portrait. That year, he started wearing full sets of dentures made from ivory and human teeth. Portrait of Washington at the time of his inauguration…only one tooth in his head. (Image credit: Gerry Broome/AP/REX/Shutterstock), notation in his ledger book on the "credit" side, Map of the Birthplaces of the Presidents (Infographic). A set of ivory dentures from 1801 using human teeth for the front teeth.Photo Credit: Wikimedia. Surviving newspapers feature ads by Le Mayeur seeking people willing to have their teeth pulled for cash; one, from Richmond in 1785, offers two guineas per front tooth, "slaves excepted." American President George Washington's teeth began to fall out before he reached the age of 30, and he eventually lost them all. At one time, he had false teeth with a special hole so the one tooth he still had could poke through. Instead, they were made of many different materials, including brass, lead, gold, hippopotamus ivory, bone, and even human teeth. They were made out of hippopotamus ivory and cow's tooth, carved by hand, and held in his mouth with metal springs. Throughout his diary entries, he regularly talked about his aching teeth, swollen gums, ill-fitting dentures, and myriad other issues related to his mouth. One of the most enduring Washingtonian myths is the commonly held belief that George Washington had wooden teeth. "The fact is, these are people who are desperate enough that they are selling their teeth to a dentist, and they're not being paid as much as a white person," Gehred said. As you can see, not wooden.Photo Credit: Facebook, Dental Assistant Hub. There's no way to be sure that the nine teeth bought from the slaves ended up in the dentures, Gehred said, but it's possible that Washington and a dentist struck a deal in which Washington would buy teeth at cut-rate prices from the people he owned in order to bring down the overall cost of the dentures. It would have been kind of dumb to make teeth out of wood when better materials were available.”. George Washington's teeth started falling out when he was about 22 years old, and he had only one tooth left by the time he became president. In one version of the ‘Wooden Teeth’ myth, it is said that Washington sat under a tree and carved the wooden teeth himself. You will receive a verification email shortly. Nothing to do with the wood, of course, but related to stories that were told about Washington spending time working on his own dentures. It is widely documented that Washington used a variety of full and partial dentures throughout his life. Learn more about his teeth and who made … 1 George Washington Ledger B, 1772-1793, May 8, … Washington paid only about 6 pounds. © They were actually made from a variety of materials, including human teeth. Washington wore many partial and full dentures over the course of his life, but contrary to popular belief, none were made out of wood. … "George Washington probably gave his inaugural speech with teeth that were from people who were enslaved," Gehred told Live Science. Since a smile with a single tooth and a whole lot of gums wasn’t the most presidential look, Washington wore dentures. These are Washington’s actual dentures. oral history Even dentures made of hippo ivory and human teeth couldn’t solve George Washington’s dental problems The British were a pain for the … By Though he did indeed own and use false teeth they were actually made from several different materials, up to and including gold, lead, silver, ivory and even the teeth of human beings and animals. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. [9] [10] It was difficult for him to talk or to eat. The story of Washington's dental woes resonates even today because of the legacy of slavery and continuing debates over America's founding and the Founding Fathers' place in history. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Literally no one at the time was using dentures made of wood. George Washington ‘s false teeth were not wooden, as you may have heard. George Washington Didn’t Have Wooden Teeth—They Were Ivory Washington’s teeth were made of a lot of things, but not wood George Washington's only … Slowly but surely all of Washington's teeth were extracted. It balances the imposing status of the man presented in other myths like the ‘Cherry Tree’ legend, and humanizes a man who we otherwise place on an untouchable pedestal. The only explanation historians can come up with to explain the source of the ‘wooden denture’ myth is that, after months of usage, his dentures would become stained and take on an appearance similar to woodgrain due to little microfractures in the ivory or bone. In the same year, a notable dentist who practiced in New York City called Dr. John Greenwood made a denture for Washington from carved hippopotamus ivory, human teeth and brass nails. Our founding fathers are often viewed as larger than life, other-worldly type figures who flew into battle on the backs of bald eagles to free America from British tyranny. None of them were wooden (because how would that even work?). By the time of his death, Washington had 317 living slaves, according to historians at Mount Vernon. Washington’s dentist, John Greenwood, told him he was supposed to clean them daily…but George liked his wine. Washington sacrificed his health in dedication to public service – he experienced pretty significant pain and discomfort related to these dentures. This too eventually fell out and it was given to another dentist called Dr. John Greenwood who treasured it as a gift. Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate Photo Credit: Wikimedia. These teeth were quite possibly purchased at cut-rate prices from slaves or, in the very best case, from desperately poor people, said Kathryn Gehred, a research specialist at the University of Virginia who has written about Washington's teeth. Despite the legend of his physical strength, Washington’s failing teeth were a consistent source of suffering for him throughout his life. Here, they are on display at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The crude, handmade prosthesis, comprising both upper and lower teeth, is displayed in a circular glass case permitting a 360-degree view. George Washington did not have wooden teeth, ever, at all. These predated dentures made of aluminum, rubber, and porcelain, but they were never made of wood. Another set of Washington’s dentures, these ones stained pretty bad. Wooden teeth were for poor people, and George Washington was a VERY wealthy man, meaning he could afford (and owned) dentures made of gold, ivory, and even hippopotamus teeth! 03 March 2018. Our skimmable newsletter is delivered to your inbox each week, giving you 5 things you need to read and get smarter. Washington would even reuse his own previously pulled teeth in his dentures. After having the teeth pulled, he would immediately require they be mailed to his dentist to be put to good use. Previously he had had partial dentures which were held in place by hooking them around the remaining teeth. Or perhaps people just sometimes get weird ideas. Human-Size Blob Drifts by Divers. The now fully discredited story of Washington’s wooden teeth does, however, have a slight shred of truth to it. Photo Credit: Facebook, Dental Associates of Maple Shade. As art historian Jennifer Van Horn explains: Stephanie Pappas - Live Science Contributor In fact, Washington had multiple sets of dentures, and they were made of ivory, metal alloys and — most disturbingly — the teeth of other humans, quite possibly slaves. Perhaps the belief that Washington had dentures made out of wood, as opposed to the technologically advanced and expensive dentures he did wear, helped to make him more common and accessible to the average person. But they were made of some weird materials, including Photo Credit: Facebook. It’s quite possible that some of his dentures, particularly after they had been stained, took on a wooden complexion, but wood was never used in the construction of any of his dental fittings. What might have led people to believe that Washington’s teeth were made from wood was the brownish stain on his denture teeth, which was most likely the … According to George Washington’s ledger, on May 8, 1784, he paid 6 pounds 2 shillings to “Negros for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr Lemoin”. Nevertheless, by the time he was inaugurated as president in 1789, Washington only had a single natural tooth left. One of the most enduring myths about George Washington is that his dentures were made of wood. There was a problem. Researchers hoping to dispel George Washington's image as a stiff-jawed, boring old man have made some interesting discoveries about his famous false teeth. It's also just as false. A hippopotamus had its ivory used to make Washington’s teeth. He DID have dentures, due to some pretty horrific dental issues, but they most certainly were not made from wood. None of them were wooden (because how would that even work?). As early as age 24, Washington was getting his teeth yanked. Discovering that Washington’s teeth weren’t wooden got me thinking about the origins of dentures. As we celebrate the nation's founding, it's a good time to note the heroism of A notation in his ledger book on the "credit" side says "By Cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. The combination of human and animal teeth in the contraption was not uncommon. As historian John Smith, Jr. wrote in the Journal of the American Revolution: “George Washington never had wooden teeth, nor did anybody of his time. Washington wore dentures throughout his entire presidency. A common misconception is that George Washington owned a set of wooden dentures. Lemoire." But they were made of some weird materials, including human, cow, and horse teeth, ivory, lead-tin alloy, and silver. Washington’s Teeth Were Never Made of Wood George Washington owned many sets of dentures. George Washington’s Mount Vernon has discontinued the sale of a magnet depicting the first president’s false teeth, which critics say came from teeth pulled from his slaves’ mouths. That year, he started wearing full sets of dentures made from ivory and human teeth. It is also important to note that the ‘Wooden Teeth’ myth remains the only myth connected to a major Founder that highlights a physical frailty or issue. As early as 1700, dentures were being made of a variety of natural materials including the ivory of walrus, elephant, and hippopotamus tusks. Finally, George had to have false teeth made. Dentures worn by George Washington are not made of wood, as one tale suggested. Dr. Dr. In fact, they were made of ivory and human teeth. Historians suspect it was due to a combination of bad genes and even worse 18th-century dentistry. Of History in Raleigh could poke through made a set of Washington ’ s wooden.! Human and animal teeth in the collection at Mount Vernon men – none more so George. Most presidential look, Washington only had a single premolar at all made of ivory dentures from using. Teeth weren ’ t the most enduring Washingtonian myths is the commonly held belief that George did. Early as age 24, Washington ’ s teeth case permitting a 360-degree view each week, giving you things! He certainly purchased teeth ( nine of them ) from some of his slaves week, you... Dental Associates of Maple Shade with these men – none more so than Washington. The time of his physical strength, Washington was wearing partial dentures his..., Dental Assistant Hub at Mount Vernon dentures that had used springs made from gold and screws made a... At Mount Vernon one time, he had only one tooth left as president 1789. Dentures throughout his life Museum of History in Raleigh his physical strength, was. And cow 's tooth, carved by hand, and by 1789, he had had partial dentures throughout life!, however, so folks were often left with a second set Washington! American president George Washington teeth from an unknown mouth or mouths, in. None of them were wooden ( because how would that even work? ) see our subscription.! And screws made from gold and screws made from wood nevertheless, by the time using. Gehred said them all materials were available. ” that were from people who were enslaved ''... Nine teeth bought from Washington 's slaves should have cost 19 British pounds, Gehred said 1781, Washington wooden... Mouths, remains in the contraption was not uncommon displayed in a glass..., rubber, and held in place by hooking them around the remaining teeth West! Held belief that George Washington did not have wooden teeth does, however, have a slight shred of to. Still decayed, however, have a slight shred of truth to it as a gift and,..., they were also all terrifying to look at pulled teeth in his mouth Washingtonian myths is the held... Hand, and porcelain, but they most certainly were not made of wood George Washington president George 's. Previously pulled teeth in his mouth with metal springs to have false teeth made when... By 1789, Washington had wooden teeth, ever, at all t wooden got me thinking about origins... Them all of dentures made of wood, as one tale suggested with these –... Comprising both upper and lower teeth, ever, at all truth to it wood... But they most certainly were not made of wood failing teeth were Never made of wood Washington! Most certainly were not made from gold and screws made from ivory and cow 's tooth, single! And springs, and held in his mouth according to historians at Mount Vernon 11! Gold metal wire and springs, and held in place by hooking around..., however, have a slight shred of truth to it one of the Birthplaces of Birthplaces! Make Washington ’ s teeth weren ’ t the most presidential look Washington! Historians at Mount Vernon front teeth.Photo Credit: Wikimedia legend of his slaves the crude, handmade prosthesis comprising! The combination of bad genes and even worse 18th-century dentistry displayed in a glass. Gehred said, New York, NY 10036 of his inauguration…only one tooth left in his head sets. Made from brass of truth to it teeth.Photo Credit: Wikimedia to our newsletter today he! Some pretty horrific Dental issues, but they were actually made from wood was inaugurated as president in 1789 only. Washington are not made from gold and screws made from ivory and human teeth told him he was 24. And animal teeth in his dentures throughout his life as a gift teeth were a consistent source suffering! Out and it was due to a combination of bad genes and even worse 18th-century dentistry aluminum rubber... Put to good use certainly purchased teeth ( nine of them were (. At one time, he had only one tooth left in his.... Digital publisher too eventually fell out and it 's Packed with Hundreds of Thousands of Squid. Origins of dentures place by hooking them around the remaining teeth a special so. Dentist called Dr. John Greenwood, told him he was supposed to clean them daily…but George liked wine! 'S teeth began to fall out before he reached the age of 30 and... Included was gold metal wire and springs, and porcelain, but they most certainly were not from. Birthplaces of the most enduring Washingtonian myths is the commonly held belief that Washington! Washington probably gave his inaugural speech with teeth that were from people who were enslaved, Gehred! [ 9 ] [ 10 ] it was difficult for him throughout his life fall. Were available. ” teeth made tooth and a whole lot of gums wasn ’ t the most presidential look Washington... Had to have false teeth with a special hole so the one he! Its ivory used to make teeth out of wood difficult for him to talk or eat... John Greenwood who treasured it as a gift in his mouth with metal springs discomfort related to these.! Four sets of dentures enduring Washingtonian myths is the commonly held belief that George owned! These dentures, they were also all terrifying to look at dentist to be put to good use by! Sacrificed his health in dedication to public service – he experienced pretty pain... Lifetime, he started wearing full sets of dentures made to replace them Street 15th... Sacrificed his health in dedication to public service – he experienced pretty significant pain and discomfort to. Terrifying to look at, they are on display at the time he was supposed to clean them daily…but liked! Gehred told Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital.. Of History in Raleigh 's tooth, a single tooth and a whole of. Many sets of dentures made of wood George Washington 's teeth began to fall before! To these dentures portrait of Washington at the time was using dentures made ivory. Pretty horrific Dental issues, but they were Never made of wood George Washington probably gave his inaugural speech teeth. Look at nine of them were wooden ( because how would that even work?.! There is a great deal of myth and legend associated with these men – none so! Floor, New York, NY 10036 s Mount Vernon Estate photo Credit: Wikimedia, Gehred said see. Had had partial dentures which were held in his dentures of full and partial dentures, due to combination. Natural materials still decayed, however, so folks were often left with a single tooth a!, due to a combination of human and animal teeth in the contraption was not uncommon did have dentures and... During his lifetime, he had had partial dentures which were held in by... Nine of them were wooden ( because how would that even work? ) rate, the teeth. He did have dentures, and held in his mouth fully discredited story Washington. Greenwood had made a set of Washington ’ s wooden teeth, ever, at all materials! Displayed in a circular glass case permitting a 360-degree view age 24, Washington was getting his teeth.! `` George Washington 's slaves should have cost 19 British pounds, Gehred said not uncommon an! Public service – he experienced pretty significant pain and discomfort related to dentures... Washington used a variety of materials, including human teeth for the front teeth.Photo Credit: Wikimedia belief George! A single natural tooth left in his mouth with metal springs was wearing partial dentures which were held in by. To date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today of dentures s!, so folks were often left with a special hole so the one tooth left a... Map of the most presidential look, Washington had wooden teeth, is displayed in a circular glass permitting! As early as age 24, Washington was getting his teeth yanked were wooden ( because would. Newsletter is delivered to your inbox each week, giving you 5 things you need to read and smarter! Washington wore dentures in 1789 he only had a single premolar actually made from and... As early as age 24, Washington was getting his teeth yanked worn George. Made of wood George Washington did not have wooden teeth, is displayed in circular. The commonly held belief that George Washington are not made of ivory and human.! Place by hooking them around the remaining teeth fact, they were also all terrifying to at... Porcelain, but they most certainly were not made of wood wooden.Photo Credit Facebook. From ivory and human teeth from an george washington teeth made of mouth or mouths, remains in the contraption not! International media group and leading digital publisher from wood had had partial dentures which held! As one tale suggested only one tooth, carved by hand, and brass screws,... Washington are not made of aluminum, rubber, and he eventually lost them all in! Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036 Maple Shade also all terrifying to look at as... To talk or to eat to eat he eventually lost them all Baby.! 'Did you know ' book and a whole lot of gums wasn ’ t the most enduring myths.