The Rowdy One

Friday, July 14, 2006

The tooth is out ... and so is an old toothy myth

My son lost his first tooth Wednesday night while brushing his teeth. It came within an inch of tumbling down the sink, a near monumental crisis that, thankfully, was averted.

This milestone tooth has been quite the table topic in our house all week. Along the way, our discussion included talk of George Washington and his wooden teeth. My son learned this story this past year in kindergarten, and I also remember learning it in grade school.

At one point, we began speculating what kind of wood our first President's teeth may have been made of. We decided cherry seemed as likely as any, but later I decided to do a little research. To my surprise, it appears that the whole wooden teeth thing is the biggest SHAM this side of "Bill Gates is going to send you $1000 for forwarding this email to 1,000 people ... I am not kidding!"

According to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, while our first president had false teeth, they were not made of wood. In turns out, the materials used in his false teeth were even less desirable than that. One set of his teeth included a cow's tooth, one of his actual teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs.

The estate's website says, "They fit poorly and distorted the shape of his mouth." Yeah, I bet. Between this, and the fact that Washington ultimately bled to death by the misguided practice of "blood letting," I think it's safe to say that most of us enjoy better health care than the man on our $1 bill.

So, the tale of our first president's wooden teeth becomes yet another example of the phenomena of a story being repeated so many times that, eventually, it becomes institutionalized as fact. Sort of like, say, the Constitution's supposed declaration of 'separation of church and state' ... how about some other good examples?

NOTE: The penny pictured above next to my son's tooth is for size contrast purposes ... which is to say, I understand that George Washington is not pictured on the penny ... ;-)

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  • Really like your new blog. I have missed reading the Mike Royko-style quips and commentaries from your newspaper columns.
    The Rowdy One's Dad

    By Anonymous Rowdy One's Dad, at 12:45 PM  

  • Stop it! First, global warming and now Washington's teeth weren't wood? And what's this about separation of church and state?

    I can't take it. My world is rocking.

    I'm headed to Daily Kos for some sanity.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 8:53 PM  

  • While there are legitimate grounds to criticize the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the doctrine of "Separation of Church and State," you aren't going to get an accurate case from David Barton. You will only replace one myth with another.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 1:12 PM  

  • jonathan...oh really?

    What's your problem with Barton?

    Also, the Supreme Court didn't interpret the Separation doctrine. They invented it.

    By Anonymous kevin, at 7:57 PM  

  • What's my problem with Barton?

    Read my website.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 9:44 PM  

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