Below are a few more specifics on the levels of difficulty. Provide more clues as you see fit for your particular group of students.
Front and Center
All of these answers are located in our Frequently Asked Questions section—no searching necessary.
1. Washington had five brothers and one sister who reached maturity: Lawrence, Augustine, Samuel, John
Augustine, Charles and Betty. The first two were half-brothers. There were also a half-brother and half-sister and a full sister who died young. Link to family Bible record of dates.
2. With the exception of a trip during his youth to Barbadoes, GW neverjourneyed to a foreign country.
3. The first public celebration of GW's birthday was at Valley Forge, February 22, 1778, when Proctor's
Continental Artillery band serenaded Washington. The first public celebration
as a holiday was by order of Comte Rochambeau, February 12, 1781, when
the French Army in Rhode Island was granted a holiday on that day, Monday.
February 11th, 1781, Washington's birthday by the Julian Calendar, happened
to fall on Sunday.
4. Writing from 18,000 to 20,000 letters during the course of his life, GW would have spent between $6,120
and $6,800 at today's postage rates.
5. GW had several sets of false
teeth over the years, but they were not made of wood. For at least one
set, Washington's dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, used a cow's tooth, one
of Washington's teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs. The teeth
Scratching the Surface
All questions here are drawn from secondary information in our Maps & Images sections.
1. The 16-sided barn was constructed
to improve the threshing process. As close to a round barn as GW could
come, the shape was intended to facilitate a team of horses walking in
a circle over the wheat to separate the grain heads from the stalk. The
grain heads would then fall through spaces in the floor boards to the
lower level in the barn, where they were stored until moved to the mill.
The barn protected the grain from the elements and theft. Mount Vernon
reconstructed a replica of this barn in 1996.
2. Link to the "Kitchen" section at Mount Vernon:
"Breakfast was at seven. According to one visitor it was served `in the usual Virginia style'
and consisted of tea, coffee, and meat, cold and boiled. Dinner was at
three. Many dinner guests have left accounts of their entertainment; one
writes:`The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of
lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettuce, cucumbers, artichokes, etc.,
puddings, tarts, etc. etc. We were desired to call for what drinks we
chose.' The choice of drinks would have included several wines, beer,
3. Link to the "Lansdowne Portrait,"whose British owners wanted to sell the painting by Gilbert Stuart, after having
loaned it to the Smithsonian since 1968. A foundation in Las Vegas has
agreed to cover the purchase, a new display case and a U.S. tour for the
4. Link to "Farms and Their Contents." GW owned four other farms near Mount Vernon (Mansion House
Farm): Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, Union Farm and River Farm. Link
to "Legend" for the total acreage: 3,260. Each farm had its own overseer
and group of slaves.
5. At age 15, young GW practiced his skills by surveying the turnip field, belonging to his older half-brother,
For this level, students will need to use the primary documents in our Documents & Articles sections. At this level, we provide a few key words in the questions to help students locate the appropriate document.
1. Under "Selected Documents
from the Revolutionary Series," link to the transcription of a brief note
to General Howe, whose dog GW returned. Apparently, the dog's collar identified
him as British.
2. Under "Washington and Slavery," link to the "Advertisement for Runaway Slaves." Four male slaves had departed,
possibly for the Williamsburg area, as one of them was familiar with that
part of Virginia. GW offered a 40 shilling reward, to be divided proportionally
if not all four were returned.
3. Under "Selected Documents from the Revolutionary War Series," link to "Resignation from the Army."
The irony is found at the end of the letter, when GW refers to leaving
the command of the army as the "last solemn act of my Official Life."
Over the course of his life, GW was modest about accepting the promotion,
seemingly unwilling to leave Mount Vernon for the demands of public life.
Before the decade was out, however, he would serve as president of the
Constitutional Convention and was then elected President.
4. Under "Featured Documents," link to "Thanksgiving Proclamation," from which point you can link to
a transcript of the proclamation itself. The official holiday was November
26, 1789. GW urged the country to be thankful for the blessings thus far
enjoyed as Americans—a successful revolution and a peaceable government.
Thanksgiving was to be a holiday to celebrate America.
5. Under "Selected Documents from the Presidential Series," link to "Presidential Vetoes." As President,
GW used his veto power in two cases, first against a bill to reapportion
electoral districts. Congress' numbers did not match the 30,000 citizens
per congressional representative originally designated in the Constitution.
In his next term, GW thwarted a law to downsize the military. GW wanted
to make sure that the dragoons were paid and that at least one of the
companies was maintained.
All answers are buried deep in the primary sources in Documents & Articles. These questions are not for the faint of heart.
1. Under "Selected Documents from the Revolutionary War Series," link to "Farewell Address to the Army."
In the fifth and sixth paragraphs, GW attempts to convince those who've
served that there will be plenty of economic opportunities for them after
the war and Congress will compensate them completely for their services
and they should resist the urge to riot or protest.
2. This question is quite difficult. Under "Selected Documents from the Confederation Series," link to "The
Making of the Constitution" and then the letter to female correspondent
Annis Boudinot Stockton. In it, GW encourages women to contribute to the
success of the new government by spreading a "new federal fashion:"
"And now that I am speaking of your Sex, I will ask whether they are not capable of
doing something towards introducing fœderal fashions and national manners?
A good general government, without good morals and good habits, will not
make us a happy People; and we shall deceive our selves if we think it
will. A good government will, unquestionably, tend to foster and confirm
those qualities, on which public happiness must be engrafted. Is it not
shameful that we should be the sport of European whims and caprices? Should
we not blush to discourage our own industry & ingenuity by purchasing
foreign superfluities & adopting fantastic fashions, which are, at best,
ill suited to our stage of Society? But I will preach no longer on so
unpleasant a subject; because I am persuaded that you & I are both of
a Sentiment, and because I fear the promulgation of it would work no reformation."
3. Under "Selected Document from the Presidential Series," link to GW's reply to the Hebrew Congregation
of Newport, RI. In the third paragraph, GW expresses his thoughts on the
need for toleration clearly. While he sounds like Jefferson here, GW was
convinced of the need for the influence of religion in general in the
4. Another tough one here. Under "Featured Documents," link to "Washington's Will," then "Slave Lists"
and "Recapitulation." In the "Recapitulation," is a list of the "Grand
Total." Of the 317 slaves, 51 (16%) were skilled laborers. Of those who
were "passed labor or did not work," were 18 (5%). Students might also
add in the 58 non-working children into this calculation (an additional
5. Under "Featured Documents," link to the transcript of Washington's Will. In the seventh paragraph,
he allots 50 shares of his stake in the Potomac Company toward the construction
of a new university in the District of Columbia.