J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

George Washington’s Teeth, Yet Again

There are only two more years to visit Mount Vernon and see the teeth that Boston native John Greenwood carved for George Washington out of hippopotamus bone!

The webpage says:

On loan from The New York Academy of Medicine, the denture was the first of several dentures that John Greenwood made for Washington and is dated 1789, the year that Washington took his oath of office in New York City. The denture is engraved with: Under jaw. This is Great Washington’s teeth by J. Greenwood. First one made by J. Greenwood, Year 1789.

Carved from hippopotamus ivory, the denture contains real human teeth fixed in the ivory by means of brass screws. The denture, which was anchored on the one remaining tooth in Washington’s mouth, has a hole which fit snugly around the tooth and probably contributed to the loosening and eventual loss of that tooth.
The Mount Vernon website notes that there is no extra cost to see these teeth.


John L. Smith said...

It still floors me that the popularity (curiosity) about George Washington's teeth is still so strong with Americans! Forget the Liberty Bell or Declaration of Independence...Washington's teeth still seems to remain a focus of adult and student wonderment!

Teeth Whitening System said...


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J. L. Bell said...

I know that’s a spam comment, but I couldn’t resist the irony of letting it show up on this posting.

J. L. Bell said...

I think Washington’s teeth fascinate us because they’re both very immediate and personal, and—given the state of the dental arts in the 1700s—so strange and horrible. They both make us feel more connected to a figure of the past we all know, and make us feel the passage of time.

John L. Smith said...

Mr. Bell - I think you hit the nail, uh, dental bridge right on the head about the reasons GW's teeth are still a focus of fascination for people. I occasionally teach 8th grade American history and....man!...the wooden teeth thing just won't go away, even after 211 years! :)

EarRe Feeling said...

I am expecting that some Republican Constitution reader will wish to insert these prior to orating in Congress today.